Abingdon, VA (Tuesday, February 11, 2014) – Food City is well-known for their local produce initiative. Through a partnership with local farmers, the supermarket chain is able to bring their customers fresh-from-the-field fruits and vegetables. Many items are delivered directly from the farm to the store on the same day they are picked. 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. Food City currently buys over $5,000,000 in fresh produce from local growers annually.
“We pride ourselves in selecting the best possible products 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”.
Harvey Lafollette of Hawkins County, TN was selected as this year’s award recipient. Lafollette was honored during the company’s Local Grower’s Appreciation Luncheon in Abingdon, VA last week. Food City is proud to have partnered with Lafollette for over 15 years.
Farming has been a life-long career for the Lafollette family, who produce hanging baskets, bedding plants and vegetable plants. While growing up, Harvey Lafollette worked in the family greenhouse on evenings, weekends and during summer breaks. A member of his high school FFA, he served as president during his senior year. Following graduation, Lafollette began farming full-time, creating dish gardens for sale to a local florist. He gradually expanded the venture to serving florists throughout Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky, supplying them with dish gardens, tropical and greenhouse plants.
In 1996, Lafollette purchased his own farm, a mere five miles away from his family roots. There he constructed 20 greenhouses and expanded the business to include a variety of produce. After being contacted by Food City about the possibility of producing plants for sale in their retail locations, Lafollette built 20 additional greenhouses and began producing hanging baskets and bedding plants for sale throughout the entire Food City chain. The offerings now include dish gardens, mums and other fall products as well.
Lafollette is also extremely active within his community, having partnered with another farmer to create a corn maze where school groups are given farming trivia questions to assist them in finding their way through the maze. He hosts observation/training sessions for Volunteer High School FFA and Walter State College groups, has coached t-ball, worked on antique tractors, is a master mason and a member of the Jericho Shrine Temple. Lafollette also generously donated a piece of property for the construction of Lafollette's Chapel Church, where he currently serves as a deacon.
In 2013, Food City purchased over 149,000 plants from the Lafollette greenhouses, as well as cabbage, jumbo bunch green onions, jumbo pumpkins and fall squashes. Lafollette continues to work on the farm daily, alongside his father Hollis, always seeking to expand and improve upon his operation. He is GAP certified to grow and sell produce through the USDA and is currently researching geothermal and solar opportunities to develop a more efficient greenhouse heating system. He and his wife, Becky have two sons, Dustin who is in his fourth year at ETSU and Jake, a senior at Volunteer High School. Lafollette hopes to pass the family farm on to his sons and future generations to come.
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 105 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.