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Fertile Fields & City Commerce

Midwest receivers talk perishables from Cleveland, Cincinnati, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and St. Louis
Midwest Spotlight_MS

Ohio, for one, has seen major growth in greenhouses, which is a boon for wholesalers and retailers there and in neighboring states. The steady supply creates potential opportunities and closer sourcing for receivers, and allows supermarkets to feature more local produce, free from the Midwest’s notorious temperature and precipitation swings.

“The greenhouse trend has stuck and seems like it’s continuing to gain traction,” comments Dominic Russo of Rocky Produce in Detroit, MI, which is close to both Ohio’s greenhouses and those of Leamington, Ontario. “We bring in many more greenhouse vegetables, as well as pre-packaged items.”

Which has had the most impact on your business in the past year: food safety (prepping for FSMA), weather, the labor shortage, or something else?

Brendan Comito, Capital City Produce, Des Moines
The Greater Des Moines area has an unemployment rate below 3 percent, so there is no question our biggest challenge is finding and cultivating talent to meet our growth targets.

Jimmy DeMatteis, DMTB, Des Moines
Our biggest focus was preparing for FSMA and making sure we had our contracts with motor carriers in place.

Don Goetz, Fries Brothers, Inc., Cincinnati
Weather; it’s been good here in Ohio and Kentucky, some plantings were a little late but we caught up. But peaches are a big deal for us, and the freeze in Georgia and South Carolina really hurt peach volumes.

Daniel Corsaro, Indianapolis Fruit
Dynamic consumers have created an ever-changing retail landscape. Managing our customer base and their multiple business models has been the most challenging. In today’s world, each retail experience has to be unique, and our job is to make sure that our customers are able to leverage produce offerings as a competitive advantage.

Sam Maglio, Maglio Produce, Milwaukee
Labor is the key to many business models. Having the skill sets needed, along with passionate, productive people who are engaged and excited about implementation has been a challenge recently. Employers need to realize it isn’t ‘business as usual’ anymore—employees have numerous opportunities and want to be in a place where they feel safe, are respected and appreciated, and can grow both personally and professionally.

Rocky Ray, Ray & Mascari, Inc., Indianapolis
I would say all three; but I think labor has been one of the toughest. We’ve added a new line this year, and I think we’ll continue looking to technology in the future to solve labor challenges.

Greenhouse acreage in Ohio has exploded since 2014, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported about 20 acres of vegetable production under glass in the Buckeye State. Golden Fresh Farms and Red Sun Farms opened a 20-acre greenhouse north of Dayton with plans for eventual expansion, while Nature Fresh Farms operates 45 acres near Toledo, with more acreage on the way.