The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

BJ’s Farm to Club Program Heats Up

BJ’s Farm to Club Program Heats Up

Shoppers and Trends

April 29, 2012

Shoppers have become increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from, which is why eating local is still one of the Lempert Report’s top food trends for 2012. Now that local foods have made their way from farmer’s markets into supermarkets, wholesale retailers are finding ways to join the movement too. 

BJ’s Wholesale Club today recently announced that its locally grown produce program, “Farm to Club,” will be available in each of its 195 clubs in all 15 states where its clubs are located. The program, which provides BJ’s members with quality, fresh produce from their state’s local farms, is rolling out this spring and summer. The program features a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables including zucchini, tomatoes, corn, green peppers, yellow squash and cucumbers.

Rob Johnson, BJ’s Wholesale Club Produce Buyer, says that BJ’s Wholesale Club defines “local” as produce grown within the same state as the Club in which it is sold. All BJ’s Farm to Club produce is labeled with a special Farm to Club logo as well as the farm and town where the produce was grown. Consumers can also use social media to learn more about the farm where the produce is grown with a visit to BJ’s Facebook page.

Buying local benefits BJ’s members in a number of ways, says Johnson. The produce is picked at the peak of freshness and doesn’t have to travel across the country before it is delivered to a BJ’s club. Also, buying Farm to Club produce allows members to support farmers within their community. Finally, buying local is good for the community because the money stays within the community, thus helping the area’s economy.  
“When you think about where produce comes from, the growers and harvesters who work tirelessly to grow and pick the products, and farming in general as a way of life, you can’t help but want to support local farms. BJ’s has always given back and supported the communities where the clubs are located and the Farm to Club program is really an extension of just that,” says Johnson.

In Massachusetts, for example, BJ’s buys Farm to Club produce from Long Plain Farms in Whatley. This farm is a third-generation family-owned business that used to harvest tobacco. Given the decrease in demand for tobacco, the farm began to sell produce. When BJ’s asked to purchase Long Plain Farm’s produce, the farmer was excited that BJ’s could help sustain the farm for generations to come. 
“BJ’s sells quality produce at value pricing. We are providing our members with the type of produce they want. BJ’s is also supporting the community – which is the right thing to do. We get a lot of feedback from our members, especially on BJ’s Facebook page. People are becoming more aware of the quality of the food they are serving themselves and their families. They want to know where the food they are putting on their table is coming from, and they want to support their local communities,” says Johnson.
Consumers shouldn’t have to rely on specialty retailers or pay high cost to eat fresh, locally grown produce – which is why BJ’s Farm to Club program is one of the most successful and challenging programs Johnson has seen in his 30 years in the produce business. Even in just the past year alone, Johnson has witnessed significant growth, and the support from the club members, he says, has been fantastic. 

“BJ’s is a warehouse club that doesn’t have a lot of the frills that other retailers have. At the end of the day, our members want local produce, they are supporting the Farm to Club program, and we are happy to provide them with quality, fresh produce at a great value,” says Johnson. “I believe this program will be a part of the Produce Department at BJ’s for years to come.”