NY Times On Farmers, Grocers and the Hot New Brand, "Local"

New York Times has an insightful article out about the new wave of interest in local foods among consumeers and the struggles of both farmers and grocers to adapt. Here's a key passage:

Several companies and nonprofits are working to put farmers and supermarket executives together to iron out the kinks. A major focus of Karp Resources of Southold, N.Y., is how to re-regionalize the food system.

“Regional agriculture systems in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic and Southeast are really quite broken,” said Karen Karp, the president of the company. “Small farmers can sell direct, but there is no infrastructure for middle-sized farmers to get stuff into supermarkets.” There are no warehouses, limited trucking facilities and few distributors.

These growers are used to picking the zucchini and bringing it to a stall at a farmers’ market. In order to sell to grocery stores, they have to learn pricing, invoicing and ordering systems as well as post-harvest handling techniques that include chilling, sorting and grading for size and color.

Big retailers have even more work to do. Used to making just a few phone calls to large produce distributors, often thousands of miles away, they do not have the setup or the personnel to deal with individual farmers who deliver to the back door.

Let's hope that we can get our act together in Spokane this year so that when I go to Siemers Greenbluff farm in January I won't find thousands of pounds of beautiful but rotting winter squash. And when I go to Yoke's, I won't find lower quality squash from Mexico. That was one of our first awakening experiences in the local food system this year. It's going to be up to the customers to lead the way, so talk to your local grocery store manager today and ask them if they plan to have the famous Siemers Winter Squash this Fall, or some other farm of choice.