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Market Basket feud opens opportunity for farm stands

The Farmer Dave’s stand is about a mile away from Market Basket headquarters.

The Boston Globe

The Farmer Dave’s stand is about a mile away from Market Basket headquarters.

There are some winners in the Market Basket mess. Most farm stands north of Boston contacted said they have benefited from the nearly empty produce shelves at the grocery chain’s stores.

A shopper examines produce near empty bins in a Market Basket grocery store.

AP

A shopper examines produce near empty bins in a Market Basket grocery store.

The Farmer Dave’s stand in Tewksbury, about a mile down East Street from Market Basket headquarters, has even started offering a 4 percent discount — just like the chain — to show support for Market Basket employees and welcome new customers.

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Market Basket stores — including the 42 that are in Massachusetts — have not been getting fresh deliveries because workers at the company’s warehouses have joined the protest in support of ousted president Arthur T. Demoulas.

RELATED: Arthur T. Demoulas makes offer to buy Market Basket

“We’ve got a lot of new customers coming in. . . . All the farmers markets we go to have been crazy busy, too, since last week,” said owner Dave Dumaresq, citing stops he made in Beverly, Revere, and Reading.

Dracut-based Farmer Dave’s has seen about a 25 percent increase in business at its farm stands in Tewksbury and at Brox Farm on Broadway Road in Dracut, said Dumaresq.

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“The other supermarkets can be wiped out because they didn’t prepare,” said Dumaresq. “Then where are people going to go? Straight to the farm.”

“I’ve had some [Community Supported Agriculture] members sign up this week who said they’d been considering it for a while and this encouraged them to take the plunge, since they had to go somewhere else for produce anyway,” said Bethany Bellingham, who runs Farmer Dave’s CSA program.

RELATED: Meet the Market Basket board

Mike Marini of Marini Farm in Ipswich said business is up perhaps as much as 40 percent. That includes both sales at its retail farm stand on Linebrook Road and its wholesale business, which provides corn, zucchini, and other vegetables to Shaw’s and Stop & Shop.

“Our retail has been really good because we’re down the street from a Market Basket that’s a pretty busy one,” Marini said.

Customers are not saying much negative about Market Basket, but some are enjoying the chance to rediscover the fresh, quality produce available locally, he said.

“Hopefully, whatever happens with Market Basket, they’ll keep supporting us,” Marini said.

Richard Bonanno, owner of Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen, hoped people will remember that not all local farmers are benefiting. Although Pleasant Valley has a CSA and retails flowers, about two-thirds of his 50-acre vegetable crop goes wholesale to Market Basket, he said.

RELATED: A primer on the grocery succession crisis

Usually, that would mean 300 18-pound boxes of summer squash and zucchini a day at this time of year, he said. Instead, he’s having to sell as much as he can on the open market, meaning a lower price and lot of extra trips to markets around Boston.

“I am hurting,” said Bonanno, estimating his loss at $1,800 a day. Several other area farmers are in the same position, he said.

But retailers were mostly upbeat. In Newbury, both Colby Farm on Scotland Road and Tendercrop Farm on High Road report increased sales, but said it’s difficult to quantify the Market Basket effect.

“It’s hard to tell what’s a bump from that because we’re getting the normal bump now because we’re starting to pick,” said Tendercrop owner Matt Kozazcki.

Jennifer Durocher, store manager at Cider Hill Farm on Fern Avenue in Amesbury, said it’s hard to be sure of the cause for a very busy day last Sunday. “I think people have been picking up more quantity than they normally do,” she said.

“We’ve also had some Market Basket employees come looking for jobs,” Durocher said, a report echoed by owner Lisa Colby at Colby Farms.

The only farm stand polled that didn’t report at least a possible Market Basket effect was Connors Farm on Valley Road in Danvers.

“We’re right in the thick of things where we are and people have a lot of options, more than they do farther north,” said owner Bob Connors. “Maybe this weekend.”

Joel Brown can be reached at jbnbpt@gmail.com.
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