Linvilla orchards: fresh from the farm
This market at the center of a working farm builds customer loyalty thanks to its reputation for exceptional fresh fruit and vegetables, whether clean or from other sources.
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of Produce business.
Not all retailers offer a 300-acre playground dedicated to agriculture, entertainment, and education, with hay rides and pick-your-own options depending on the season. Yet the Farmer’s Market located in the middle of quaint Linvilla Orchards, Inc. in Media, PA, does just that.
The farm, located just west of Philadelphia, was purchased by Arthur Linvill and his mother, Lydia, in 1914, and is now owned and operated by the fourth and fifth generation of the Linvill family.
“Over the years, the company has grown into the agri-entertainment business to become the destination it is today,” says Wayne Matsinger, Managing Director.
Before cars became commonplace, Arthur Linvill transported his products by horse and wagon to the populated areas closest to Media and Swarthmore, Pa., Explains Matsinger. “As cars became more common, fruits and vegetables were sold from the front porch of the family farm, which is still the center of our property.”
As the produce became more plentiful, the farm became more popular and the farm market opened in the Octagonal Barn. Linvilla now attracts a wide range of customers.
“We draw from the region two-thirds of the year, but our geographic base extends throughout the summer and into the fall when we draw from anywhere in the tri-state area. », Explains Matsinger. “We have a consistent audience for our winter product sales and a larger audience for our Linvilla’s Own products. “
CORNERSTONE IS PRODUCED
Fresh produce is at the heart of what Linvilla does, accounting for 20 percent of overall sales in the agricultural market. “Products are the lifeblood of our store,” says Matsinger. “We are an orchard and a farm and so the products are, in fact, WHY we are a store. Our goal has always been to showcase the fruits and vegetables grown here on the farm, but also to offer the best products from the region and beyond through the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market. [Editor’s note: please see the special section on the Philadelphia Market.]
“All other products have been added as enhancements to fresh produce – items such as jams and jellies, baked goods and gourmet foods,” he says. “We pride ourselves on the quality of customer service with all of our products and make a special effort in the product area.”
The store has evolved to offer a wide assortment of products. “We’re increasing our variety every week, but we sell over 100 different products at once – grown across the world to literally right down the street,” says Matsinger.
FRESH FEELING ON THE FARM
At the height of the growing season, fruits and vegetables take up one-third of the building’s 3,000 square foot space. The operation uses a 32-foot refrigerated cooler as a constant screen as well as several islands. He also uses portable refrigerated orchard bins throughout the store, and during peak season he uses the porch for corn and additional produce sales, adding about 120 square feet of retail space.
With the exception of the fixed 32-foot cooler and a few island displays, the store layout changes frequently. “We want to showcase and display each of the different fruits and vegetables that come into the store through the seasons,” says Matsinger.
The store creates centerpiece displays for new, different and / or seasonal products. “With Linvilla’s Own products, the sheer volume of the displays is inspiring,” says Matsinger. “Visually, large displays of peaches, corn or apples aren’t something you see in the grocery store due to space constraints. We reorganize and create displays that are visually impressive, but also seductive in their aroma.
Merchandising can be accentuated by a creative vision in a unique way. “Displays are often created around the product, not the other way around,” he says. “People come to our farmer’s market as a second stop to their regular grocery store, so we’re working hard to differentiate ourselves by offering the highest quality products at competitive prices. It is also important for us to keep abreast of current trends in products and merchandising.
Linvilla’s purchases vary seasonally, but focus on quality. In the winter, he buys about 80% from the Philadelphia Wholesale Produce Market (PWPM) and 20% from local or local wholesalers, explains Matsinger. In spring and summer, 60% of the produce comes from the farm and local producers and about 40% from the PWPM.
Linvilla’s has built deep relationships with the wholesalers and brokers of PWPM, says Matsinger, citing the late Paul Labess, who has been the transaction’s supplier for over 20 years. “He has constantly strived to provide us with the best products available so that we can maintain our reputation for quality,” said Matsinger.
“PWPM gives us every chance to expand our product selection and deliver consistent quality,” he says. “On the occasion that we find ourselves with a surplus of product from a bumper harvest, we have put in place channels to sell our product to PWPM. “
Matsinger adds that the farm also has an excellent relationship with John Vena Inc. (JVI), now the farm’s primary wholesaler and distributor. He notes that the JVI team has opened many doors in terms of acquiring the more difficult to find specialty products that Linvilla likes to share with its customers.
When it comes to promotion and education, Linvilla regularly creates information boards to inform customers about use, taste, texture and nutritional benefits.
“We strive to educate customers about the nutritional and health benefits of products and to encourage healthy eating habits with the consumption of fruits and vegetables,” explains Matsinger.
In addition to in-store promotions, the operation also uses its website and social media to promote products and connect with consumers.