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Wegmans Food Markets says that this year's version of its "Locally Grown" program will bring the biggest harvest yet to produce sections, weather permitting.
Shoppers should be able to buy regionally produced lettuces, cabbage, green peas, broccoli crowns, strawberries, cherries, corn, cucumbers, cauliflower, green, yellow, striped and multi-color summer squashes, peppers, tomatoes, melons, peaches, plums, grapes, apples, Brussels sprouts, acorn, butternut and other winter squashes, and decorative heirloom pumpkins.
"We'll still be picking at Thanksgiving," predicted Wegmans' Buffalo division produce coordinator, Kevin Komendat.
The program, which began over two decades ago and now boasts over 800 growers, connects family farms directly to customers at Wegmans stores in a matter of hours, with no distribution center or warehouse involved in the process. Wegmans features information on the program's growers on its Web site.
According to Wegmans, such an initiative is good for the environment because it reduces fuel costs, which helps the grocer offer competitive prices to shoppers.
During the winter, produce coordinators, produce managers, and local growers in each of Wegmans' market areas start planning for the next season, discussing innovative varieties to introduce, such as the Goldbar summer squash, a hybrid with better color and flavor than those of other yellow straightneck squashes, or unusual items to offer, like striped heirloom tomatoes. "The growers like trying something new, and we like giving customers more choice," noted Komendat.
Environmental and food safety issues are also on the agenda, he added. "We want to recycle or reuse packaging as much as possible," explained Komendat. "Some growers are using a more recyclable kind of cardboard box, where others are using sturdier plastic boxes that can be washed and reused many times." If a grower delivers to more than one Wegmans store in a day, the grocer coordinates deliveries to save fuel and time.
Additionally, Wegmans is requesting this year that all of its grower partners become certified in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), which including how water, fertilizers, manure, and pesticides are used.
Based in Rochester, N.Y., family-owned Wegmans operates 71 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland.