“Will the consumer outweigh the control the suppliers have to allow smaller growers the opportunity to get in the supermarkets?” he said. “Then, you have to factor in the discussion on food safety.”
The food safety challenge Casella refers to is obtaining expensive third-party audits that are required by chain stores. The prohibitive cost is influencing more New Jersey grower to retail on the farm or at farmers markets instead of at chain stores.
“Some have ventured into scaled back models to get more into the farmers market retail-type businesses, putting in road stands,” he said.
“There has been a strong movement of farmers trying to get directly to the consumers, whereas they were once completely wholesale and they have changed their business to cater to the community market type farm sales.”
Kurt Alstede, general manager for Alstede Farms LLC, Chester, N.J., has been retailing for nearly 30 years at a location just 40 miles west of New York City.
“A lot of people’s philosophy is supporting a greener lifestyle, reducing carbon footprint, buying local … and supporting the local economy,” he said.
“There absolutely is a surge in buying local and buying from a local producer rather than from a supermarket. We have certainly been doing a lot to take advantage of this trend.”
Pegi Adam, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Farm Bureau, said the buy local movement has the momentum to challenge the large commercial farms from out of state.
“People are even more conscious of buy local than ever, almost to the detriment of the big factory farms because they are getting such bad PR,” she said.
Bill Nardelli, president of Nardelli Bros. Inc., Cedarville, N.J., agreed the movement to local farm stands and farm markets is big, though he said it is not Nardelli Bros.’ niche.
“The product that you’re going to find in our retailer is every bit as fresh as what you’re going to find in (direct farm) retailers, and it is cooled properly. That’s also a big advantage,” he said.