Abingdon, VA (Monday, February 11, 2013) – Food City is well-known for providing their customers with the freshest products available, due in part to their locally grown produce initiative. What began over ten years ago, with a small number of items supplied by a handful of area farmers, has now grown into a multi-million dollar operation.
“We pride ourselves in selecting the best products possible for our customers,” says Steven C. Smith, Food City president and chief executive officer. “Our local farms are known for producing some of the finest products in the country. Buying locally is the logical choice. It provides our customers with the freshest produce possible, while lending additional support to our local economies. In many instances, our locally grown produce arrives at the store the same day it was picked. It simply doesn’t get any fresher than that”.
In 2007, Food City created the Wayne Scott Memorial Grower of the Year Award. The award is named in honor of Unicoi County farmer Wayne Scott, one of the first to partner with the retail supermarket chain. Wayne Scott’s leadership, passion for the business and dedication to delivering the “best produce possible” are just a few of the reasons for his tremendous success. The award recognizes one outstanding grower each year.
“Scott Farms was among the first to partner with our company and Scott’s Strawberries continue to be one of our most sought after products,” says Smith. “Wayne Scott was one of the finest, most honorable men I have ever had the privilege of doing business with. We thought it befitting to honor his memory and dedication to the agricultural industry with this annual award”.
Albert Coning of Coning Farms in Maryville, TN was selected as this year’s award recipient. Coning was honored during the company’s Local Grower’s Appreciation Luncheon in Kingsport, TN last week. Food City is proud to have partnered with Coning Farms for more than six years.
Coning began farming at an early age, raising tobacco and sweet potatoes. In the late 60’s, he increased his crops to include watermelon and cantaloupe. During the 70’s and 80’s, Coning sold mostly to local and regional produce stands and area businesses. In the 90’s, he began distribution to local warehouses, and in the last decade has been very proud to partner with Food City. Coning Farms is dedicated to providing their customers with the highest quality products possible. Over the years, they have continued to improve upon their practices, from growing produce on plastic (rather than directly into the ground) to improve quality and shelf life to pumping water over long distances, requiring two pumps to deliver adequate water supply to their crops.
Coning Farms currently operates three greenhouses of tomatoes and raise twenty acres of watermelon, four acres of cantaloupe and twenty-five acres of sweet corn. They also grow squash, okra and cucumbers, as well as seven acres of prize-winning pumpkins and twenty acres of jack-o’-lanterns and decorative squash and gourds. Coning’s unparalleled commitment to delivering produce the same day it is harvested ensures Food City customers receive the freshest, highest quality produce available.
Albert Coning and his wife, Betty are the proud parents of four children and eight grandchildren, in whom he has instilled his love of farming. His grandchildren can often be found helping in the fields, making deliveries with their papaw or working at the farm’s retail market.
Food City purchases produce from a number of local farms, including those in Grainger, Blount, Hawkins, Unicoi, Jefferson and Sullivan counties in Tennessee; Scott and Carroll counties and through Appalachian Harvest co-op for locally grown organics from the growers in Scott County, Virginia.
“We enjoy a great partnership with a variety of local farms,” comments Mike Tipton, director of produce operations for Food City. “And we are proud to be the exclusive retail outlet for a number of them and of course our customers love the added convenience,” says Tipton.
Food City purchases a wide variety of items from local growers, including tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, cabbage, half runner beans, okra, peppers, squash, gourds, pumpkins, cantaloupes, watermelons, blackberries, strawberries, pears, raspberries, select organic produce and more. Last year alone, Food City purchased $6 million in locally grown produce, in addition to their purchases of local floral.
Headquartered in Abingdon, Virginia, K-VA-T Food Stores, Inc. currently operates 104 retail food outlets in the tri-state regions of Southeast Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee. For more information on Food City and their ongoing initiatives, visit their website at www.foodcity.com.