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Ohio produce: find it here

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Ohio’s state tourism slogan is “Find it Here,” referencing the state’s diverse geography and attractions.

According to receivers, this slogan is also true for sourcing produce from around Ohio and the rest of the world.

“It’s really not much of a problem sourcing anything,” said Lou Silvestro, category manager for Economy Produce & Vegetable Company, Inc. BB #:102471 in Cleveland.

Here’s a snapshot of what can be found in Ohio’s produce universe year in and year out, and what you should know about the Buckeye State’s perishables pipeline.

A Land of Plenty
Grower-shippers from northern Ohio’s famed muck-type soils and a statewide homegrown program provide Midwest staples in both the summer and fall. Huron, the state’s largest vegetable county by acreage, is less than an hour’s drive from Cleveland.

Ottawa and Sandusky counties—a little farther west toward Toledo—are the next largest vegetable counties. Apple acreage, more than 3,000 acres, is also found in the northern reaches of the state. There are smaller fruit and vegetable deals in the state, like an uptick in pumpkin acreage in recent years, including some expansion in southern Ohio.

Sweet corn, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, and other Midwest mainlines ship from growers statewide, many under the popular state-sponsored Ohio Grown marketing program.

The largest shippers are in the north, but there’s a vibrant homegrown deal south of Interstate 70 too.

“We buy from a farm in southern Ohio that’s a Mennonite co-op,” said Jamie Sanfillipo, president at Sanfillipo Produce Company, Inc. BB #:188528 in Columbus.

There are plenty of destinations in the Buckeye State and beyond for Ohio-grown produce. Major metro-area receivers in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Cleveland keep produce moving year-round to retailers, distributors, and restaurateurs.

Longstanding produce terminals operate in both Columbus and Cleveland. Kroger has major receiving operations in Columbus, with its corporate headquarters in Cincinnati, which is also home to the Castellini Group of Companies.

Protected agriculture
Other transplants have made Ohio their home as well, as the state is becoming an important source for greenhouse vegetables. Delta, in northern Ohio, is the site of major greenhouse expansion from Leamington, Ontario’s Nature Fresh Farm Sales, Inc., while BrightFarms, headquartered in New York, has greenhouses in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Illinois.

Listed at #235 on Inc. magazine’s list of America’s fastest growing companies, BrightFarms began harvesting from its Ohio greenhouses in August 2018. The grower lists Walmart, Kroger, Ahold, and Albertsons as customers. There are also smaller, “urban agriculture” hydroponic growers in the Cincinnati and Cleveland markets.

This is an excerpt from the most recent Produce Blueprints quarterly journal. Click here to read the full version.