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Food City offers local produce

Food City grocery stores, in their move to provide local quality food products, have recently expanded their food lines to include Kerns bread, Lay’s meats, and now, locally grown produce.

“We’ve always believed in giving back, and saw this as a good opportunity to buy local produce and definitely good when you can create jobs in the market with farmers,” said Mike Tipton, director of produce operations for Food City.

“The other big reason is that customers love fresh grown produce, and they’re asking more and more for it to be grown local.

“Last year, we purchased a little over $6 million worth of produce from farmers, not to mention local lamb we do in our meat operation,” Tipton added.

Local food purchasing has skyrocketed in recent years. According to Tipton, Food City spent a little more than half a million dollars on local produce in 2000.

Food City purchases produce from Grainger, Blount, Hawkins, Unicoi, Jefferson and Sullivan counties in Tennessee.

“It’s not easy to do. The reason some folks don’t do it is that it takes a lot of time … to coordinate planting with the


“And Mother Nature, in our area, with the rain and the temperatures going up and down, makes it a little bit of a challenge, but one that we believe is very important to do. We take the time and make the effort,” Tipton said.

Tipton wants customers to know that local means local.

“We’re not shipping things in from South Carolina or Georgia and calling it ‘locally grown.’ It’s everything in the area where we immediately do business,” Tipton said.

“Once the farmer produces it … we can have a truck pick it up at their farm, take it back to our distribution center and have it out in stores the next day,” he added.

Food City purchases a variety of products from local farmers and growers, including “everything from local apples now all the way to zucchini,” Tipton said.

“Beans, tomatoes and corn are big right now,” he added.

“Anything we can get local we try to work with farmers and get the plants. Some things don’t work in our area, but other things do well,” he said.

This, of course, includes famous Grainger County tomatoes, but also blackberries and muscadine grapes from Blount County. Because they purchase locally, Food City also can purchase organically grown fruits and vegetables.

Because of the Tennessee climate, local produce is only available from April to October.

“I wish we had a year-round climate … After the fall crops, the broccoli and fall squash, we’re done with the local deal until we start back up in April and May with Grainger County hot house tomatoes,” Tipton said.

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