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Meet Whole Foods' Forager, The Man Who Searches For Local Products

Dwight Detter will be a big part of the new Laguna Niguel store when it opens in early summer.

Dwight Detter, 58, is a local "forager" for and he's going to be a big part of the new store when it

"To forage actually means to wander or look for food or provisions, so the name forager is a very accurate description of what I do on a daily basis," he said. "My job is to explore and look for sources of great new products. The term 'forager' has become widely used amongst foodies. You hear about people foraging for wild mushrooms or wild plants, or foraging for locally produced artisanal products, so my title  helps open doors because folks want to meet a 'forager.' "

He's been working in the food industry for more than 30 years and has cooked in restaurants and worked on the prepared foods team at Whole Foods Market.

"I love developing relationships with the vendors. I've worked with a few start-up companies to get their product on our shelves. I also enjoy bringing together mission driven vendors and manufacturers," he said.

For example, he works with Backyard Bees, based in Orange County, who now have a beehive on Suzie's Farm, one of the local farms they work with in San Diego County, who grow heirloom varieties of produce.

His day-to-day life is a combination of visiting farmer’s markets, manufacturing facilities, conducting classes for food entrepreneurs on how to work with retails stores like Whole Foods Market, evaluating application materials and submissions, meeting local producer loan applicants, to attending city and county meetings or conferences on developing sustainable food systems.

"I also frequently visit our stores to talk with Team Members about how the local products are doing in the stores. I want to make sure that once a product is accepted into our stores that the local producers and stores are working together to make it successful," he said.

Where will the new store in Laguna Niguel get some of its more local products from? You might be surprised.

"We work with several local companies based in Orange County. A few of the companies we work with include  OC Produce, Backyard Bees, who have bee hives throughout Orange County, Earth Café based in Laguna Niguel, and Left Coast Brewing in San Clemente and The Bruery in Anaheim."

Once the store is open, he said shoppers will find local honey, the first organic grown and pressed olive oil and avocado oil in Southern California, jams, barbecue sauces, hot sauces, ketchup, mustard, bread, bagels and lots more.

"It takes a lot of knowledge, passion and dedication to take an idea to the shelf. And, there is truly a face behind the product. When we host Local Vendor Days, customers will be able to come in and meet the people behind the products, and hear for themselves the passionate stories behind the local products we sell," he said. 

* The local loan program is something Whole Foods Market started to support producers and farmers local to its stores. For more information on the program click here.

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