(Aug. 12, 1:50 p.m.) Just in time for the Michigan harvest, two global companies are promoting locally grown blueberries.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC partnered with Select Michigan to promote Michigan-grown blueberries.

The group built a display in a South Haven, Mich., Wal-Mart Supercenter that highlighted three of Naturipe Farms' local blueberry growers — Ed Bocock, Shelly Hartmann and Larry Bodtke.

The display and promotion coincided with the National Blueberry Festival on Aug. 8-10 in South Haven, Mich.

The event highlighted efforts by Wal-Mart and the state of Michigan to promote the local economy, sustainability and highlight the availability of fresh local produce, said Robert Verloop, Naturipe Farms’ vice president of marketing.

“Wal-Mart has certainly stepped up and done a very nice job with local programs,” Verloop said. “They are supporting the local economy and participating and getting involved with community-oriented retailing. It’s a healthy move for us as an industry.”

The event was organized by Wal-Mart regional produce buyer Ed Mandl. In addition to Naturipe Farms growers, it featured an appearance by Gordon Wenk, deputy director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture ,and Priscilla Massie, culinary historian.

At the display, shoppers were treated to various blueberry dishes, including aebelskiver, a traditional Danish blueberry dish from Michigan pioneer days.

Wal-Mart, Naturipe back Michigan local-grown
Ed Mandl (from left), regional produce buyer for Wal-Mart; Shelly Hartman, Ed Bocock and Larry Bodtke, blueberry growers for Naturipe Farms; Gordon Wenk, deputy director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture; and James Vaughn, store manager at a Wal-Mart Supercenter location in South Haven, Mich., stand in front of the South Haven store's display promoting Michigan blueberries and the locally grown movement.