Tag: local economy

Northeast Local Farming Update – July 15, 2020

It’s mid-summer. Let me use this post to update you on some of the goings-on in Local Food in the Northeast. The growing season is in full swing. Vegetable gardens are full. A hot June should bring early eggplant, tomatoes, and summer squashes by mid-July, but put pressure on salad greens grown outside. After an okay first cutting, the June heat took its toll on hay and the second cutting isn’t promising. We just haven’t had a lot of rain. If sweet corn hasn’t been irrigated, the lack of rain will negatively impact this, too. Blueberries have come up on the east coast and are still around. The fruit set (how many and in what condition) on apples for the fall looks fine – nothing special but reasonable. We need rain.

Dairy farming has suffered. Schools and cafes are a large source of milk consumption. SBA, PPP, and state-funded buying programs delivering food to those in need have helped, but the fluid milk market is not strong. Large Coops have instituted mandatory reductions in the production of milk. This should help all farms, though who knows how much. Forward-looking pricing for milk has jackknifed down and then back up so it’s hard to get a read on where the market is headed. The egg market remains unsettled, but small egg producers continue to proliferate. The public is learning to distinguish a good egg. This is great news for local food.

With the pandemic changing all our food habits, home deliveries, CSA’s, and farm stands have flourished. While these three outlets only touch a fraction of the population in terms of sales and volume, they are harbingers of a continued trend towards the general public wanting to have closer contact with their food sources. Large supermarkets are responding in kind as Local food continues to bring customers. Store managers listen to requests.

Keep asking for local products!

Ironically, this is happening in tandem with a comeback by old established “center aisle” products from Proctor and Gamble, Nestle, and Hershey’s that share virtually none of the nutritional or transparency qualities of the former, though they do provide the comfort of familiarity.

The success of two opposite food trends shows not only the divided American palate but also how health, nutrition, convenience, transparency, comfort, and convenience all vie for our food dollars.

Go Local!

A CONVERSATION WITH IVAN ARGUELLO

Five Acre Farms
Ivan Arquello in market

Left to right: Ivan Arguello, Jr., Ivan Arguello, Sr., and Enrico Palazio, Jr.

IVAN ARGUELLO, a 30-year veteran of the grocery business, owns KEY FOOD MONTAGUE in Brooklyn Heights. Ivan’s family has operated the store, part of the cooperatively owned Key Food chain, since 1982. Today Ivan runs the store alongside his nephew Enrico Palazio, Jr. and his son Ivan Jr. Over breakfast recently, we talked about the longevity of their family business, our shared commitment to taking local food mainstream and where the super-market business is headed.

Tell us about your family’s history in the grocery business.

My father came to New York from Nicaragua in 1979, in the midst of the revolution there. He started working in construction out on Long Island, and then purchased the store in Brooklyn Heights in 1982. He found the right people to run it, and learned everything he needed to know about the supermarket world from them. My brother-in-law Enrico Palazio, Sr. and I took over the business when my father passed away in 1994.

Why Brooklyn Heights?

I’ve always felt at home here. It’s a great community that appreciates the value of having a quality supermarket in the neighborhood, and we have many loyal employees, some who have been with us for 30 years. We owned a second store, in the Bronx, for a while, but ultimately decided to focus all of our time and attention on making the Brooklyn Heights store the best it can be. My wife Mary Elizabeth and I live in New Jersey now, but I love Brooklyn Heights. The store is my second home.

How has your business changed over the years?

Consumers today are much more informed about food and demand higher levels of service, convenience and transparency from their sources and grocery stores than ever before. Their interest in local food continues to grow, and we dedicate ourselves to finding the best sources from around the region. That inspires our focus on quality, the products we offer in the store and how we present them. We work hard at getting that right. It means a lot to us that customers continue to support their local family-run supermarket.

How have you responded to these developments?

We talk with our customers all the time, ask for their input and anticipate broader consumer trends. It’s important to listen to the younger generations. I see that they’re eager to try new foods. Knowing how they shop has changed how we think about selling food. Enrico and Ivan Jr., our store’s third generation and younger consumers themselves, have helped with this. In 2015, we collaborated with a group of Fordham business school students to analyze consumer and market data and identify changes we needed to make to better serve our customers. Those adjustments, which we’ve implemented over the past couple of years, have been very successful.

