Strategic Partnership with Whole Foods Puts More Local Food on Shelves

by James Pirovano, FamilyFarmed.org

The rising numbers of farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs is helping to both feed and fuel the demand for locally and regionally produced food. But can you find local food on your grocery store shelves?

The answer to that question is increasingly “yes” … and FamilyFarmed.org is playing an important role in making that happen.

For example, the organization is working with Whole Foods Market to help the natural foods supermarkets identify more Illinois farmers who can produce fruits and vegetables to be sold in the company’s Midwest stores. Details about their product priorities are below, and for more information, please contact FamilyFarmed.org at James@FamilyFarmed.org.

Whole Foods Market in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood

FamilyFarmed.org works in a strategic partnership with Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest chain of natural food supermarkets, including this outlet in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. Photo by Bob Benenson

This effort extends from a strategic partnership with Whole Foods that was announced at FamilyFarmed.org’s Good Food Festival & Conference this past March in Chicago.

The partnership aims to grow the supply of regionally produced sustainable and organic food. To that end, FamilyFarmed.org has been working to expand procurement relationships between Whole Foods Market and Midwestern producers such as Deer Creek Organics in St. Anne, Illinois; FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois; Living Waters Farms in Strawn, Illinois; and Klug Orchards in Berrien Center, Michigan.

In addition, progress is being made to develop relationships with food hubs in the region, such as Goodness Greeness and Local Foods and FarmLogix in Chicago; Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative in Madison; and Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin.

FamilyFarmed.org, in fact, has been connecting local farms and food businesses to buyers for more than 10 years. That procurement work with retail grocers, restaurants, schools, and other institutions is highlighted at the Good Food Festival & Conference, held each March in Chicago.  

That work continues year-round: identifying new local farms, helping existing farms expand to new markets, training local farmers to be responsive to wholesale buyers’ needs, and connecting new suppliers with wholesale buyers.

To move that ball up the field, FamilyFarmed.org recently visited the Whole Foods Market distribution center in Munster, Indiana, about 30 miles from downtown Chicago. The conversation there produced the alphabetical list below of fruits and vegetables  that were identified as priorities. And we are contacting Illinois farms and farm groups to alert them to this opportunity for expanded sales.

• Asparagus

• Beans (Purple, Pole, Yellow, Wax)

• Beets (bunched Gold and Choigga)

• All Berries (except blueberries)

• Baby Bok Choy

• Bok Choy

• Brussels Sprouts (conventional and organic)

• Cabbage (Green, Red, and Savoy)

• Carrots (bunched)

• Celery (24 count)

• Cherries (sweet and tart)

• Fennel (conventional and organic) 

• Garlic (organic)

• Green Onions

• Herbs (bunching, organic)

• Onions (White, Jumbo, conventional and organic)

• Onions (Yellow, organic)

• Peas (Snap and Snow)

• Red Radishes

• Shallots (organic, 20 lb. loose) 

• Spinach (bunched, conventional)

• Stone Fruits

• Tomato (Slicing, conventional)

The strategic partnership also includes Whole Foods’ participation in the Good Food Business Accelerator that FamilyFarmed.org is launching this fall, which will provide instruction, mentorship, and financial networking to entrepreneurs selected as program Fellows. You can read more about the Accelerator project on FamilyFarmed.org’s Good Food on Every Table website by clicking here.

It also includes a collaboration with food hubs to develop training workshops for current and prospective regional growers based on FamilyFarmed.org’s publication Wholesale Success: A Farmers Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce.

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