BrightFarms hits Kansas City produce scene - The Packer

BrightFarms hits Kansas City produce scene

04/12/2013 09:55:00 AM
Chuck Robinson

There is a danger of the bigger operation scuttling prices in summer, when Fahrmeier and other local tomato producers have their big volumes. Small and midsized producers will have to get better at marketing, he said.

“I’ll have to step up my A game,” he said.

Established local producers also admit to being a little jealous of an out-of-town company possibly getting government incentives.

Kate Siskel, marketing and media relations manager for BrightFarms, said the company has received no incentives at this point and that it is too early for K.C. project financing.

BrightFarms opened a greenhouse this year in Yardley, Pa., from which it has been selling produce to McCaffrey’s Market and Superfresh stores for a few weeks, Siskel said. BrightFarms last summer began operations in a 38,000-square-foot greenhouse on a back lot at J&J Distributing, St. Paul, Minn.

The group also has struck a deal in St. Louis with Schnuck Markets Inc. and submitted plans to the city for that greenhouse, about the same size as the one proposed for K.C.

BrightFarms hopes to begin construction in the next few months, Siskel said.

BrightFarms also plans a 100,000-square-foot greenhouse for a Brooklyn warehouse rooftop; it’s now in the design stage. The company expects to begin construction in the fourth quarter of 2013, Siskel said.

There is plenty of room in the market for BrightFarms and the smaller locally grown producers in an area, Siskel said.

“Demand for local produce is so much stronger than the supply that, even with the addition of our greenhouse, demand will remain at a premium,” she said.

“The greenhouse will dramatically increase the amount of local produce available, generating more excitement for and access to local foods.”

Most locally grown operations don’t rate a blip on the national radar screen. Even though the BrightFarms projects seem huge by locally grown standards, the 2.3-acre facilities are a drop in the bucket.

However, I wonder what the cumulative effect could be of multiple 2-acre operations set up in a metropolitan area and also spread across the country. Add to that some revolutionary zeal, and the effect could be huge.

“We’re committed to revolutionizing the supply chain, building greenhouses east of the Rockies and creating shorter, more efficient supply chains that prioritize freshness, flavor and all the community benefits of local food,” BrightFarms’ Siskel said.

My attendance at local farmers markets and friendships with local growers notwithstanding, I have sold the locally grown movement short. The local waters have been chummed with enough money that some bigger fish are getting interested.

We may be on the brink of a sea change.

crobinson@thepacker.com

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