Buy local and reduce supply-chain pitfalls (The Secretary’s Desk)
(Editor’s note: Douglas Fisher is the New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture.)
“Sorry, the truck did not make it here.” (A sign in a local supermarket produce section.)
It is happening more and more now, and for a lot of reasons that did not seem to be a concern before COVID.
But even as we ride out what we all hope is the end (or at least the beginning of the end) of the pandemic, we sometimes see products just not showing up in time when the retailer needs it, the restaurant has to have it, and the consumer or patron expects it.
The reasons are as varied as ever in recent memory, and the dilemma is not going to be short-lived.
Violent or extreme weather patterns are causing delays. Labor is in short supply. Supply chains are strained.
World affairs affecting the transport of goods are disconcerting, at best.
Costs are through the roof.
Demand, though, remains high for now, as the economy is still almost roaring, which in some ways exacerbates the problem.
The distributors at all levels cannot sell what they do not have.
And in perishable foods, that potential transaction is dead and buried and the lost sales cannot be made up.
Of course, there are folks who can forward-purchase and have guaranteed delivery deals in the future, and this is also part of the crisis.
Years ago, I met an onion baron who totally cornered the U.S. market one season.
Maybe with growing amounts of imports, that can’t happen anymore.
But there is such global unrest and strained and frayed systems right now that ships are tied up and can add more complications to the logjams and shortages.
So, within this haze of complications from all sides, I want to make the case for why it is so vitally imperative now that market buyers here support our local farmers in the Garden State.
These hard-working men and women are rolling the dice, as most farmers often have no choice.
Seeking a marketplace that will give them a fair return for some of the best fruits and vegetables on the planet is simply what they do.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture polls consumers each season and the findings are always fantastic.
People from all walks of life beam with pride and boast about Jersey corn, tomatoes, blueberries, peaches, and hundreds of other crops we are blessed to be able to provide here at home.
But farmers, too, are facing monumental and similar difficulties, just as all marketers are in a high-cost state.
The miscalculations on the sheer lack of getting a fair price, though, have tragically caused some operators who grow produce in our state to call it quits.
Let’s face it. If price is all that matters, there is always a cheaper price somewhere.
It’s called “dumping,” and our farmers must fight against it every season.
But there is more to giving consumers what they want than just a low price, especially in the world of produce.
Taste, value, and the sheer act of supporting farmers who live and work near your business and your customers’ homes are all equally as important, if not more so.
I am imploring buyers to take a stand and support our New Jersey farmers.
The New Jersey Department of Agriculture will supply point-of-purchase materials, do appearances, and feature your operations.
Whatever is asked that enhances the opportunity to make truly local produce a priority.
There is something else to consider.
More than consumer preference for local New Jersey product, there is a societal benefit of less carbon being spewed into the air by cross-country and cross-continent travel.
Less waste at all levels at pre- and post-harvest.
And with the cost of fuel these days, doesn’t a shorter time and distance for shipping just make economic sense?
Oh, by the way, the truck will arrive at your dock, the sale will happen, and all will profit from this commitment.
It’s almost guaranteed!
It’s not a problem.
Let’s face it: We’re local and we are Jersey and we are known for getting the job done.