“Local,” “farm fresh” and “organic” may be food industry buzzwords these days, but at Kimberton Whole Foods, they’re founding principles. Since its inception in 1986, the company has cultivated partnerships with area farmers, artisans and producers, whose products line its shelves. The company continues to flourish hand in hand with the local vendors it has always supported. We learned a bit more about how Kimberton Whole Foods keeps it local with a legacy of authentic farm-to-counter groceries. Also included is a special Q&A with owner Terry Brett.
Kimberton Whole Foods’ Keys to Doing Local Business
Just how local are the vendors? Kimberton Whole Foods defines “local” as anywhere within 100 miles from its distribution center in Downingtown. This includes Lancaster, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, the northern reaches of Maryland and Delaware and most of New Jersey. Within this region, Kimberton Whole Foods works with a group of more than 200 local producers who provide everything from meat and dairy to baked goods, coffee, spreads, pastas and even dog treats.
Make it Easy for Vendors
Unlike other retailers, Kimberton Whole Foods takes on the entire distribution process, allowing vendors to simply make one drop-off at the Distribution Center. From there, they separate and distribute goods to their six area markets. Becca Settle, director of marketing, explains that this allows vendors to return to the many demands of production. Besides saving time for its vendors, this method cuts down on the carbon footprint created by myriad trucks delivering to the same locations. This streamlined approach is simpler and greener.
Strengthen the Local Economy
By buying and selling local products, Kimberton Whole Foods makes a direct investment into the local economy and the future of its community. In 2016 alone, they sold over 2.8 million dollars of locally produced goods. “Produce, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, honey, soap, kraut, pasta, ice cream … you name it!” says Settle. “We are really proud of this.”
Buying from local vendors not only retains cash flow and jobs, it promotes all around economic growth within that region. Studies have shown a multiplier effect of buying local. Successful local producers will spend money to operate and grow their business, which fuels other local businesses. As a community of businesses grows and thrives, their employees, in turn, increase spending within the community. A dollar spent on local goods carries far more value than its denomination would suggest.
Additionally, successful local vendors can respond to other demands in the local economy. Dairy farms can open creameries, beekeepers can offer apiary classes and orchards can host seasonal festivities. Kimberton Whole Foods’ commitment to local vendors is a commitment to the people in its community for generations to come.
Offer the Highest Quality Products
It is estimated that the average American meal travels 1,500 miles from farm to plate. With its local vendors all within 100 miles, Kimberton Whole Foods curtails the commute of your food, increasing the quality and making a smaller footprint. Local food is simply fresher, retaining the most vitamins and minerals and tasting better. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Q&A with Kimberton Whole Foods owner and “Friend of the Farmer” Terry Brett
The Town Dish: Has supporting local always been Kimberton Whole Foods’ mission since its early days at the farm?
Terry Brett: Before we were Kimberton Whole Foods, we were a farm store at Seven Stars Farm. At our inception, the store’s very purpose was to support the farm. We eventually began bringing in local products from the Kimberton CSA and Camphill Village Kimberton Hills. Our local product selection grew once we moved into our current location in Kimberton Village in 1994.
Describe the function of your distribution center and what service it offers your local producers.
This warehouse facility gives us the ability to have a point of distribution for our prepared foods, dry goods and local products. Dozens of local producers drop off at the distribution center, where we separate and deliver the product for them. For a small company, we have a highly efficient program. This is unlike most other retailers that require individual deliveries to each location. We believe our producers’ time is best spent on their craft—raising, roasting, brewing, baking, etc.
Kimberton Whole Foods invests time and money into distributing local products for our local farmers, makers and bakers—why do you continue to do this in such a competitive market?
We don’t mark up these local products because we’re trying to bring a better value to our customers. Our goal is to help our local farmers by selling more—and the best way to achieve that is to both pay the farmer a fair price and make the product affordable to our customer.
Kimberton Whole Foods contributes annually to PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture). Can you explain the importance you see in this nonprofit and how it relates to your stores?
PASA organizes the educational opportunities so that farmers can learn how to be better at what they do. We give money to PASA so that they have the ability to do this for the farmer. It truly altruistic. That’s why we started—to support a farm.