Local produce markets stay fresh

By Mary Sabo and Morgan Steinbach — Many people are concerned about eating healthier, and about the freshness and quality of the produce they buy.

Popular local produce markets such as Fishers, Giant Eagle and Wal-Mart, generally follow the same process of obtaining and maintaining their produce.

“They are picked, washed and packed,” Fishers produce manager Chris Showalter said.

With the new societal trend of eating healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables, many might wonder where local stores get their produce from, and the process it goes through getting it from the farms to the table.
Stark county produce managers try their best to keep the fruits and vegetables as fresh as a customer is promised it is.

During current seasons, Fishers ensures the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables from local markets as advertised in one of their many slogans, “Fishers supports local Ohio farmers.” When the department is able to buy fresh, they do so at local farmers markets.

“In season produce we get from local suppliers. For example, right now we get our apples from Arrowhead Orchards out of Paris, Ohio,” Showalter said.

On the contrary, Fishers must import many fruits and vegetables from overseas nations or across America for out of season necessities. Staple crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, pineapples and bananas, to name a few, are sent on about a three day trek before they land in the Fishers unloading terminals. If not bought through distant lands, a Fishers representative visits and purchases goods at the Cleveland Produce Terminal on a daily basis and delivers the produce to individual stores.

Once the goods are put out for customer purchase, the staff faces the issue of maintaining the fruits and vegetables.

“The biggest thing is to rotate, rotate, rotate. Also, we only order what we need so that little to nothing goes to waste,” Showalter said.

Also important in maintaining the food is checking the temperatures of case, as well as keeping greens wet.

Although the fruits and vegetables are healthy, they are not organic. The majority of product sold is grown with pesticides for protection but is consistently washed to rid the pesticides before consumption. Fishers offers a complete line of 100 percent organic products at select stores, such as Fulton and 44th Street, but the prices are generally 15 to 20 percent higher than the conventionally grown products.

Giant Eagle has a similar process in which produce is picked and transported.  July through September, produce is bought through Hartville at a local farm. The store tries to keep their fruit the freshest possible.

“We try to keep it as fresh as possible, that’s why we get orders seven days a week,” Giant Eagle produce manager Troy Bowser said.
Giant Eagle offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables which are obtained in a similar way to Fishers: local farms while in season and overseas for non-seasonal goods.

To ensure the best produce to its customers, each morning before opening, the department pulls all of the fruit and vegetables from the shelves that were placed on previous days. Bowser and his staff continuously rotate the goods. In comparison to Fishers, Giant Eagle receives more fresh produce on a daily basis. Although their produce is consistently fresh, it is also not grown organically.
“Most produce is conventionally grown, we only offer about 25 percent of our produce organically grown,” Bowser said.

The local Wal-Mart follows the same path as aforementioned stores. Whatever fruit and vegetables are in season are generally bought locally.

“We get current produce from a farm in Willard, Ohio,” produce manager Deborah Warner said. “Off season stuff is sent from Columbia, I’m not sure of the process, though.”

Multiple goods at the superstore are available as organically grown. For example, celery, cucumbers, zucchini, and green peppers are all grown without the use of chemical pesticides.

Although there is a negative connotation with pesticides, the amount used on crops is micromanaged by the Health Department resulting in farms always using an ingestible amount on their crops. Although organic products do not use chemical pesticides, they utilize organically made repellents.

“Organic does not mean you’re not using pesticides, it means you’re using a different kind,” Showalter said. “If a farmer doesn’t use pesticides, he’s liable to make no money and lose over half of his product.”

All three stores have seen a general upward trend in the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables.

[Updated Aug. 7, 2017: This article has been reformatted for consistency.]