June 09, 2015 - 11:32 AM
KELOWNA – The severe drought in California coupled with an unusually warm and early spring in B.C. has local grocery stores stocking their shelves with fruits and vegetables grown right here at home instead of importing from the south.
Chris Holmes is the owner of Quality Greens on Spall Road. With stores in Kelowna, West Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon, he is quick to take advantage of any shifts in market prices – especially when it means supporting local farmers. His shelves spill over with vine-ripened tomatoes, apples, lettuce, cabbage and more – many carrying the “B.C. Grown” label.
“The B.C. grown stuff has come on full force lately,” he says. “Local prices are a little bit lower than U.S. prices but not a lot and that’s generally what happens. Local farmers will follow California closely and they will be sometimes $3 to $4 cheaper per case than the California product. When they can take a bit of extra margin they do it.”
Holmes says while B.C. prices overall are still slightly higher than last year — less supply means higher prices — the local economy is benefitting and shoppers are getting better quality food that hasn’t spent days on a transport truck.
“If it’s picked yesterday we get it today,” he says. “As soon as we can start buying local we buy local and stop buying from California. Early is better for us and it’s fantastic for the farmers because they’re getting more income earlier than they normally would.”
Kelowna resident Marianne Thompson says she has noticed the higher prices but they're not enough to dissuade her from continuing to shop local whenever possible.
“I see (B.C. Grown labels) everywhere,” she says. “It doesn’t really bother me to pay a few cents more for a head of lettuce that came from (the Okanagan.) It’s going to taste better in the long run.”
Some of the local foods that will be on shelves earlier than usual are ground crops like lettuce and cabbage. Apples will also be available at least three weeks earlier than usual and local spring crops like asparagus have been selling well for a month already.
“All of our lettuce is already coming from B.C. and we should see cherries by the end of the week,” Holmes says. “That’s about two to three weeks earlier than normal.”
Still, he says, the good times won’t last forever.
“Come September when the B.C. stuff stops growing… we’re going to see some significant changes in supply and prices because the drought is continuing.”
(ADAM PROSKIW /InfoTel Multimedia)
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