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As superstore chain Meijer continues to expand across the Midwest, its commitment to purchasing local produce has also grown to represent an annual economic impact of nearly $100 million.
“Meijer has a longstanding commitment to buying locally-grown produce when available as long as the quality meets our high standards,” said Jerry Suter, VP of fresh merchandising for the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer. “Not only is buying local produce the right thing to do, it’s what our customers want and deserve. We are currently one of the largest purchasers of local produce in the markets we serve.”
Meijer has purchased from local growers big and small since the company’s inception, but its effort to buy local has expanded significantly over the past decade as the retailer has grown into new markets and the focus on local became more important to customers.
Meijer works with more than 125 local growers – up 25 percent during the past two years alone – within its six-state footprint. 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.
“Buying local makes sense,” said Loren Buurma, who operates Willard, Ohio-based Buurma Farms, which sells green onions, radishes and greens to Meijer. “It supports the local economy through jobs and capital expenditures … and it diminishes the carbon footprint because of its proximity to market so highway miles and fuel consumption are kept to a minimum. I am very happy with the support that Meijer gives to the local farmers.”
Meijer began purchasing potatoes from Alsum Farms & Produce in Wisconsin before the retailer even opened stores in that state.
“With today’s shoppers seeking more information about how their food is grown and produced, Meijer is vital in bringing consumers and farmers together to share knowledge and build trust and confidence in our food supply while putting a face to the farmer,” Alsum President and CEO Larry Alsum said. “As shoppers look to provide healthy choices for their families, locally grown and produced products provide that value.”
The retailer’s relationship with E. Miedema & Sons Inc., a fourth-generation family farm in Byron Center, Mich., began nearly 80 years ago when Ralph Miedema delivered cabbage and squash to Hendrik Meijer at the Greenville store.
“Buying local is important to us because many of our friends and neighbors see our produce in our fields and wish to purchase it. They like to support us,” said Ralph’s grandson, Dave Miedema, who now operates the 1,500-acre farm with several family members. “Meijer is a great partner.”
In 2013, Meijer introduced its customers to fresh, vine-ripened Michigan-grown tomatoes year-round, thanks to Mastronardi Produce’s state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse in Coldwater, Mich. Earlier this year, that partnership expanded to now offer locally-grown sweet peppers in colder months. As Meijer continues to grow across the Midwest with 11 new stores this year, it will continue to seek partnerships with local growers who meet its high standards.
Meijer operates 219 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin.