Farm to table? How about farm to counter.
Our Homegrown Produce Programs have been tapping independent farmers to supply restaurants with fresh produce since 2010.
“Our customers are interested not only in what they’re eating, but where it comes from,” says Elizabeth Stewart, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. “And increasingly, they’re also interested in supporting businesses where they live and work. The Homegrown Programs were created to celebrate seasonally grown items, the farmers, and their stewardship.”
A Homegrown Program works in one of two ways, according to Stewart. Either a produce item is grown in the state where you live, or it comes from a nearby state. For example, if you live in Nevada, your veggies may have been grown in adjacent California.
In 2016, more than 120 family farms supplied our restaurants with seasonal fruits and veggies — red onions, green bell peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes, avocados, and cucumbers.
To become part of this network, farms must “go through a stringent food safety audit each year,” says Stewart.
Plus, most are committed to what Stewart calls “environmental stewardship.” They rotate crops, implement initiatives for reducing waste, use alternate sources of energy, and practice water conservation.
When a produce item isn’t in season, it likely can’t come from a local farm, says Stewart. The same goes for when “Mother Nature intervenes and ruins a crop,” she adds. In those instances, produce are probably not source locally — but often still through a family farm.
For example, the red onions served in most of our North American restaurants from mid-September through mid-May come from River Point Farms, a family farm in Hermiston, Oregon, with high standards of sustainability. It doesn’t rely on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or pesticides, practices reduced irrigation water use, and uses recyclable packaging.
Homegrown Produce Programs benefit not only a single farmer, but also an entire community by creating jobs, especially during harvesting seasons. The farmer boosts business for local stores by, for example, purchasing supplies from them or hiring local mechanics to repair equipment. Some farms, like Oregon’s River Point Farm, also work with community food banks.
If your local Subway® restaurant is participating in a Homegrown Program, when you step inside, you’ll likely find information about what comes from a local source. You can learn more on our website.
Top Image Credit: Hakan Yeşil/iStock