Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Marini Farm Embraces Local-Sourcing and the Farm-to Movement

Marini Farm has actively participated in the hot trend of produce sourcing since the farm's establishment three generations ago. In the early years the farm operated as a "truck farm" with no direct consumer selling operations. In addition, to the farm's Community-Supported Agriculture program (CSA), Marini now sells produce on the wholesale market to local restaurants, farm stands, and specialty and grocery stores. "Currently 50% of the farm's produce is sold in the wholesale market and the demand is on the rise with the orders farm exceeding the supply," reports owner Mike Marini.

When you browse the produce aisles at local grocery stores, you do not usually know where the produce comes from. However, more and more frequently you will see signs that say "locally grown," and on occasion you may see the produce source or farm's name. Shaw's and Stop & Shop are two of Marini's top wholesale customers, so on any given day you may be purchasing corn, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, and other local produce from Marini Farm without realizing it. Restaurants love sharing their produce sources with their customers, as they know organic and locally grown produce is in big demand and that their customers are focused on healthy living and tastier options. "We are changing the accessibility of farm fresh produce by expanding our distribution programs to provide the best quality produce to the local market," Marini explains. "Our family has benefited from this farm-to-table lifestyle, and we want everyone to experience the same local freshness."

Local restaurants Salt and Ithaki in Ipswich, MA are active wholesale customers of Marini Farm. Their relationships with Marini Farm allow the restaurants' customers to become new customers of Marini. Did you know that one of the North Shore's favorite ice cream stands, Benson's Ice Cream, uses Marini strawberries in their seasonal strawberry ice cream?

A recent National Restaurant Association (NRA) survey discovered that over 55% of adults say they're more likely to visit a restaurant that offers foods that are grown or raised in an environmentally friendly manner. According to the NRA, the current top two restaurant menu trends this season are to serve up locally sourced meat and seafood, and locally grown produce.

As more and more Americans become aware of the personal, local, and global consequences of their food consumption, the "farm-to" concept continually tops the consumer trends charts. This surge in demand reflects the public's overall uncertainty about food safety and the effectiveness of government regulations in quality standards and labeling. It is easier to trust produce that has traveled 30 miles or fewer.

Even the national restaurant chains are following the farm-to trend. A local favorite fast-food chain, Chipotle Mexican Grill, "plans to serve more than 15 million pounds of locally grown produce in its restaurants this year, up from its 2012 goal of 10 million pounds," as reported in QSR Magazine.

According to Marini, "We pick seven days a week and have to move the produce, so having tight local networks to source product to is important." In the busy months produce is picked at peak ripeness, and based on demand it moves from the fields directly to the trucks for distribution.

The eating-local trend has taken off throughout the state. At the opening of the summer farmers market season last year, 21 new markets were opened, including 10 in Middlesex and Worcester Counties. That brought the total number of farmers markets in the state to 254, an increase of more than 55% in five years, according to the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The North Shore hosts farmers markets all week long. To learn more about where and when they are open, read the recent article in The Salem News, "Farmers markets bloom on the North Shore".

Buying locally grown fruits and vegetables means both a fresher fridge and a reduced carbon footprint. Local produce travels fewer miles from field to table than imported grocery store produce does. In addition, local produce can be picked at its peak ripeness and delivered immediately instead of being picked green and required to ripen in transit or on shelves.

Marini prides its smaller operations on being able to closely monitor the cultural controls, biological controls, and uses of chemicals and pesticides that go into growing the produce that brightens your summer. Marini Farm has been working with the University of Massachusetts for years to follow a balanced IPM program in order to produce the safest fruits and vegetables for local families while promoting a healthy environment and restricting use of harmful chemicals. With all the love local restaurants like Ithaki put into creating their amazing dishes, Marini Farm is proud to have put that much and more into helping expand local produce availability and consumption.

Marini focuses on keeping local, fresh and healthy. Marini wishes more people would question where the produce they purchase comes from, because if they knew the facts, "they would all grab local produce first." Marini commented that his farmland of over 200 acres can only yield so much produce, but he would double that amount if it would help him reach more people with healthier produce options. Marini knows that "delivering the produce closer to the time it is harvested results in better tasting-food."

Written by Lightning Consulting