ShopRite of Hunterdon County, like many other ShopRite stores, relies on local farms to bring high quality produce to customers.

“Shop local” isn’t just a snappy slogan, especially when it comes to feeding your family. Locally grown produce can be fresher and more sustainable – and it supports local farmers.

“We go out of our way to find farmers who can get fresh product to us as quickly as possible,” said Bob Mirabella, a Perishables merchandiser with ShopRite of Hunterdon County, “so we’re often sourcing from 10 or 12 local farms.”

In the summer months, the vast majority of vegetables at ShopRite of Hunterdon County come from farms in New Jersey, New York or Pennsylvania. Most peaches and nectarines come from southern New Jersey. In fact, Mirabella’s biggest produce supplier – family-owned Donaldson Farms – is in nearby Hackettstown. The farm delivers corn, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and squash the day after they’re harvested or, in some cases, the same day.

“They pick the corn at six in the morning,” Mirabella said, “and it’s in our stores by 10 a.m. It’s really fresh.”

Sourcing locally also means the food travels far fewer miles from farm to store than when the farm is in California, Florida or elsewhere. Local sourcing reduces fuel consumption, carbon emissions and costs. However, it also requires extra effort. Before Mirabella begins sourcing from a farm, he visits that farm, taste-tests its products and talks to the farmers about their practices.

Many local farms are too small to deliver directly to ShopRite stores, so Mirabella works with a distribution service based in Ringoes, New Jersey to find producers. Through that relationship, he discovered Profeta Farms, a certified organic livestock and vegetable producer in Flemington.

“I went on a tour last year,” Mirabella said, “and it’s a beautiful farm run by nice people and, more importantly, offering a beautiful product. “When you deal with certain farms, you know they take a lot of care in what they do and won’t send you a product unless it’s right. Those are the people you want to work with, and Profeta Farms is one of those farms.”

Profeta Farms’ products are certified United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic, which means they’re made without genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and without harmful pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. The USDA also requires certified organic producers to show they’re “protecting natural resources and conserving biodiversity.” Profeta’s owners take pride in going beyond the USDA’s requirements by employing practices that reduce soil erosion and allow livestock to roam free, all of which contribute to the farm’s sustainability and help protect the local environment.

Mirabella likes to forge long-term relationships with local farmers and other producers. It allows him to bring ShopRite customers the best product he can find.