CONTACT: Erik Sessions, LSP (612) 647-5024;
Karl Mathys, Erickson’s (715) 381-2352;
Mike Racette, Spring Hill CSA (715) 455-1319
GROCER REACHES MARKETING AGREEMENT WITH LOCAL SUSTAINABLE FARMERS
WHITE BEAR LAKE, Minn. — The development of a locally-based, sustainable food
system received a shot in the arm recently when a group of local farms working
with the Land Stewardship Project (LSP) reached a marketing agreement with a
major regional grocer. Under the agreement, Erickson’s Diversified Corporation
of Hudson, Wis., will buy select vegetables from the Hay River Produce
Cooperative during the upcoming growing season. Hay River is a new cooperative
that consists of six farms in western Wisconsin.
Erickson’s officials approached LSP about setting up a marketing agreement with
local farmers after the grocer stopped carrying pork produced by Premium
Standard Farms last fall. Erickson’s dropped Premium from its 18 stores in
Minnesota and western Wisconsin after family farmers and consumers representing
LSP and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center talked to store officials about the
mega-hog operation’s extremely bad environmental and community record in
The Erickson’s corporation’s mission statement states: “We will work to improve
the environment and enhance our community that all may prosper.” As a result,
when they dropped the Premium Standard line, store officials reiterated their
desire for quality food products raised locally by sustainable family farmers.
LSP has conducted a series of meetings with store officials to determine how to
create mutually beneficial marketing agreements that link Erickson’s customers
with local producers. Various farmers have taken part in these meetings,
including Wisconsin vegetable producers, hog farmers who are members of the
Prairie Farmers Co-op in western Minnesota and members of the Southeast
Minnesota Alternative Markets Group (a joint effort of LSP and the Sustainable
Farming Association of Minnesota).
The Hay River agreement is the first formal marketing arrangement to come out of
these meetings. Under the plan, the six farms will serve as the “first source”
for nine vegetable products the grocer sells. That means that if the farms can
provide the quantity of say, tomatoes, the participating stores need during a
certain week, then they will receive priority over the big California and
Florida producers, said Erik Sessions, an LSP policy intern who worked closely
with the farmers in developing the marketing agreement.
This arrangement will help Erickson’s meet the increasing demand for locally
produced food raised with a minimum of chemicals, said Karl Mathys, Director of
Fresh Development for Erickson’s.
“We’re starting to get more requests for local, sustainably produced food, so
the awareness is growing,” he said, adding that in-store promotions of the
produce will emphasize the “sustainably produced angle.”
Mathys says Erickson’s stores have bought produce from local farmers in the
past, but never in an organized manner. This year, the marketing agreement will
be limited to four “More 4” stores in the Wisconsin towns of Hudson, Barron, New
Richmond and River Falls.
All six of the participating farms are Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
operations. The CSA system is an arrangement where consumers buy shares in a
farm before the growing season, and in return receive a weekly shipment of
produce. During the past decade, at least 25 CSA farms have sprung up in the
Twin Cities region. CSA farms often have the capacity to produce more food than
their members demand.
“It’s an extension of the CSA concept,” said Prairie Farm, Wis., CSA farmer Mike
Racette, who will raise lettuce and summer squash for Hay River. “It really is a
win-win situation. The community has been supporting Erickson’s, and now they
can turn around and support the community.”