Retailers line up for valley product when it’s in-season, and Charlie’s is happy to oblige, Dempster said.
“We have a big emphasis on buying local,” she said. “We do profiles of them and advertise the local product. It’s important to our customers that we buy local, and we promote that all the time.”
Charlie’s hosts a lunch once a year in which the company brings its customers and its growers together, Dempster said.
“It’s an important part of our customers’ interest to promote their products,” Dempster said. “Most of the customers don’t know much about farming but would like to. We see ourselves as a link between those two. What we do as wholesalers is bring them their product.”
Local retailers work to make a connection between consumers and growers, too, said Birdsview, Wash.-based Maureen Royal, saleswoman for Bridges Produce, Portland, Ore.
“The local Food Pavilion, as well as Safeway and Walmart, have some local product, for sure, and a lot of times, they have signs that tell about the local farmers,” she said.
Making that connection is an important tool, said Dale Hayton, sales manager at Valley Pride Sales, Mount Vernon.
“We’re seeing a lot more product origination signs in stores,” he said. “There are photo montages of growers with their product and so on. The retailers definitely recognize the consumer wants a connection to the local grower and product or where it’s from.”