Monday, August 11, 2008

Must read: Wednesday's "Dining In" serves up some news on Wegmans

I try to pick up the New York Times on Wednesdays because it is on those days that the "Dining In" section is published. I like "Dining In" because it covers food-related stories from a variety of perspectives: profiles on chefs and farmers, reports from New York's Greenmarket and other markets throughout the country, local and national food trends, and, of course, a fair share of recipes.

Last week's offerings (I know, I'm late) included an article on how Supermarkets are adapting to demands for locally grown food. It seems like the increase in gas prices and the growing awareness of "local food politics" have created a perfect storm for local growers, many of whom sell directly to supermarket chains.

Our own local giant was featured in the write up and, for those of us keeping track of this sort of thing, comes across as a leader of the pack:

Wegmans Food Markets, a 71-store chain based in New York with locations in
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, has been buying from local farmers for the last 20 years. Today it has 800 farmers and has also experienced
a 20 percent increase in sales of local produce over the past year. “There’s a
real emotional connection with local,” said Dave Corsi, vice president for

Mr. Corsi said that in order to buy from local farms, the chain had
to stop acting like a chain. “We don’t control these relationships centrally —
the produce manager in each store does this directly,” he said. “We only guide
the stores.”

I didn't know much about Wegmans' local food practices beyond the fact that they do a good job of carrying it. I was pleased to learn that the relationship between grower and buyer seems to remain as human as possible (you can learn a bit more about the Buffalo-area farmers on Wegmans' website) and I'd like to know more about the effect this sales increase will have on their non-local produce sales. It wasn't clear if Wegmans cut--or will cut--the amount of non-local produce it buys in light of these new figures.

Also mentioned in the Times article is Wal-Mart's recent steps towards buying local food. This development sort of makes my head spin since the corporate culture runs opposite to what I appreciate about eating (and buying) local but hey, I guess it's a good development?

Anyway, check it out and cheer for the last line of the piece: "'It’s going to be a way of life,' said Matt Seeley, vice president for marketing of the Nunes Company, which sells Foxy brand vegetables. 'I don’t think there is any turning back.'"

PS: Give Hawthorne Valley Farm a high-five for milling their own flour. Dante Hesse, also mentioned in the same piece, is a HVF alum.

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