One of the strongest promotional pushes for New Jersey produce is the increase in demand for locally grown produce.
“The locally grown movement is great. It’s a big push that really helps us along,” said John Formisano, president of Formisano Farms, Buena, N.J.
In addition to the state’s Jersey Fresh program, now in its 30th year, companies can also promote their produce as “local” in other states as well.
Bob Von Rohr, director of marketing and customer relations for Sunny Valley International, Glassboro, N.J., said the tri-state area of New Jersey, New York and Delaware is a common definition, but cities like Washington, D.C., Boston and Philadelphia are also nearby, and a good outlet for local produce from New Jersey.
He said sustainability has also played a large role in New Jersey’s locally grown push.
“Reducing the carbon footprint by not having to truck produce five days across the country is a big thing,” he said.
Retail isn’t the only market for local produce. Schools and restaurants are also jumping on the trend.
“It’s a really big push here with restaurants and chefs, even distributors. Everyone wants local product,” said Jamie Graiff, co-owner of Newfield, N.J.-based Daniel Graiff Farms LLC.
He said by early March, he was receiving phone calls asking when local product would be ready.
“They are checking in with me to see when we’re starting. Lots of people are asking and looking forward to it,” Graiff said.
Not everything about local produce is easy, however.
“More and more supermarkets are asking for locally grown produce, and some are being pushed into it a little bit because it’s harder to get what they want when they want it,” said Tom Sheppard, president of Cedarville, N.J.-based Eastern Fresh Growers Inc.
In addition to sourcing struggles, providing locally grown produce can cause issues at the register if stores have to ring up produce from each state individually.
Providing locally grown produce can be harder on growers too, Sheppard said.
“If you say you’ll have a certain amount of pounds a week of a product, you have to have it, even if the weather isn’t dependable,” he said.
However, Sheppard said there are steps that can help ensure on-time delivery.
“Almost all crops are under drip irrigation to make sure it comes off when it’s supposed to. We’re all getting good at what we do,” he said.
Despite any difficulties the trend brings, grower-shippers say New Jersey offers a prime location for locally grown promotions and sales.
Bill Nardelli, president of Cedarville, N.J.-based Nardelli Bros. Inc., said the trend allows growers to pack trucks more efficiently because they might have several commodities to ship at once.
Ryan Flaim of R&R Flaim Next Generation Produce LLC, Vineland, N.J., said the company ships 42 commodities in order to better supply its clients with a wider selection of local items.
“Some growers are more specialized, but we have really diversified,” he said.
Nardelli said even larger chain stores are getting in on the local trend because many of nearby warehouses and distribution centers.
For Nardelli Bros., the local trend has been a longtime way of business that is now seeing even more interest.
“We’re used the phrase ‘Fresher by miles,’ for years, so we just went through the process of registering it as trademark,” he said.