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With more than 25 local growers signed on to supply St. Louis-based Schnucks Markets, Inc. with farm-fresh produce, the regional retailer is gearing up for a major homegrown produce push that will showcase products from some of the best farms in the Midwest.
Mike O’Brien, Schnuck Markets, Inc.’s VP of produce, says the locally focused produce promotion falls in lockstep with an economic cycle that has rekindled an interest in planting home gardens and supporting local growers who make their living off the land.
“The economy and increasing interest in sustainability has more people growing their own food, and these modern-day ‘victory’ gardens are not only ways to eat healthy, but they are [also] quite possibly ways to regain control in uncertain times,” said O’Brien, noting that during wartime, home gardens helped supplement food shortages. “Similarly, the current recession has more people interested in getting back to the basics of homegrown and home-cooked meals.”
O’Brien said Schnucks works with more than 25 local growers that “take pride in delivering homegrown products that have that ‘straight from the garden’ taste. Schnucks produce departments receive local deliveries several times a week, many going directly to the store and bypassing the warehouse, to ensure the freshest product and saving customers money, according to O’Brien, who added that during the course of coming months, “Our customers will notice our efforts to showcase products from some of the best farms in the Midwest.”
Among Schnucks’ local farmer/suppliers is Thies Farms of Maryland Heights, Mo., a local partner the family-held retailer relies on for a variety of produce such as cabbage, peppers, tomatoes and squash. Thies Farms have been in business for 135 years, and Dave Thies along with his brother, Darrell, are the fifth generation of the family to run the 35-employee, 200-acre farm.
“Our family has been working with Schnucks for more than 30 years,” said Dave Thies, whose family members communicate directly with the produce manager at each store to ensure that they have the products their customers want. “We can then harvest our vegetables and have them in the store the next day, if not sooner.”
Schnucks’ other local partners include Prouhet Farms, Zimmerman Farms, Eckert’s, Edward’s Melon Company and Pin Oak Farms.
O’Brien said when walking through Schnucks’ produce departments, shoppers will notice signs with pictures highlighting the many local growers. “Our customers have told us that they want more locally grown produce, and we are responding. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, we want our customers to consider us produce experts,” he said.
Schnucks recently received the Produce for Better Health Foundation’s (PBH) Supermarket Retail Role Model honors for the second consecutive year, in recognition of the company’s support of the “Fruits and Veggies-More Matters” health initiative.
Schnuck Markets, Inc. operates 105 stores (including five Logli stores) and 101 pharmacies in Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Tennessee and Mississippi.