Wegmans Reverses Supermarket Supply Chain, Starts Organic Farm
The farm is in its first year of production, so the land is not yet certified organic, but the company's CEO, Danny Wegman, said the goal is to use the land not just to grow fresh produce for sale, but to help grow the local food market in the area.
"If it's not profitable, it's not much of a model. So that's our real goal, to establish organic growing practices so we can share with others. It has to be profitable; otherwise no one could do it," Wegman told Karen Miltner of the Gannett's Star-Gazette newspaper.
If the farm takes off, it will be poised to profit from two booming sectors of the food industry: organic food and locally grown food. The Organic Trade Association says organic foods have steadily grown in sales by 15 to 20 percent per year since 1997, nearly reaching $14 billion in sales in 2005. Similarly, local foods are in the midst of a resurgence: the market research company Packaged Facts estimates local foods have increased sales by 20 percent since 2002, with sales as high as $5 billion in 2007.
A major reason for the boom in local foods has been the dawning awareness of "food miles," or the total distanced traveled from field to fork of much of this country's food. TheNational Sustainable Agriculture Information Service estimates that food travels as far as 2000 miles from where it was grown to where it is consumed. The local food movement is seen in part as a response to buying asparagus from Argentina or grapes from China.
Another main driver for local foods is the tainted-food scandals of recent years, including the melamine-tainted pet food from China and contaminated spinach from California.
"Taste, freshness, support for local economy, confidence in knowing where the food comes from are all factors that come into play, as well as cost. It costs less for grocers to transport local food," Bill Greer, communications director for the Food Marketing Institute trade association, told the Star-Gazette.
The full profile of Wegmans' organic farm is posted at StarGazetteNews.com.
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