Arizona Distributors Turn Their Eyes to Local
By Zac Rivas, Good Food Finder Development Intern
The demand for local food has been growing, and as the food supply chain evolves, eating local is becoming increasingly as convenient as buying conventional.
In an agricultural utopia, consumers would build personal relationships with farmers and buy directly from them at farmers’ markets or through Community Supported Agriculture programs. However, due to long commutes, busy workweeks, the fluke rainy day, or the last-minute errands that arise, it is not always easy to get to the farmers markets that pop up for only hours at a time each week. But when grocery stores typically only offer foods that come through national and international supply chains, there are scant few local options. So for those whose hours only accommodate for post-work grocery store runs, eating local can be a challenge.
Thankfully, we are seeing a revolution in Arizona with our local food supply chain partnerships. Locally owned produce distribution companies are turning their eyes local: helping connect producers with the food service industry around the state to meet the wholesale demand for Arizona grown goods.
Two Arizona companies, Stern Produce and Peddler’s Son Produce & Provisions, have added locally-sourced product lines that change appropriately with the seasons and directly support our local farms. These produce companies have transportation infrastructure and are diligently working to deliver this high-quality, locally-grown product to retailers and restaurants statewide, which supports our local restaurateurs’ efforts to source responsibly. Now, local foods are more easily finding their way onto restaurant plates, served ‘til late.
Arizona Fresh Together | Stern Produce
In January 2017, Arizona’s largest family-owned produce distributor, introduced Arizona Fresh Together, a local food program focused on building the capacity and resiliency of Arizona’s agriculture and food production. Stern is committing to their local partner producers and customers to keep a variety of items in stock and available the next day depending on seasonal availability.
“We want this program to be a cornerstone catalyst for creating a thriving food economy for Arizona,” said Kristen Osgood, Stern’s Sustainability Coordinator. “We continued to hear an increased demand for local products, but those demands weren’t being equated with increased sales. We felt we needed to address the major procurement barriers that special orders and lead times created. In addition, we wanted to create a program capable of working with local farms and food producers of all scale and sizes. As a local family-owned business, it is important to us support our local economy.”
Currently, the program has 17 vendors and continues to look for potential farm/producer partners. Current program offerings include produce, eggs, dairy, cheese, pickles, seasoned salts, olives and olive oil, grass-raised beef and a hand-crafted sustainable vegan protein. View the Arizona Fresh Together Producer profiles here.
Local Flavors | Peddler’s Son Produce & Provisions
In Fall of 2016, Enter Rj Johnson: a man with over 20 years of experience with the Arizona food and farming scene, who recognized that we need a better way for small- and medium-sized growers to get their product to market. After wondering how that would work, he met the team from Peddler’s Son at the 2015 Farmer+Chef Connection. Peddler’s Son has been serving Arizona businesses since 1988, and they will sell produce to anyone! The fit was right, and Rj has since joined forces with them to launch Local Flavors––his version of an Arizona Food Hub.
Now, Peddler’s Son has local offerings featured front-and-center on their product page and publishes a bi-weekly product guide, requesting 48 hours advanced-notice for order fulfillment.
And it doesn’t stop at responsible sourcing––Rj publishes the latest and greatest in a weekly blog post to ensure that consumers are still able to connect with our state’s producers. Discover his blog here.
Stern and Peddler’s Son are doing their part from a distribution level to ensure that Arizonans get the best food possible. By rethinking their systems, these established supply chains are becoming allies with our local producers and making buying local easier for the food service industry. This is how we turn eating into a cooperative endeavor, in a way that is practical and sustainable for everyone.
Are YOU a local producer who is interested in working with a local distributor like Stern? JOIN US at the 2017 Food & Farm Finance Forum to learn the ins and out of the process: from ensuring adequate food safety, to determining pack sizes and prices.
Scaling Up to Work with Distributors Workshop
Kristen Osgood, Stern Produce
Thursday, May 18 | 10am-11:30am
at the 2017 Food & Farm Finance Forum
Learn more about the event and purchase tickets here.