by Chris Walker, Emporia Gazette, August 24, 2011
When the employees of PrairieLand Partners in Emporia planted a garden at their business they wanted to do more than provide some fresh vegetables for themselves. They wanted to prove to area gardeners that if you grow it, local businesses will buy it.
And that is just what happened.
Paul du Toit, store manager of PrairieLand Partners Inc., has been successful this summer selling produce like tomatoes, lettuce, onions and more to area grocery stores and restaurants.
Du Toit sees this project as a success because businesses are not only getting better, fresher products but it’s also proving to local gardeners that they could earn extra income by growing fruits and vegetables.
“We have young farmers coming back to the farm with families,” he said. “Grandpa is still drawing an income, so these young families have to develop extra income. High tunnels to extend the growing season can help provide needed income for families.”
Local food initiatives and food cooperatives are on the rise around the country. An estimated $4 billion in 2002 was spent on local food, and that will jump to an estimated $7 billion in 2012. The increase has been helped by more restaurants, and grocery stores are joining the local food initiatives.
That increase has also been seen locally. “We continue to have record sales at the Emporia Farmers Market and we are getting more requests from restaurants who want local produce.” said Rachael LeClear, Director of General Education and Community Education at the Flint Hills Technical College.
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