Capac farm sells locally-grown produce to Walmart

Mike Pirrone Produce in Capac has been selling produce to Walmart for more than a decade.

Peruse the produce section at the grocery store, and you might be surprised to see more â??locally grownâ?? signs. Retail chains like Walmart are partnering with local farms to deliver fresher produce to customers quicker.

Nestled in the quiet village of Capac lies 3,000 acres of farmland that yields all kinds of squash, chili peppers and bushels of cucumbers.

"People want to eat what they have in their backyard,â?? said Henry DeBlouw, who runs the family operation, Mike Pirrone Produce.

For more than a decade, the farm has been selling its home-grown produce to one of America's retail giants.

â??We buy all sorts of things from Michigan but it's nice to actually be in a field and see it growing,â?? said Jack Sinclair, Walmartâ??s head of grocery. He got to see first-hand Wednesday the operations at the St. Clair County farm from how green bell peppers are grown to how the crates of produce are packed and shipped to Walmart's Michigan stores.

Sinclair said, "The closer we can buy product that's grown close to the stores, the fresher it will be when the customer gets it." And the shorter the distance from farm to store, Sinclair said, the lower the distribution costs.

Itâ??s a growing trend farmers here say they can embrace.

â??Weâ??re keeping a lot of the stuff in the same state and it's not going all over the place,â?? DeBlouw said.

Last year, Walmart sold more than $18.5 million of Michigan-grown produce, including harvests from Pirrone Produce. Walmart wants to double the sales of locally-grown produce by 2015.