Grocery stores like Meijer began buying locally grown produce years ago but the practice has really taken off in the past five years.
Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich., based retailer that operates 222 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and now in southeastern Wisconsin. In July and August, Meijer opened four stores in Kenosha, Grafton, Oak Creek and Wauwatosa.
"More sites in Wisconsin are planned in the future," explains Christi Rozema, a buyer for Meijer.
Keeping it fresh
Fresh produce is delivered to Meijers seven days a week. Currently Meijer is buying 75 local items from 125 suppliers and growers -- up 25% during the past two years alone -- in the six-state area where they have stores.
"Each Meijer store has 600 different types of produce and more than 200 of them are organic fruits and vegetables," Rozema says.
"Five years ago, we knew we were going to do be doing business in Wisconsin and we started looking for local growers and suppliers to do business with," she explains. "We like to have the partnership with the local growers to boost the economy locally and reduce the distance food has to travel. It's also very important to the consumer."
Rozema began reaching out to larger vegetable growers and suppliers in Wisconsin in 2010.
"I met with several larger potato growers including Alsum Farms & Produce Inc. in Friesland," she says. "We've been doing business with Alsum Farms & Produce for four years. We knew they would be a good fit."
Meijer currently buys potatoes, sweet potatoes and pumpkins from Alsums. Consumers will find Alsums produce at Meijer stores in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana stores.
"We're very quality conscious because the food doesn't have to travel as far, it gets to the stores more quickly and is fresher," Rozema explains. Alsums delivers produce to Meijer seven days a week.
"By purchasing local, Meijer is able to cut fuel consumption, which is not only good for the environment, but also helps reduce transportation costs and keeps fresh produce prices down for customers," Rozema says.