(Nov. 12, 3:35 p.m.) Wegmans Food Markets Inc., Rochester, N.Y., is expanding on a program designed to teach suppliers about organic produce, adding a greenhouse to its Canandaigua, N.Y., farm.

The research farm supplies produce to two of the company’s nearby stores when supplies allow.

Dave Corsi, vice president of produce and floral operations, said the greenhouse, which the company plans to construct in April, would make the farm’s growing season year-round.

“Our initial thoughts are to grow baby leaf, peppers and tomatoes,” Corsi said.

Wegmans started farming organically on the property in 2007, and just finished its second year, Corsi said. Some of the summer’s crops, including heirloom tomatoes, fingerling potatoes, beans, berries, leaf lettuce, summer and winter squash and herbs, made their way to the shelves of two of Wegmans’ retail locations.

“All products grown that had a sizeable crop this year were sold to one of our stores in close proximity to the farm in Canandaigua, N.Y.,” Corsi said. “The two primary items were fingerling potatoes and heirloom tomatoes.”

Corsi said the farm experienced low yield in many of the products this year due to wet conditions during the peak summer timeframe.

The purpose of the farm is not be become a supplier for the stores, but rather to become an education tool for suppliers looking at going organic.

“Local growers have been delivering fresh crops to our stores daily for over 20 years,” Corsi said. “Yet most of our stores don’t have access to local organic produce, especially in upstate New York. We felt the need to start our own farm operation to understand the challenges of growing organically.”

Corsi said the company plans to invite local growers to the farm to be taught the process of growing organically. The farm covers 50 acres, 10 of which are being farmed now.

“If our mission is to provide education to other local growers about the organic growing method, then we need to be a credible operation in terms of profitability,” Corsi said.

The farm got started after Danny Wegman, owner, wanted to build a large storage barn on the property. Zoning regulations, however, interfered with that plan.

“The large structure could only happen if he hosted an agricultural operation,” Corsi said. “Hence, the farm was born.”

Ann Grover, a local organic farmer, has worked on the farm since its inception, Corsi said. Steve Strub, farm manager, joined the operation over the summer.

Wegmans operates more than 70 stores in New York State, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia and Maryland, according to its Web site, www.wegmans.com.

Wegmans expanding at organic research farm
At its organic research farm in Canandaigua, N.Y., retailer Wegmans Food Markets is building a greenhouse to ensure a year-round supply of fresh produce for two local Wegmans stores when supplies allow.

Courtesy Wegmans Food Markets