When I typed in “locally grown vegetables” in to Google it kicked back the top 5 reasons to choose locally grown fruits & vegetables: Flavor, Nutrition, Variety, Economics, and environment.
Hhhhhhm. I agree with all 5 points but when I searched a little more, there wasn’t much on the topic of buying locally grown vegetables in the middle of winter in the midwest. The 5 reasons mentioned above are key, regardless of the season but what is even more important, is understanding how these locally grown products come to life and why.
Our world is changing everyday; currencies are rising and falling, cost of gas is all over the map, international leadership is changing, our climate is up and down like a yo-yo, the list goes on and on. If there can be a bright spot when it comes to health, nutrition, and access to fresh vegetables that are grown by a grower that you trust, does that not help make purchasing decisions a little easier? We think so. Does it need to be 75F outside and we are sitting at a picnic table to be able to eat fresh tomatoes that taste like they just came out of your garden? No, there isn’t an app for that but as growers, we take this opportunity very seriously. Greenhouse tomatoes can be grow in the middle of winter near you and near you can be 20 minutes away to less than 5 hours in some respects.
In establishing brand consistency in what we send to market, we are very well aware of the need for not only the package to look great, but the product inside taste even better. In part 2 of my chat with Jordan from ANUK, we got a little deeper in to growing in Ohio and the need for brand consistency. It’s an important topic that we internalize every day.
Jordan Okumura: Why is local such an important concept and element to the program?
Chris Veillon: Many use the word “local” very loosely. Does local mean within 100 miles? 200 miles? 450 miles? A 20-minute drive? To each their own in many respects, but we see our Ohio grown tomatoes as local to the region, especially during the winter months. Ohio grown, let alone Midwest grown snacking tomatoes, are rare! In using the State of Ohio Department of Agriculture “Ohio Proud” moniker on our packaging and in our messaging, we are telling consumers that they can have confidence in supporting Ohio grown tomatoes that are endorsed by the state.
JO: How does promoting Ohio-grown products at retail, for purchase by the end-consumer, benefit the state?
CV: Buying products that are built or grown in the state helps create jobs and ensure economic activity in the region but also raises awareness for agriculture and food production in the state. We believe that a “grown in Ohio” message will resonate with consumers in the Midwest. On top of that, we have seen immediate traction with this initiative when we launched our OhioRed™ tomato program in February 2016. One of the key drivers in a Ohio grown message is that the product is coming from the same grower week-in, week-out, regardless of the season. We may not ship hundreds of thousands of cases a month, but what we do is ensure that when someone picks up a resealable container of TOMZ™ Red Cherry or Red Grape Tomatoes in Cleveland or Columbus or Chicago or Rochester, they know that is grown in Ohio by a grower that they can trust.
JO: What does brand consistency mean to NatureFresh™?
CV: Brand consistency is not about matching the colors of the label or making sure it is shipped in the right box. It is about delivering a product that meets the highest standards we can attain with our varieties. We want to ensure that each and every time a consumer walks in to a grocery store that they always get our best.
Our new product innovation is driving us forward. Not only are we using technology to build better greenhouses but developing growing strategies that ensure we are using the right processes for all of our facilities, regardless of the product. Delivering the same product to the same retailer from the same farm week-in, week-out, regardless of the season, ensures consumers know where it is grown and who it is grown by.
JO: Can you talk to me about one of your most successful initiatives to-date?
CV: Our strategic marketing efforts are focused on our core message, “We Are The Grower.” We are being overly transparent in how we grow and all that we do as one of the largest vertically integrated greenhouse companies in North America.
Through our #GreenInTheCity tour over the last 2 years, we have been tremendously successful in sharing our story about how we grow as we prepared to unveil our Ohio project. Now that we have begun picking and shipping, those consumer whom we interacted with are now purchasing Ohio grown tomatoes. Why? Because they understand who grows them, how they are grown, and feel empowered by the information they have received. Our investment in sharing our message at the grassroots level will help strengthen our position in the marketplace.
JO: So, Chris, what’s next?
CV: Planning is already underway for 2017! We strive to provide the best possible eating experience in all that we grow. Our Ohio tomato program provides consistency throughout the winter months which has never been done before. NatureFresh™ Farms is focused on delivering products that we are proud of. Our growing strategy might be a little different than most who focus on yield and boxes shipped. While we are focused on that too, what we do first and foremost is to ensure quality comes first. We leave our product on the vine a little bit longer to ensure maximum flavor. With significantly less miles to travel from our Ohio greenhouses to a local or regional distribution center, you can bet consumers will enjoy our Ohio grown tomatoes. Healthy doesn’t have to be hard; we just want to make sure it is flavorful.