Local Farmers Vs Supermarket Giants - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

07/15/03

Local Farmers Vs Supermarket Giants

Two weeks ago we told you about the battle local water melon farmers have with mother nature. But coast melon farmers say they fight an even bigger battle with corporate America. Getting large chain grocery stores to purchase their produce.

Veteran watermelon farmer Clarence Lee says it's unfortunate that most Coast residents will never taste the delicious homegrown flavor of his latest crop.

"The chain stores will not buy our produce. They ship it in from out of state."

He says that is unfair to the growers, the consumers, and to him personally since he and his family shop in those chain stores.

"I spent over a 100 dollars at Winn Dixie at 8:30 last night. It's unfair. It truly is to the local man."

A corporate spokeswoman for Save-A-Center told WLOX NEWS that it's just not feasible to but from small farmers. The biggest reason is because they require farmers to take out a $5 million liability bond on their merchandise. The products must also be shipped to their warehouse in New Jersey for inspection.

Clarence Lee says it's the consumers who suffer. He says buying locally would ensure freshness.

"Some of those melons in those super stores have been there for two weeks. These melons have been picked for three days. We pick melons this evening, they'll be in the stores tomorrow."

He says buying locally would also give consumers a better product at a cheaper price.

"I saw those little melons last week... weighing 10 or 15 pounds for 5 and 6 dollars. We're selling this 40 or 50 pound melon whole sale for $2.50 to $3."

Lee says he and other farmers are forced to sell their produce on the roadside, to Mom & Pop stores, and locally owned grocery stores.

"The independent chains have been good to us, I've got to say that."

He says convincing the larger chains stores may take the help of the state. Lee would like to see state lawmakers step in to help the local farmers get their products into more big name supermarket chain stores.

by Al Showers

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