Farm to Aisle 2 Blog # 3
By: Devon Kohler
Raise your hand if you have purchased butternut squash, turnips, and or carrots in the past month. Now raise your hand if those veggies came from within a 30 mile radius of your home. How many hands are up now? Unless you were able to squeeze in a visit to a once a month winter farmers market or happen to have a winter CSA share, local harvest produce is hard to find. All of the local grocery stores have the “in season” produce front and center, catering to the trend toward roasting, simmering and braising as we head into the holiday season and the cooler temperatures. However, the local versions of “harvest fare” are few and far between.
After talking with Carol Smith of C.N. Smith Farm (West Bridgewater) and Marta McFarland of Rise and Shine Farm (Marshfield), it has become quite apparent to me that there is an opportunity here. Both farms have an overabundance of current seasonal produce and would love to find a home for it. C.N. Smith Farm has already tried to shop its extra supply of squash to no avail. Phone calls to a few grocery stores were not even returned. Rise and Shine Farm also has a booming crop of carrots (which by the way will make you wonder what those orange things you have been eating all these years actually were) and turnips of a delectable heirloom variety. So why aren’t these yummy local goodies in the grocery stores?
According our local farmers there are a few inhibiting factors. One big one is that for South Shore grocery stores to offer local produce they need to draw from multiple sources. We don’t have huge local farms that can single-handly supply stores with the volume and variety of produce they need. Grocery stores are hesitant to commit to managing multiple suppliers because it might not be worth the extra effort/cost involved. There is also the issue of pricing. A lot of local producers have not made it a priority to research and determine price points for the resale of their produce and it would take some substantial effort to determine a cost structure that would make selling to grocery stores worthwhile. In addition, many grocery stores have adopted the USDA’s GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) program, which, through audits of produce suppliers, focuses “on best agricultural practices to verify that fruits and vegetables are produced, packed, handled, and stored in the safest manner possible…”(1) While this is obviously well intentioned, the GAP requirements can be prohibitive for local farms just like organic certification often alludes small organic practicing farms just because the cost and time associated with the certification process puts it beyond their reach.
Is there a model that might work? I am hoping so. My next goal is to get a local farm and a local grocery store to take an initial step in making a relationship work. If we could just start by getting Rise and Shine turnips/carrots or C.N. Smith’s squash into Foodies and then onto community plates we would be headed in the right direction. I also want to glean some information from the consumer to lend some credence to my contention that there is a growing South Shore market for local produce. I guess that means survey. Tune in to my next blog to find out how I fare and feel free to offer up any ideas that come to mind!
Devon Kohler graduated with a psychology degree from Harvard University and is now a mom of three, residing in Duxbury, MA. Being a novice gardener herself, she is passionate about local food and incorporating it into healthy sustainable cooking and eating for her family and the community at large.