“Uhh… as ‘local’ as possible.”

December 26, 2019

“… and uhh..  just make it as ‘local’ as possible.”  

That is one of the most frustrating things for me to hear from a customer, because an after-thought is not a successful locally-sourced program.

Not everyone thinks about local produce the day after Christmas, but I do. It’s slow today; I have time to reflect on last year’s successes and frustrations. If you can, take advantage of this time too!

Conscious consumers want to support local growers, foodservice operators want to meet that demand, and so do we! Locally-sourced produce is important to consumers, large management companies, and school districts. Yet, we still encounter customers who struggle to meet these goals and initiatives. I promise it doesn’t have to be a herculean feat! Just take some time to look over an availability calendar, do a little bit of planning, and call your account manger before asparagus season.

If you want to start a local program or enhance what you’re already doing, here are some things to consider:

 

When you’re purchasing local product, expect local product.

  • South Jersey has sandy soil; you’ll need to thoroughly wash your greens.
  • If it rained all week, no one has been out harvesting for a week.
  • If you just saw tomatoes at a roadside stand, it may still be a week away from commercial volumes. We’re much more anxious about getting them in our warehouse!

 

There is a direct correlation between planning ahead and a successful local program.

  • You have to start small! I assist the School District of Philadelphia’s foodservice department with their locally-sourced initiatives– Harvest of the Month and PA Preferred Day. They began small with a Harvest of the Month program. Some months are cake (Pennsylvania apples in the fall), others are challenging (volume in early spring), we have learned to communicate better, and we improve every year.
  • Start by contacting your account manager for availability, suggestions, and inspiration. I’ve armed them with availability and other information. Also, they’ve worked with accounts on farm markets and sourcing.
  • Recruit a folks you can bounce ideas off of and let them in. Bonus points if they’re in another department!
  • Lastly, build in some flexibility. Rather than promoting romaine for the third week of May, promote greens. If the the season is delayed, we get hit with a late frost, et cetera… you can adapt by switching our romaine for arugula, spinach, or green leaf lettuce.

 

Promote it.

  • Ask your account manager for information on our local growers.
  • Kicking off a locally-sourced program can be challenging. Your program will not be the biggest and the best when you start. If it is authentic and well-planned, it will be great, and you should celebrate it.
  • After your event, analyze it, learn, and think about was to improve or build upon it.
  • Lastly, if you do not post it on social media– it’s like it never happened. Tag us and I’ll promote it too!

 

So let’s promote great, local fruits and veggies in 2020!  Don’t forget to call your account manger to discuss local product before asparagus season!

 

The purpose of this blog to share my 9 1/2 years of produce industry insight. Enjoy more fresh produce, buy with confidence, and let’s move fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables to the center of the plate!

 

Liz G.

Marketing Manager

Tags: farm-to-school, Jersey Fresh, K12, local, locally-sourced, PA Preferred

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