LANGHORNE, Pa. — McCaffrey’s is making an all-out effort this season to deal with more local farmers to pump up its supply of local, fresh produce.
“We’re blessed with having a lot of farms close by. In fact, we’re in an area where some farms are practically next door,” Tony Mirack, the four-unit independent’s produce buyer/merchandiser, told SN.
That’s a real plus for sales, he said.
“Our customers like to see products from farms they’re familiar with,” Mirack said, pointing out that many of the farms have their own farm stands.
“People buy fresh produce from them on the weekends, and then when they’re doing their regular weekly shopping here, they’re happy to see produce from a farm they recognize,” he added.
Mirack puts up signs on displays that indicate what farm a particular item comes from. The signs carry the name of the farm, its location and often a profile of the farmer.
Mirack explained that the closeness of the farms, along with his direct contact with the farmers, is valuable.
“They can tell me the condition of the crop right then, and how much of it we can get the next day,” Mirack said.
He offered a very current example.
“I had an arrangement with a farmer to deliver us fresh strawberries, and it was raining hard here so I wondered about the strawberries. I called the farmer and asked if my strawberries were out in that rain,” Mirack said.
The farmer told him it wasn’t raining where he was, even though he was just a little over an hour away. In fact, he told Mirack the sun had been shining and the thermometer read 80 degrees.
So the picking and delivery went as planned and Mirack immediately posted on McCaffrey’s Facebook page: “Strawberries picked today, at McCaffrey’s tomorrow.”
With a display at the front of the produce aisle, and a large sign saying where they came from, the strawberries sold out quickly.
“We hope to get more from this farmer. We’ll sell what we can get,” Mirack said.
He said it’s an advantage that McCaffrey’s is a small retailer.
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“We can make these kinds of agreements for local products. We’re the right size to take enough volume from the farmer, but not so big we’d wipe him out.”
Mirack described the “local” he was talking about.
“We could say we get strawberries fresh from the East Coast or Jersey-grown peaches, and we do, but we’re aiming to drive it right down to particular farms.”
In that effort, he’s making new contacts.
“We’re talking to a lot of different farmers, and right now, we’re getting deals for squash, and greens, tomatoes, blueberries… It means more to consumers if they know the farm.”
While McCaffrey’s has a deal with New York-based BrightFarms to supply it with hydroponically grown tomatoes and some baby greens from the company’s nearby greenhouse, that deal does not take away from other local sources, Mirack said.
Read more: McCaffrey's Features BrightFarms Tomatoes
“There had been some concern about us and the greenhouse, but I had an opportunity to attend a meeting of produce vendors here, and I made a commitment to them that our association with the greenhouse owners would in no way affect our relationship with them.”
Mirack expects to offer more very local produce this summer than in previous years.
“I just hope the weather holds out. We need some consistent weather ... warm days and warm nights … and things will really pop.”
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