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Solomon’s partners with local farm

Located just over a mile down the road, the partnership between Solomon’s Fresh Market and Lucayan Tropical Farmers Market redefines close, sustainable agriculture.

As Nassau’s new supermarket prepares for opening, the CEO of AML Foods, Gavin Watchorn, told Guardian Business that the store has enlisted the services of local food producers – a business relationship befitting Solomon’s image as a green, healthy and organic hub.

“As a company we support Bahamian businesses,” he said.

“People don’t seem to know many of them. The key is a balance between quality and affordability. We are open to the idea of local vendors, but it has to make sense.”

In the case of Lucayan Tropical Farmers Market, the model seemed to fit.

According to Tim Hauber, the general manager of the farm, a shift is occurring whereby consumers are asking questions on where their food comes from. They are buying food not just because of quality and price. Consumers, he felt, are increasingly atune to whether the food is local.

“We have proven ourselves quality wise and now people want our stuff in their stores,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it will only help more farmers here. If I do a million dollars worth of produce right now, which is where we’re at right now, that’s only one-five-hundredth of what we import.”

And now, every morning, the farm will deliver fresh, pesticide-free produce to Solomon’s for the general public.

Adding that the produce section is “one of the backbones of the store”, Hauber told Guardian Business the farm supplies tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, herbs and other products.

The majority of the farm’s products are grown through hydroponics in greenhouses.

In addition, they have a more “traditional style” farm using compost and leaves as fertilizer, including bok choy, cabbage, arugula and eggplant.

Solomon’s represents around 10 percent of the farm’s business now, he added, as it currently supplies a number of restaurants and vendors through Bahamas Food Services.

“We’re doing 700 cases of peppers every week and 500 cases of tomatoes,” he explained.

“Over the past few years, we have tried to keep our noses to the grindstone and produce a product that is stable and of good quality.”

Watchorn said Solomon’s will be buying “a portion” of its produce from the farm.

There will already be 150 different kinds of organic produce in the store, 400 fresh items and 20 varieties of tomatoes in the 38,000 square-foot store.

In addition to the produce, Watchorn pointed out that many of the products from the fresh seafood counter are caught locally.

Hauber felt the recent partnership with Solomon’s was an important step not just for his company, but also agriculture at large in The Bahamas.

Acknowledging that local producers have traditionally had a “bad reputation”, the time has come to educate the public that producing food is not only possible in the country, but it can be done to a high standard.

“There is a lot of room for more farmers and producers to step up,” he said.

“We have had to forage our own way. Every time a local producer receives recognition, it’s good for the country.”

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