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Wainer & Son Saving the Planet One Strawberry at a Time

Saturday, January 1, 2011

story by Liz LaValley
photos courtesy of Sid Wainer & Son

DESPITE NEW ENGLAND chills and unpredictable frosts,changes in food fads and an ever fluctuating market, Sid Wainer & Son has stayed steady, growing a worldwide business (as well as arugula, radishes and chives) with the focal point right here in our midst. Working with local farmers is an integral part of Sid Wainer & Son’s business, from the time young Henry Wainer was riding in his father’s truck until the present day, with the ambition of having fruits and vegetables “picked at sundown, delivered at sunrise.”

Sid Wainer & Son, already the winner of our tummies and tables, hasn’t only been providing a rainbow of gourmet honey, tomatoes, egg- plants and assorted peppers all over the world, but also has been proactive about “going green” in their business of greens by promoting sustainable farming, defined on their website as “capable of maintaining their productivity and usefulness to society indefinitely. Such systems…must be re- source-conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive, and environmentally sound.” Since the very first deliveries to New Bedford stores and restaurants in 1914 by horse and buggy over cobblestone streets, the Wainers’ ideals have been to purchase and provide only first pick of the crop, keeping business and growth local and viable.

Rather than falling in with huge corporation farms, Sid Wainer & Son has maintained a local connection, and instituted and pioneered energy saving techniques as they became available, rather than ignoring the problem or going for the short term profit.

Out in South Dartmouth is the company’s Jansal Valley Farm, a research and development farm that began with 23 acres and now expanded to 87 with the purchase of an older existing farm across the road. The fields and greenhouses are a source of new ways to produce interesting ingredients for lovers of fine foods, items that were once imported from overseas but now grown locally. Not only could Belgian greens be available fresh daily for a chef to make dinner with on Nantucket, but local farmers could grow and sell more exotic vegetables of a higher value, preserving the innate beauty of fragrant fields and rustling trees. By assisting local farmers in maintaining their farms, the company has saved over 1,000 agricultural acres from bulldozers. Dr. Henry Wainer chuckles with evident pride. “It’s eco-friendly, healthier, and better than acres of asphalt and concrete.” Indeed.

Also at the Jansal Valley Farm are two energy efficient greenhouses, with a third under construction, to start graftings and seedlings (to compensate for our notoriously short and weather-creative New En- gland growing season) for the fields, serving as both a teaching facility for farmers and an opportunity for visitors to see what’s new. Presently, the growers are trying out 36 varieties of berries. They are also “conservation conservative,” with effective heating and watering systems, and the experimental exploration for future crops means less trucking, less gas, and more blue skies over the local landscape of pumpkins, squash and apple trees.

While the Jansal Valley brand covers the “first pick” from many farms for their supply business, Sid Wainer& Son’s emphasis is on supplying the best of the area in season, with over 1,700 varieties of fresh produce such gooseberries, squash, tomatoes, potatoes, kale and soybeans. Being so close to the ocean, the temperature range is close to that of the Champagne Region of France, and last year in season more than 2,000 trays of strawberries came from South Dartmouth rather than being trucked in from California.

Sustaining local farms also reduces Sid Wainer & Son’s carbon footprint—keeping a “green circle” around their facility means fewer diesel belching trucks are traveling cross country, with less fuel consumption and clearer skies. They have instituted strict vehicle idling regulation, which by reducing the idling time of their trucks by 37%, is saving 2,720 gallons a month or 33,120 gallons a year in the process.

Sid Wainer & Son takes care to track their ongoing conservation efforts, always looking for ways to improve. Energy saving lamps have cut their usage by 47% (50 Fenway Park night games). They re- cycle their corrugated cardboard, office paper and business forms, having their office go paperless and saving 850,000 trees a year—trees that can now process millions of pounds of pollutants and reduce waste sent to overburdened landfills. Introduction of a new water filtration system has stopped thousands of water bottles from ending up in the landfill.

Use of reusable totes in their new “Sid Wainer & Son Growing Green Facility” will spare over 3,000,000 gallons of water that would have been used in the production of boxes, in addition to the reduction of electricity consumed and pollutants created by the factories.

Perhaps the nicest and most hopeful model Dr. Wainer has produced is the conversion of a “brownfield,” a contaminated inner city lot where a box factory once stood. Now it’s a mini-Eden of greenhouses producing lovely harvests all year round. Every city can use more greenery, especially in the midst of our gray drizzly January. These, in particular, are an intriguing delight, “micro-greens,” miniature herbs and plants for garnishes, accents and flavoring, shipped off to grace plates worldwide.

Sid Wainer & Son is also about saving people’s waistlines. As a member of the “Slow Food” non-profit grassroots movement promoting regional traditions and awareness of the impact of fast food on our communities and the environment, Sid Wainer& Son’s outlets and facilities are an other resource in the rising obesity problem. Children have lost touch with their food sources, some only having seen fluorescent-lit bins and frosted cases stuffed with cardboard boxes.

Anyone who’s ever stopped at a roadside stand or taken their children to a “pick your own” berry farm or orchard, heavy with the autumn scent of crunchy lush apples and succulent, sweet peaches knows just how immediate and delicious fruit, hot with sun- shine and dripping with delectable juice can be. Those memories stay with us longer than a flimsy paper bag of flash frozen potato strips. (Well, hopefully anyway.)

The company’s Gourmet Outlet— itself a charming display of recycling an old brick mill building into a vibrant area of organic coffees, artisanal cheeses, and chocolate dessert shells— is open Monday to Saturday, 9 to 5. Chefs cook on site, preparing samples of their latest concoctions, wooden shelves of crusty warm bread, a full refrigerated room of succulent greens, organic offerings, and an astounding array of our area’s cranberries. Get into the green spirit – take a bike and a tote to Sid Wainer & Son, support- ing our earth, our water, our waist- lines and the satisfying pleasures of sustainable local agriculture—with a side of raspberry jam!

Sid Wainer & Son & Son, with their Gourmet Outlet, is located at 2301 Purchase Street, New Bedford. You can call them at 888-743-9246 or visit http://www.sidwainer.com.

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