Locally grown pays dividends for Ohio veg growers

06/04/2010 01:21:19 PM
Andy Nelson

Locally grown is nothing new to Urbana, Ohio-based Michael Farms Inc., said Scott Michael, president.
 
“That’s the company philosophy we’ve had since I was a kid,” he said. “We were basically a whole-sale version of a farmstand.”

They still are, in fact, said Mi-chael, who runs the company his father started with brothers Todd and Kurt, who are vice presidents.

From the beginning, when Mi-chael Farms was strictly a potato shipper, it was company policy, Michael said, not to ship spuds into other spud-growing regions.

“The vast majority of our prod-uct stays within 150 miles, and half of it is picked up at our facility,” he said. “It’s always been that way, before people were talking about ‘locally-grown’ as such.”

Big retailers like Kroger and Meijer Inc., as well as companies from cities including Indianapolis and Cincinnati, are among those who bring their trucks right to Michael’s door to load product, Michael said.

Despite locally grown being nothing new to Michael Farms, the company is still eager to ride the present-day bandwagon.

What’s changed, for one, is that customers are now asking for photographs and information about the Michael family to help sell the product at retail.

“We’re trying to make the most of it,” he said.

One thing locally grown doesn’t mean to Michael Farms is “cheaper.” Michael said customers used to ask for discounts because their vegetables didn’t have to be trucked in from far-flung locales.

But Michael told them because it was local, it was higher-quality, and therefore they shouldn’t accept a discount. For the most part, they’ve accepted that argument.


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