Written by Kyle Parkins, Produce Manager
It is green on the Palouse and everything is growing, which makes this one of the best times of the year to be working in the Co-op’s Produce Department. And with the wonderful variety of produce that arrives in the summer season, now is the perfect time for us to refocus on what’s most important to us in the Produce Department—local fruits and vegetables.
We are trying to increase the amount of produce we buy from local growers and, in turn, sell to our owners and shoppers. Any grocery store you go to has a designation for “local” products—but how do they define local? Where are these local products coming from? We made it a goal to be as transparent as possible about where and from whom our produce comes from. To accomplish this goal we have made a few changes to the way we operate as a department.
First, we changed our definition of “local” to better reflect our goals. So now, when we refer to local produce, it means that the fruit, vegetable or flower was grown within 50, 100 or 200 miles of our store and purchased through direct farm sales to the Co-op. The produce is either certified organic, certified naturally grown, or local no-spray. With the extended definition, there will be several items that used to be labeled as local that will now be labeled as regional. In the past, many of the apples that we got from Northwest wholesalers were labeled as local because they came from within 200 miles of the Co-op. Those apples are now considered regional, saving the local label for only the apples that come directly from the growers. Second, when we can get enough of a particular local product, we won’t bring that product in from our wholesale distributors. For example, in June we had a vibrant variety of leafy greens and salad mix from our local folks, so we didn’t bring in any of those same items from the distributor. Going forward we are going to continue with this practice.
With these changes we seek to make local produce abundantly available to our shoppers, communicate a clear and concise message about the origin of our local produce and reinforce our commitment to supporting our local growers.
Click here to learn more about our local producers.