Grow Local, Import Global: A Produce Company Covers Its Bases

Grow Local, Import Global: A Produce Company Covers Its Bases

Lifestyle | Posted by - May 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm

It seems so simple: give customers what they want. But according to Jim DiMenna, President and CEO of JemD Farms, grocers looking to fill their produce section usually have to choose from what's already available. Jim founded his Kingsville, Ontario-based greenhouse company to expand customer options.

"It's a demand thing that drives us," says Jim. "Net return per square foot is not our only decision maker. It's not just how much money we can make, it's what the whole package will deliver to the retail customer, so they're satisfied with what they're getting from us."

JemD Farms sells some items as a loss leader to encourage customer relations and as incentives for package sales. But the greenhouse grower doesn't wait for customers to voice their needs. A yearly evaluation on sales trends allows the company to react quickly to market fluidity.

"Our Mexican operation is the largest high tech green house operation in that whole country. We meet on a regular basis and decide what we're going to put in for the following season, what we had success with, what we didn't have success with, what has concerns and issues. Once you control what you're growing, it's that much easier to give customers what they want."

Six distribution centres in the United States and Canada move 15 million cases of JemD produce a year, from 180 acres of greenhouses in Ontario and 230 acres in Mexico. Additionally, cucumbers and tomatoes flown in on wide body jets from Holland and Spain help make JemD Farms a massive operation. Yet the company has plans to take advantage of consumer thirst for locally grown fruit and vegetables. The first phase of a 51-acre Virginia greenhouse is expected to be complete by April 2014.

"Every retailer that we're talking to about our project is excited that it's made in the USA and made in Virginia — it's local," says Jim. "That's a huge selling point for us, so we'll take advantage of that for sure."

Well before the groundbreaking, going local has already been getting traction for JemD. "They're really receptive to new industry coming into the state of Virginia, so they've given us some great opportunities and great incentives."

In-house brands capitalize on the buy local trend. JemD sells produce grown in Mexico under the Red Sun label, while produce grown in Canada is branded Golden Sun. A new brand is in the works for the future Virginia greenhouse crops — in keeping with the company's mission to fulfill consumer demand by giving them everything they want, under the JemD "Sun."

by YouInc Columnist Tiffany Burns

Tags: lifestyle, profile, jim dimenna, farms, jemd, consumer, demand, distribution, growth, import, local, market, produce, tools, profiles

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