“Buy local has been huge for us,” said Hales, whose company grows watermelons in Laurel, Del., and Salisbury, Md. “We’re less than two hours away from quite a few metro areas.”
Hales said demand from chain stores increases every year, and Coastal supports the efforts of its retail customers through meet-the-grower events and in-store sampling.
“We do quite a bit of demos with the chains,” Hales said. “The rewards of doing that are huge.”
McFadden said retailers are getting more aggressive with pricing on local items, which can be problematic for grower-shippers in extreme situations.
“Every spring we visit the chain stores,” he said, “and they say they want as much local as they can possibly get and they want it as early as possible. Retailers are doing all they can to get local.”
Richard Papen, vice president of Papen Farms Inc., Dover, Del., said retailers have put his photo in stores and in their flyers.
“Everybody wants to do more local produce,” said Papen, whose farm is within 90 miles of D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia. “You never know if local is 10 miles or 200.”
Dubois said the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has six regional marketing directors who work with larger chains on promoting Virginia Grown.
“Wal-Mart and the larger supermarket chains are recognizing the importance of supporting the local economy,” she said. “It helps consumers identify Virginia produce.”