With a $30,000 annual budget, the Delmarva Shore to Store Produce Program is hoping to see grower sales of local produce break $1 million this season.
The Delmarva program is a joint effort by the agriculture departments of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Delmarva is a combination of the three states' names, said Hugh Robinson, the agricultural marketing specialist who oversees the program.
Delmarva helps local growers connect with area retailers, Robinson said. What's more, the program also provides retailers with window banners and other point-of-purchase materials touting the "local" aspect, he added.
Delmarva Shore to Store is taking the approach of building consumer pull through. "The thrust of the program is to increase consumer demand for local produce," he explained. That way, consumers will hopefully encourage their local supermarket to carry more local fruits and vegetables.
While the growers are a priority for the program, everybody wins, according to Robinson. "The idea is to help the smaller growers. Produce volume is up tremendously at retail, and it gives local consumers better flavor produce," he said.
Since the program's commencement 10 years ago, it has grown to include area chains such as Giant Food, Landover, Md., Acme Markets, Malvern, Pa.; and A&P supermarkets under the Super Fresh banner, among others.
Delmarva publishes a directory of local growers to help retailers hook up with them. The effort is mushrooming. Now, some larger chains, including Giant Food, are contracting with growers before the season starts, Robinson said.
"Originally, the program was set up to help the smaller growers," he said. "Now, the chains are working with some of the larger area growers. And we're helping small growers become large growers."