Costs, timely deliveries and a focus on supporting local businesses combine to strengthen Ohio consumers appetite for vegetables grown in their state, growers, shippers and retailers say.
Market operators said in mid-May business was already picking up as the annual vegetable deal approached its peak season.
“Summertime is always busier, with all the vegetables coming in,” said Charlene Kalain, who with husband John owns John Boy’s Farm Market near Akron, Ohio.
Great for promotions
Ohio’s vegetable season is a time for heavy promotions, said Joe Degaetano, manager of Miles Farmers Market, Solon, Ohio.
“We feature it prominently in ads, and when they come in we have signs over the products that are locally grown,” he said.
Sometimes, growers surprise the retailers by extending seasons in some crops, Degaetano said.
“I had cauliflower into December last year because it was so mild, and cauliflower is such a hardy vegetable they were still pulling it late in the season,” he said
He said his store typically carries Ohio apples “almost through the winter.”
Growers and shippers say sales of Ohio-grown vegetables have been steadily increasing.
“There’s been a pretty good effort for the homegrown local supply for a long time, and it keeps getting attention,” said Todd Michael, vice president of Urbana-based Michael Farms Inc.
Michael said there are numerous reasons for the increase.
“Food is a little more intimate than clothing,” he said.
Knowing the location of a producer’s operation gives consumers confidence that the food isn’t coming from a big factory farm, he said.
Retailers and restaurants actively promote Ohio vegetables in season, and the trend is spreading, Michael said.
“We’ve got customers who will shoot videos of us out on the farm and will post pictures above the produce in their stores because they want their customers to know where they get their produce.”
The buy-local trend is an extension of a pick-your-own trend that took hold in the 1970s, Michael said.
“Before, it was about going to the farm and getting it yourself, and they still want to get food from the local grower, only with more convenience,” he said.
Retailers have responded, Michael said.
“The grocers have said they get local whenever they can, simply because it’s fresher and available in Ohio,” Michael said.