The local deal remains strong for Carolina shippers. ( Jackson Farming Co. )

Demand for local product continues to serve Carolina grower-shippers well.

Matt Solana, vice president of operations and supply chain for Autryville, N.C.-based Jackson Farming Co., said the local deal is very important and that consumers are driving it.

“While locally grown means something different to almost anyone you ask, the chains are working to provide their customers with the freshest locally grown produce they can find in season,” Solana said April 27. “In North Carolina that would be July for many of our crops, but most especially watermelons and cantaloupes. July is Watermelon Month in North Carolina.

“As for marketing, the attention has to be called to the locally grown produce at the display, with the farm or farms noted,” Solana said. “This, along with ads depicting the growers currently being sourced from, and the use of social media to ‘tell the story,’ are some of the ways we and our chains partners work to get the message out to our customers.”

Jackson Farming Co. is a member of Got to be NC, a promotion effort by the state department of agriculture.

Raleigh, N.C.-based L&M Cos. is also a member.

“Local is a crucial part of our business that we promote across several states and here in North Carolina,” Cody Dunn, bell pepper product manager, said April 30. “We are part of the Got To Be NC program (and numerous other state ag programs) and we feel this is an important factor in marketing our local product. Consumers recognize the Got to Be NC logo.

“Consumer interest in local continues to grow as people become more concerned about where their food comes from, how it’s produced, how fresh it is and how long it takes to reach them,” Dunn said. “Retailers can use the North Carolina Department of Agriculture program to promote local product, showcase local farmers, show food miles traveled and harvest dates to promote the freshness of NC local product.”

Interest in local has even showed up in the foodservice segment.

“All business is important, but with an increase in ‘farm to table’ dining, foodservice is picking up steam with the local deals,” Dunn said. “Many area restaurants promote local and regional products on their menus and advertising. It’s great to be able to offer value-added local product to foodservice.”

Christine Jackson, marketing manager for Pelion, S.C.-based WP Rawl, also reported strong demand for local.

“Many consumers look for local products when at the grocery stores,” Jackson said April 27. “We promote our products as local as much as possible, especially during the summer with our specialty crops.”

Tami Long, director of marketing and business development for Nashville, N.C.-based Nash Produce, had a similar observation.

“Buying locally is so important,” Long said May 2. “People want to know where their food is grown and how it is handled.”