Cross-posted from the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Blog
Last week I had the pleasure of meeting Hugh Topper, Group Vice President of Fresh at H-E-B, a regional supermarket based in San Antonio. As a Texan, Hugh is proud of his state and, even more so, his state’s farmers and ranchers. The fact that H-E-B’s purchasing motto is “HEB buys Texas First” and that they have instituted their very own “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign is a testament to this pride.
Hugh and I spoke about how local product sourcing can often entail a broad array of suppliers, especially small suppliers that may not have previously scaled up their production. However, one such farmer, David Jones from Pearsall, Texas, exemplifies the success a small grower can have given the right circumstances, including a strong, consistent buyer in the market. David started with 5 acres of squash and, with a commitment to buy from HEB, leased another 660 acres. Today, he is the largest sweet corn farmer in the region at over 4,000 acres.
While it’s clear that local farmers can benefit from a regular, large-scale customer, you may also be surprised that H-E-B’s sales have gone up as well. Not only by bringing in farmers into their stores to showcase products, but also by hosting a weekly farmers market in their parking lot, H-E-B has helped forge a connection between local consumers and local farmers. This has, in turn, led to a growth in sales: even on days when they host their weekly farmers market, H-E-B’s in-store fruit and vegetable sales increase.
At USDA, we’re delighted to share the same name as H-E-B‘s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.” We too believe that consumers should have a better idea of where their food is grown (hint: it’s not the grocery store) and how it gets to their plate, all the while keeping farmers and ranchers in business and contributing to rural community development.