Summertime in February: Meijer sells Michigan-grown tomatoes in winter

GRAND RAPIDS. Mich. — Meijer is sourcing tomatoes from a greenhouse that can grow them year-round, including during the famously frigid winters of the Midwest, the mass merchandise retailer said Monday.

The Coldwater, Mich., greenhouse, owned by Canada-based Mastronardi Produce, uses hydroponic technology to produce tomatoes regardless of outdoor conditions. In Michigan, tomatoes typically grow between late July and October. The greenhouse is part of a 30-acre complex of greenhouses completed in December 2011, and Mastronardi plans to double the acreage over the next two years.

"We're proud to give Meijer customers what they'd been missing: fresh, vine-ripened, Michigan-grown tomatoes in the winter," Mastronardi Produce president Paul Mastronardi said. "Meijer is one of our oldest customers in the USA and has been a great partner for over 40 years. We have collaborated on many new items and projects like this. We talked a few years back about our idea of the Coldwater greenhouse project, and Meijer was on board before we built."

A recent in-house survey by the retailer found that 51% considered supporting local farmers the biggest benefit of buying local produce, while nationally, 48% of shoppers report looking for locally sourced products when shopping, according to the Food Marketing Institute's "U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends Report."