Markets near the state’s resort beaches are the most successful.
Delaware Valley Farm Share, which partners with family farms in Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, is even offering Wilmington office workers a chance to pre-order local produce for biweekly deliveries, Kee said.
John Johnston, owner of Locustville, Va.-based Pickpenny Produce, another long-time Giant Foods supplier, is encouraged by the chain’s support for his fresh vegetables, from beets to bok choy.
“There are still some purveyors who don’t care if produce comes from California or where it comes from,” Johnston said, “but local is strong, and the chains seem to be pushing it.”
When Shlagel began growing fresh-market produce in 1988, he said stores didn’t want local and crop extension services warned growers not to plant too much.
“Now when you plant something you think, ‘Gosh, I should’ve planted a few more rows!’” he said.
Local food will only sell, however, if growers maintain quality, said Shlagel, whose sons man eight farmers’ markets a week.
“If the quality’s there, and your product is good, nutritious and safe, people will want it.”