GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Midwest grocer Meijer is digging deeper into its network of area farms by increasing the amount of fruits and vegetables it sources from Midwest farms by 5 percent this year.
The announcement was made recently by Mark Stevenson, produce director at the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based supercenter chain.
The program of buying produce from farms located within the five-state region in which Meijer conducts business (Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky) has grown substantially over the past several years, with this year’s commitment representing nearly one-third of all fruits and vegetables the grocer will sell during the summer and early fall months.
Meijer’s Home Grown initiative includes sourcing more than 75 different fruits and vegetables from 85 different farms and growers throughout its five-state footprint. The company estimates it has invested more than $60 million into the local economies by partnering with local farms and farmers.
“We take our first shipment of local produce from farms in May and continue through September,” said Stevenson. “It’s a program we are extremely proud of, and one that is very gratifying in terms of supporting local farmers.
“But it’s not simply an economic move on our part; it’s also about quality since some of the best tasting, highest-quality produce comes directly from the farms in the states where we have Meijer stores.”
By partnering with local farms and farmers, Meijer has become the largest purchaser of locally grown apples in its five-state region, and has increased its volume by 10 percent since 2009.
It has also increased its commitment to sourcing locally grown produce across several items: Its watermelon purchases from local farms are up 20 percent, honeyrock melons are up 30 percent, sweet corn is up 18 percent, and round white and russet potatoes are up 30 percent.
The Michigan-based grocer sells millions of pounds of locally-grown asparagus annually, nearly three million bunch green onions from Midwest farms and hundreds of thousands of pumpkins from area farms.
“Unlike most other grocers, we meet and work directly with local growers on a regular basis to ensure the freshest, highest-quality product,” said Stevenson.
“Working with suppliers in our own backyard allows us to personally inspect items, keep close track of inventory and maintain our high quality standards. It’s a mutually favorable relationship that benefits everyone, especially our Meijer customers.”