The Green Street Market, an organic and health food store in Middle Township, uses locally grown food to help stock its shelves.
These farms, which grow organically, use no pesticides and compost nutrients back into the soil, supply about one-quarter of the store’s inventory during the summer months, said Trish McMonagle, 39, who owns the store with two partners, Tanja Simmons and Diane Carrick, all of Middle Township.
However, dealing with a small pool of organic farmers in the region can pose the occasional problem, such as several years ago when raccoons ate much of one particular farm’s crops, McMonagle said.
“It really hits home what a hard time farmers can have,” she said.
The market, located along Route 9 in the Rio Grande section of the township, gets some of its food from main distributors that focus on whole, natural and organic foods. It also buys products directly from small companies, including cheese from Lawrenceville, Mercer County, as well as a small Vermont dairy farm with 50 cows.
“It’s hard for a store like us to just sell local produce because we wouldn’t be able to have the variety,” McMonagle said. “Many people don’t even realize the (produce) is connected to the seasons — that this time of year apples aren’t local. We just got cherries last week, and they’re so delicious and so perfect. It’s like the difference between a Jersey tomato and a February tomato.”
This organic market, which is about 1,800 square feet and opened in 2004, has been competitive with area supermarkets even during the economic downturn, McMonagle said.
Business has been up so far this year from last year, said McMonagle, who did not supply company revenue figures.
“Our customers do not see their health as a luxury but a necessity,” she said.
Nationally, sales of organic food and drinks grew nearly 8 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching nearly $27 billion, according to the Organic Trade Association, a business association for the organic industry in North America.
Mass market retailers such as supermarkets sold 54 percent of the organic products in 2010, with natural retailers accounting for 39 percent, according to the Organic Trade Association. The rest was distributed among Internet sales, farmers markets and community supported agriculture farms and others.
Meanwhile, McMonagle said the health-food industry has shed an old stereotype that healthy food does not taste as good.
“It used to be that people believed health food didn’t taste good,” she said. “But when they started making stuff artificially, they mimicked what was in nature. The flavoring in candy and artificial products — they didn’t do that because it tasted better. They did it because it was cheaper,” she said.
The emerging parts of the Green Street Market’s business have been raw foods (uncooked and unprocessed) as well as catering to those with allergies to foods with wheat, gluten, dairy and others, including those on low-salt diets, she said.
“That’s all become more of the part of the business since we opened, even people who normally wouldn’t shop in a health food store,” she said.
“Over the past eight years we’ve kept the same values, and we’re going to strengthen that and reach more people,” she said.
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