The local produce trend is part of an even larger movement to support small, local businesses. It's easy to see why shopping local is appealing; small, local companies often have an unparalleled understanding of their customer base, which allows them to deliver the personalized shopping experience many people crave. Additionally, money spent at smaller, locally owned companies can help support local jobs and sustain local communities.
When it comes to the local produce trend in particular, health and nutrition are obvious benefits, but another big one is that it more closely connects local growers to the people who eat their food (and vice versa).
Jeff Barry, founder and president of Boston Organics, is part of the local produce movement. His 15-year-old small business delivers local, organic produce to individuals and corporate clients in the Greater Boston area. We spoke with him recently about the local produce trend.
Why did you decide to found Boston Organics?
Barry: I started it back in 2002. I was born in Boston, but had been living out in San Francisco during the 1990s. When I was out there, I started subscribing to a service called Planet Organics, which is similar to what we do now at Boston Organics. It had a big impact on my life. I was getting fruits and vegetables, eating healthier, cooking more and carving out more time for a healthy lifestyle. I was also learning about where my fruits and vegetables were coming from and how they were grown. When my wife and I relocated to Boston, I started the business.
How is Boston Organics participating in the local produce trend?
Barry: As the company has evolved, we've been working with local farms. In all, 70 percent of the growers and suppliers we work with are within 200 miles of our offices. As you start learning more about local economies, as I have, you realize that three times more from every dollar spent in the local economy stays in the local economy, compared to buying from a national chain store.
What is driving customers to choose local produce?
Barry: People want to know where their produce is coming from, so buying from local growers offers that transparency. The customer wants a sense of personal connection and community around what they buy. People look at local food, and the local economy in general, as a way to maintain a personal connection to the places and businesses where they live. People also feel that buying local produce is healthier, that the food is fresher and has more nutritional value, and that local may also be better for the environment in terms of a smaller carbon emissions footprint.
How do you work with local growers to meet your customers' demand for local produce?
Barry: We work with dozens of local growers and have a few local "anchor" farm partners. We'll meet with growers in the late winter and early spring to coordinate our needs and what they can supply us with. Sometimes, we even prepay to help the local growers. We closely coordinate with our growers to buy what we need, which is driven by what our customers want. We have a lot of growers delivering lettuce, but we're looking for more diversity, such as broccoli and peppers. We're proud to be an important factor in the local food movement.
How do you see the local produce trend evolving in the future?
Barry: I think the local food [movement] will only grow. We're seeing more demand and competition. Every year, we see more local growers coming to us with produce. I'm hoping this is part of a larger movement to help grow local economies. We want to keep more money in the local economy, which is great for growing local jobs and helping local communities.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Barry: We're a Certified B Corporation, so we use our business to try to help solve larger social and environmental issues. That's something that differentiates us. In every decision we make, we consider the impact on the environment, our employees, our supply chain and our community. It's a good way to do business and it aligns well with our business model.
What's clear after talking with Boston Organics' Jeff Barry is that both the local produce trend and the "shop local" trend will only continue to thrive as consumers become increasingly aware of the positive impacts.