A press release issued by the Teamsters Union on Jan. 17 announced that Teamsters Local 202 had reached a tentative contract agreement with Hunts Point Terminal Market. The union’s 1,300 market members, who have the final say, will vote Jan. 21 on the agreement.
“Our members stood strong and the market knew we were serious,” Daniel Kane Jr., president of Teamsters Local 202 said in the press release. “We said we deserved a fair wage, we fought for it and we got it.”
Merchants on the market, some of which are third- and fourth-generation family members, supply the gross amount of fresh fruits and vegetables to New York City and beyond.
The contract deal comes on the heels of a strike vote taken by members late last week wherein 95 percent of members approved the strike after merchants gave a “final offer” with raises “far short of those proposed by the union,” according to the press release. It also stated that after the strike vote, merchants raised their wage offer.
“We were boosted by the support of our elected officials and everyday New Yorkers," Kane added in the release. "It’s getting harder and harder to get by in this city. People really rallied around these workers demanding a wage that their families can live on.”
Another issue, yet to be resolved, is that the Hunts Point merchants were demanding that more workers begin contributing $20 a week to their health plan. Employees hired during the past three years already make that contribution. Under the tentative agreement, the health care contributions would be extended to some higher paid workers such as supervisors and salespeople.
Sustainability, careful use of the land and protecting the environment are key to the produce industry. Today, many major chain retailers and foodservice operators are asking fruit and vegetable producers and distributors about their corporate sustainability practices, and some are even asking for written commitments from suppliers to guarantee they will do their parts to help to protect the environment.
The produce industry, however, already has had a strong and positive reputation related to taking care of the earth. Field growers understand the importance of crop rotation and other ways of protecting the soil, and everyone is keyed into every possible way of recycling and minimizing waste. Regardless of whether for financial reasons or for concern for the environment, the produce industry stands proud of its practices.
The organic produce industry provides an extra boost in this respect. Organic farming is a form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control.
Depending on whose definition is used, organic farming uses fertilizers and pesticides, which include herbicides, insecticides and fungicides if they are considered natural. Examples are bone meal from animals and pyrethrin, a natural insecticide made from the dried flowers.
But organic growing excludes or strictly limits the use of methods such as synthetic petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, plant growth regulators such as hormones, antibiotic use in livestock, genetically modified organisms, human sewage sludge, and nanomaterials, for reasons that include sustainability, openness, independence, health and safety.
Organics and sustainability are a perfect match. The words resonate the same basic message: take care of the earth and of the body. But few industry segments practice such a natural form of total sustainability as does the mushroom category.
Bill Litvin is vice president of sales and national account manager for Giorgio Fresh, headquartered in Temple, PA. He said the company’s organic line of mushrooms are produced primarily at its farms in Berks County, PA.
“We grow our mushrooms in a fully organic substrate without artificial fertilizers,” said Litvin. “Giorgio is leading the way in Integrated Pest Management to limit the use of synthetic pesticides in our products. Giorgio does not bio-engineer mushrooms or use ionizing radiation.”
Kevin Donovan, national sales manager for Phillips Mushroom Farms in Kennett Square, PA, told The Produce News that the mushroom business is naturally totally sustainable. The company produces an extensive line of organic mushrooms in addition to a conventional line.
“We use the straw from wheat grain, horse bedding, brewer’s grains and even chicken manure — things that no one else wants — and we turn them into compost that our mushrooms grow in,” explained Donovan. “While we cannot reuse compost, we can make good use of it once it is used. We partner with a company that sterilizes it, dries it, processes it into potting soil and sells it for things like rooftop gardens. It’s even used on fields to aid in nutrition.
“The mushroom industry was sustainable before the word sustainable was a catch-word,” he added. “And growing organically and sustainably is as good as it gets.”
General Produce, a family-owned-and-operated produce distributor, has joined the nationwide "eat brighter!" movement, a joint program with Sesame Workshop and the Produce Marketing Association that focuses on increasing produce consumption in younger demographics.
“Childhood obesity is a significant challenge in this country,” Tom Chan, chief executive officer of General Produce, said in a press release. “We want to be a part of the solution and believe the ‘eat brighter!’ movement has the potential to raise awareness and increase consumption of healthier options for kids.”
Through this program, General Produce will have the rights to use "Sesame Street" brand assets — including Big Bird, Elmo and Cookie Monster — on marketing materials. The effort was launched by First Lady Michelle Obama, Sesame Workshop and Produce Marketing Association last year.
General Produce has joined the movement and will be incorporating the toolkit, including the "eat brighter!" tagline, social media hashtag #eatbrighter and the full library of available character assets.
“Having access to these iconic characters will help us create a marketing strategy that appeals to our youngest consumers,” Linda Luka, director of marketing and communications, said in the press release. “General Produce has been a proud advocate of many programs aimed to combat the ever-increasing issue of childhood obesity, often donating produce for Sacramento, CA-area schools and events, so ‘eat brighter!’ is a natural fit for us. We look forward to making a difference with Big Bird’s help!”
In the three months since Foxy introduced its new organic BroccoLeaf to retailers, the vegetable has already earned the respect and accolades of food, nutrition and health media.
“To say that we are pleased with the progress we’ve made in such a short time is an understatement," Matt Seeley, vice president of marketing, said in a press release. "Our fans and distribution grows daily, and we believe that we have discovered the next big trend in produce.”
Foxy produce’s organic BroccoLeaf is currently available in major retailers nationwide. To learn more about BroccoLeaf or to obtain information about where it is sold, visit foxy.com or thebroccoleaf.com.
BroccoLeaf has been featured in high-profile national consumer publications like Prevention magazine, InStyle magazine, Fine Cooking magazine, Good Housekeeping magazine, Dr. Oz The Good Life magazine, Shape.com, Slate.com, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Yahoo.com and many top food blogs. It has also been showcased on television news shows in major media markets, including "The Rachael Ray Show." And celebrity chefs Spike Mendelsohn, Nora Pouillon and Akasha Richmond are incorporating it into menus.
As regional apple varieties begin to disappear from store shelves, the Lady Alice apple is set to arrive in February with peak flavor and texture. It will be available through May — or while supplies last — at many major and independent grocery retailers.
Discovered as a chance seedling in the orchards of eastern Washington, production of this apple has increased as its appeal with consumers has taken off.
"It has been incredible to witness the market's reception of Lady Alice and the resulting growth," Mark Zirkle, president of Rainier Fruit Co. and primary grower of Lady Alice, said in a press release. "We have worked diligently over the past several years to better understand the unique characteristics of this apple — from growing and packing to storing and shipping. Each year's crop is an improvement from the last, and this is substantiated by the increasing demand."
Lady Alice was discovered quite by chance on a farm near Gleed, WA, in 1978 when a grower accidentally cut an apple tree with his farm equipment. A chance seedling grew from the base, and over the next 25 years steps were taken to preserve and propagate the distinctive characteristics of the Lady Alice. The "Lady Alice" brand apple is named after Alice Zirkle, the co-founder of Rainier Fruit Co. in honor of her memory.
Like all varieties, these heirloom-like apples are harvested in the fall, but the difference is that the Lady Alice benefits from being stored for several months while the flavors continue to develop. It is characterized by its red-striped skin with a yellow background and sweet, crisp flesh that has a hint of tartness.
The versatile Lady Alice apple is an excellent choice for snacking, baking and cooking. Its distinctively sturdy flesh helps the apple retain its texture when heated at high temperatures. Just like fresh cherries, the Lady Alice apple has a short season, resulting in limited supply.