Earlier this year while presenting at the Mid-Ohio Growers Conference Terry Romp, Heinen’s Produce Buyer, had an idea…
Let’s give a group of Amish Produce Growers a tour of our Stores and Produce Warehouse
Last Wednesday, about 50 Amish growers made the trip from Wayne County to tour our stores and get a sneak-peak into the produce operation at our warehouse. Many of the these growers have never had to chance to see, first hand, where their produce ends up and they jumped at the chance to experience it in person.
During the growing season, about 1/2 of the locally grown produce in our stores comes from this dedicated group of growers and other local Amish families. To say that they’re very passionate about the work they do is quite the understatement. The group was eager to learn about the quality and consistency that we look for when buying produce even details like the ideal stage of ripeness for harvesting crops like broccoli and squash.
The Heinen’s produce team spent the day acting as tour guides and answering questions but that’s not to say that they didn’t learn a few things themselves. The journey fresh produce takes from farm to table starts with each grower and their specific strengths, capabilities and limitations faced during the growing season. Knowing the full cycle of fresh produce from planting to harvesting and transportation helps to ensure a top quality product in your basket.
Isaac Keim, a long time grower and friend of Heinen’s, spoke for the group when he mentioned that the growing season is expected to be bountiful, “The fields are coming back quick” he said when asked how the harsh winter affected the land.
Despite the rough winter, according to Isaac, the fields are in good shape and many are already being plowed and readied for planting. Many members of the community have even begun planting heartier crops like onions and cabbage now that the weather is turning warmer and wild ramps have already made it to our stores.
When asked if he expected any crop in particular to grow well this growing season, Isaac smiled and said, “I hope everything grows well”, the other growers in the group agreed. “Warm weather crops like peppers and melons will be planted around the middle of may”, Isaac mentioned about some of the best selling items. Rhubarb, Chinese cabbage and asparagus were the crops that many said they would like to begin growing this year, they might even end up in our stores.
From May thru November, our buyers attend the County Line Auction every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to purchase the produce grown on these Amish Farms. The crops are harvested during the day, sold in the evening and arrive in our stores the next day. It really doesn’t get fresher than that!
We always strive to buy locally whenever possible and its relationships like this that help to reduce the distance fresh food has to travel to get on your plate. In the end, the day was a great success and Terry hopes that it will result in more produce being bought and sold locally.