Whole Foods is looking for local vendors selling everything from artichokes to wheatgrass to audition for a spots on its shelves when it opens in Columbia this fall.
The open house is taking place from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday at City Roots Farm, 1005 Airport Blvd., Columbia. Local farmers and producers can bring their products for the grocery chain’s buyers to sample and can get information on how to become a vendor.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” said Marianne Bickle, director of the Center for Retailing at the University of South Carolina.
Most grocery stores sell local produce, but they do it through larger, wholesale vendors, Bickle said. Whole Foods is looking for the same vendors you might find at the farmers market.
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“What they are truly trying to do is become part of the community, and that’s one of the things that Whole Foods does really, really well,” she said.
The event is open to anyone interested in becoming a vendor at Whole Foods. No appointments will be made. Just show up with your rutabagas.
Bickle advises bringing a little more than just a sample of your product, though, such as a written plan on how you grow your food and a copy of your business license.
“It’s not a freebie,” she said. “You have to present your food and your credentials at the highest standard possible.”
Eric McClam, co-founder of City Roots in the Rosewood area, said his farm will try to secure a spot in their store for its seasonal produce and its “microgreens,” which are similar to sprouts but grown in soil.
“It’s one of those (opportunities) that most small farms are always looking for,” he said.