Soup To Nutz

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Baseball is well under way and spring is officially here as the annual Mid-Atlantic Food Trades Organization’s (MAFTO) golf outing kicked off the season the first Monday in May. Golf outing chairman Bill Carter of Knauss Foods must have an important connection with the weather gods for the spectacular weather he commands every year. What a perfect day for golf! More than 90 golfers swung their clubs for the first time this year and many told me they were a little rusty. But the mood was upbeat and everyone seems to be looking forward to a good season. MAFTO, which raises money for college scholarships and those in need, hosts many events throughout the year. Just signed on for the September retailer dinner on September 16 is Jim Perkins, president of Acme Markets. Membership is free and the benefits are rewarding. For more information, go to www.mafto.org

April 22, 1970 marked the birth of the modern environmental movement as the first Earth Day in the United States. The concept was conceived by Gaylord Nelson, then a Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin, after he witnessed the ravages of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, CA. The movement led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts. In 1990, Earth Day went global and the rest, as they say, is history. This past Earth Day, Weis Markets celebrated its sustainability achievements that have helped lessen the retailer’s impact on the environment. Since 2008, Weis has been incorporating energy saving measures designed to lower energy consumption, fossil fuel dependence and carbon emissions. As a result, the company has decreased its carbon emissions every year for a total of 14.4 percent over the six-year period, while expanding its store operations by more than 10 percent in square footage. “We have a corporate commitment to being good stewards of the environment and these results indicate we are achieving our goal to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change,” said Kevin Small, vice president of store development for Weis Markets. Two thousand thirteen was a record year for the company’s recycling program. Weis Markets recycled more than 53 million pounds of waste, including 2,500 tons of food waste through its closed-loop composting program, 21,000 tons of recycled cardboard, 703 tons of recycled plastic film and 52 tons of recycled pharmacy bottles. “Our sustainability achievements would not be possible without the enthusiasm and dedicated efforts of our associates,” said Patti Olenick, sustainability manager for Weis. “From our corporate headquarters, to the distribution center, to all of our stores, everyone has embraced sustainability and is committed to making our operations more efficient and to integrating ‘green’ ideals into our company’s DNA.” It’s not easy being green, but every little bit helps.

The Eastern Produce Council (EPC) held its spring dinner in Philadelphia on May 13 under tents inside the totally refrigerated Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PWPM). Merchants and administration from the market joined retailers, vendors and EPC board members at this “Taste of Philadelphia” dinner which featured delicious antipasto items from DiBruno’s, crab fries from Chickie’s & Pete’s, roast pork and cheese steak sandwiches from Tony Luke’s and Italian desserts from Termini Brothers Bakery. Even the Ferko String Band entertained the crowd and strutted in their finest Mummer’s attire! PWPM president and CEO Sonny DiCrecchio was on crutches after a broken leg this past winter, so his wife Michelle did the honors and danced with the Mummers. Featured speaker was former Philadelphia Eagle and ESPN commentator Ron Jaworski. Fresh off covering the NFL draft, “Jaws” had lots to say about the Eagles’ upcoming season (hint: he wouldn’t have traded DeSean Jackson).

Since we are in a produce state of mind at this time of year, some interesting facts recently came to my attention. On May 2 the detailed 2012 U.S. Census of Agriculture was released. New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Doug Fisher said it shows that consumers are demanding local agricultural products and are looking for on-farm experiences. The census reports that farmer direct sales to consumers through roadside stands, farmers markets, pick your own and community supported agriculture increased from $30.1 million in 2007 to $33.3 million in 2012. New Jersey ranks 12th in the nation in direct sales, and 20 percent of New Jersey farms report some type of direct sales activity. The number of farms in New Jersey offering agri-tourism activities increased from 322 in 2007 to 347 in 2012. New Jersey ranks ninth in the nation in agri-tourism sales and nine counties in the state rank in the top 10 percent in the nation in agri-tourism sales. BurlingtonCounty is in the top two percent, ranking 51st in the nation. “The census of agriculture shows that New Jersey growers are uniquely positioned to be able to service both regional and local markets, bringing their produce directly to the consumers who clamor for it,” said Fisher. “Our farmers and consumers benefit greatly from having productive farms close to the marketplace.” The census showed that New Jersey farmers deliver a high value product. The state ranks fourth in the nation in the value of market products sold per acre at $1,408, which is more than three times the national average.