What are some of those modifications?

We focused on product sourcing, store remodeling, and product presentation to ensure the best food and fit with our customer. We opened a new kitchen and hired a professional chef to develop recipes so we could offer a broader array of prepared foods. We now have a farm stand look that sets our produce department apart. Ivan Jr. has a knack for spotting trends, and he’s always out foraging for the tastiest, highest-quality local products. Enrico is involved in the deli and cheese departments and keeps the operations and finance side of things running smoothly.

How did you find FIVE ACRE FARMS?

I’m proud to have been among the first to discover and carry FIVE ACRE FARMS. Dan (Dan Horan, Five Acre Farms Founder & CEO) lives in the neighborhood and has long been part of the community. Like KEY FOOD MONTAGUE customers, I believe in your company’s mission and want to support the region’s outstanding farmers. I know from talking with our customers that they recognize that local farmers and businesses need our support to thrive and grow and want to do their part to make that happen.

What makes your partnership with FIVE ACRE FARMS work so well?

To me, the foundation of our productive working relationship is our shared belief in the vital role local food plays in building community and the local economy. FIVE ACRE FARMS really knows local food. You provide great-tasting, high-quality local products. You connect us to our farmers by telling us about them and where our food comes from. You show that you really care about our store. There aren’t many companies out there that offer your level of service, that send ambassadors into the store, like you do, to visit, talk with dairy managers and introduce your products to customers.

What do you like to eat at home?

I eat very well at home... steaks are definitely a favorite. We enjoy many cuisines from around the world. And my wife always asks me to bring home FIVE ACRE FARMS Maple Greek Yogurt. That’s what she serves when her friends come over for breakfast. They just love it!

WHAT IS FIVE ACRE FARMS?

Five Acre Farms Map

FIVE ACRE FARMS brings the best-tasting local food to grocery stores, restaurants and food shops. We find outstanding farmers using sustainable practices, pay them fairly and tell their stories. Our business helps to create new jobs and promote the local economy, expand access to local food, safeguard the environment, preserve farmland, protect groundwater and foster proper animal treatment. We call this being Positively Local®.

Our Products

Sourced and produced within 275 miles, our products are sold in retail locations and top restaurants throughout New York City and the Tri-State Region. We sell Milk, Half & Half, Heavy Cream, Buttermilk, Kefir, Greek and Regular Yogurts, Cage Free Eggs, Apple Juice and seasonal Apple Cider. Each package specifies the farm where that batch of the product was made.

To Be Positively Local, we:

KEEP FARMERS FARMING
We pay our farmers fairly—and directly —a price that’s above the market rate and reflects what it costs them to make high-quality food, hire and treat people properly, take care of their animals and protect the environment.

IMPROVE ACCESS TO LOCAL
We bring the best local food to grocery stores and price our products so as many people as possible can buy fresh, quality local products.

CONNECT YOU AND YOUR FARMER
At FIVE ACRE FARMS, we tag all of our products, so you know exactly where your food comes from and can be sure that the farmers who made it adhere to sustainable practices. We vet them so you don’t have to.

PROMOTE LOCAL ECONOMIES
We create jobs across the region by partnering with local farmers and processors and doing business with local vendors.

IMPROVE THE ENVIRONMENT
Our farmers have higher standards when it comes to our founding principles of protecting groundwater, replenishing soils and conserving energy.

PRESERVE FARMLAND
Through our work with farmers, we are supporting more than 5,000 acres of farmland in New York, Massachusetts. Connecticut, and Vermont.

What’s With The Name?

It’s been more than 20 years since Dan first had the idea that became FIVE ACRE FARMS. At the time, he was running WALDINGFIELD FARM, the organic produce farm he founded in Washington, Connecticut in 1990. Back then, Dan envisioned a company that would own or franchise a number of five-acre farms along the East Coast, working closely with farmers to market the food they produced. (Why Five? You can produce a huge amount of food and operate a viable business on just five acres of land.) Dan’s original business plan became part of his application to business school, but that was not the end of it. Over the years, while getting an MBA and then working in the grocery business and restaurant management in New York City, Dan continued to refine his concept. He ultimately concluded that FIVE ACRE FARMS could make local food available to more American consumers, and in doing so support a greater number of responsible farmers, by partnering with, rather than owning, farms.