After sourcing from California, Mexico and Florida for the past several months, distributors and wholesalers in Colorado finally can look to local growers for their fresh fruits and vegetables.
“We have some good products that are grown in Colorado,” said Tony Garin, vice president of sales for Denver-based Colo-Pac Produce Inc.
Some items already are being harvested, and others will kick off in June or July and continue until fall.
“We have a short season but a good season,” Garin said.
The local deal started with asparagus in mid-April, followed by green onions, parsley, cilantro, radishes and spinach.
Leafy greens will be available in June with cherries coming on in mid-June and peaches in July, he said.
Colo-Pac should receive sweet Olathe corn in mid-July, and juicy Rocky Ford cantaloupes, watermelons and honeydews will start in late July and early August.
“We have some really good chili growers out here too,” Garin said.
Potatoes, onions and mushrooms are about the only locally grown commodities that are available almost year-round.
Although Colo-Pac is a year-round, full-line operation, Garin said the company focuses on local produce when it’s available.
“People get excited about local,” he said.
Colo-Pac also prides itself on its strong tomato program and the Denver Tomato Co. brand that goes back to 1929, Garin said.
The company sources and repacks several tomato varieties to meet the specs of retail or foodservice customers.
Denver-based American Produce LLC also has a large tomato operation, said Rick Strauss, manager and a co-owner of the company.
“We have a full line of tomatoes,” he said. “That is a large part of our facility.”
The company brings in straight loads and does repacking and sorting, he said.
The demographics of the Denver area has been changing over the years, in part the result of a large influx of Hispanic residents, Strauss said.
That means tomatoes, as well as items like cilantro, lettuce and chili peppers, have become popular, mainstream items.
Major supermarkets now carry items they never used to offer as they try to keep up with the local Hispanic markets, he said.
“We just can’t keep enough in house,” Strauss said.
Strauss also has noticed a growing trend toward locally grown fruits and vegetables.
“Everybody wants to get local whenever they can,” he said.
Colorado’s growing season is a short one, but he said consumers look forward to the summer and Colorado produce.
“During the summer it’s great,” Strauss said. “Instead of having one or two (local) items, you’ll have 35 or 40 items.”
Denver-based Alpine Summit Sales Inc., a full-line broker/distributor that deals with other wholesalers, retailers and foodservice providers, handles a full line of fruits and vegetables grown domestically as well as offshore, said Brandon Brown, vice president.
The company specializes in purchasing for wholesale, retail and foodservice providers.
“Alpine Summit has had long-standing relationships with Colorado growers,” Brown said. “During the summer, the company has access to all of Colorado’s local produce.”
The company also opened a public market in its warehouse about 10 years ago that has proven to be popular among local residents.
“We thought it might be a good outlet to move some of our excess inventory,” Brown said.
Since the facility is in an industrial area, the company wasn’t sure how many customers it would attract.
“As it turns out, the support we have received has been generous,” he said.
“That’s been a nice piece of business that’s grown well, and we feel it offers a good value to our local community.”
Alpine Summit receives a lot of positive feedback from the community for providing good-quality, fresh produce at reasonable prices for locals, he said.