If you’re a gardener like me, you know the feeling of watching your harvest trickle in. A bunch of radishes here, a bowl of salad there. Maybe some onions. Then peas, and there’s a lot of those. In late summer, I feel like my countertops have shrunk! Sometimes, you need just a bit more to fit in those canning jars! Here are the places I like to buy bulk produce for canning.
I’m FASCINATED with the history of food. Just think about the products on grocery store shelves. Where did those products come from? I’m not talking about manufacturing plants or all that. I mean, why do we make that type of food at all? Why do we have ketchup? Or blueberry jam? Or pickles?
At some point, someone somewhere had too much of something. They experimented with all of these different ways to preserve that product past its natural freshness. These food legacies bear with us today.
When I walk through the grocery store aisles, I imagine all the old farm kitchens. I see counters overloaded with berries and women cooking them down into jam. There’s something fascinating and beautiful about dealing with abundant harvests. That could just be me, and that’s okay too.
Today, we can extend the shelf life of fresh produce way easier than our ancestors did before us. Most of us do not HAVE to can fresh produce to survive. However, we decide that for some reason, it is worth it to us to continue that legacy of food preservation.
There are plenty of ways to preserve, too. Whatever type of preservation you’re into, I support!
The only issue is knowing how to find bulk produce for canning! You need enough of a product to make your recipe. I have worked on farms and at farmers markets since 2014. These are my personal tips on where to bulk produce for canning. I sure hope they help you, too!
Where to Buy Bulk Produce for Preserving
This is not an exhaustive list! It is simply based on my experience. If you know of a great resource in your area, please share it in the comments to help others!
Your own garden
If you know that you love to make pickles every year, plant lots of cucumbers! You may need a rather large space to grow enough produce to process everything you want to preserve. This means you may need to supplement your harvest elsewhere.
Get started with these 5 easy crops for beginner gardeners!
Buy bulk produce from local farms
This is my favorite place to stock up on produce for processing! In my area, most local farms are really small, like 5 acres or smaller. I go directly to the farms to pick up flats of strawberries or boxes of tomatoes.
Depending on where you are though, this can get expensive! I live in the Pacific Northwest in Western Washington and usually shop at farmers who use organic growing methods. The prices for bulk produce can be high. However, you are buying high quality produce that supports a local grower. But, we are also on a budget and try to plan purchases accordingly.
One way I offset these expenses is by working on farms! There are a few ways you might be able to arrange this.
Work for produce on local farms
First, if you have a relationship with your farmer, they may be willing to hire you for summer harvest work. Additionally, you may be able to volunteer in exchange for produce.
I’ve been very fortunate to work on farms that pay me AND allow me to take home fresh produce. Especially with crops like berries, I can often take home imperfect fruits called “seconds.” Other times, I can buy the berries at a discounted rate. I also buy them at full price sometimes. This is all dependent on farms in your area and your relationship with specific farmers!
If you have a CSA program at your local farm, they may offer special rates for bulk projects. Some of the CSA programs in my area offer their members first dibs on berries for processing (we live in berry country, okay?). I believe those prices are sometimes discounted for members, too.
Check out this program to find a CSA near you!
Check out your local farmers market
Especially if you live somewhere with smaller farms, you may need to visit a few for your canning needs! Shop from a few farmers to get enough for processing.
At my old market, we have some farms that sell produce from Eastern Washington. I can get a case of apples or peaches or pears for $20-30. I used to buy A LOT of cases of fruit! Now, it’s the only way I usually buy produce, especially pears and apples.
Find a farm stand
I’m thinking specifically about farm stands that bring in larger quantities of fresh produce to nearby areas. I have two favorites near me that I’m glad to share by name:
Colello’s brings in fresh berries from my region, which is usually cooler and wetter. They also bring in hot weather crops from Eastern Washington. They often sell cases of fresh apples, berries, cherries, tomatoes, pickling cucumbers, green beans, etc. They’re also about 3 miles from my house AND they have a blueberry u-pick in the summer. Love them!
And the Chimacum Corner Farmstand is my very favorite place! They have a lot of organic produce from nearby farms, like farms just a couple of miles away. We even called them to order salad greens and romaine in bulk for our wedding last year! They often send out a newsletter in the summer with their bulk buy offerings. When I go to the store too, they’ll have cases of apples and such. I’ve picked up cases of cherries and apples here for processing and they are all the very best of freshness.
The Chimacum Corner Farmstand is such a bustling center of the best, freshest, most local, organic produce. I make a trip there when I’m having a bad day. It’s the best!
Are you like me? I love keeping a well-stocked pantry with real, simple foods. I also garden and cook from scratch, and have a free guide to help others do the same thing!
At the end of the season, some farms open up to groups who harvest leftover crops in the field. You collect produce for a food bank or other program, AND you get to take home a bunch of produce, too.
One time, I went gleaning for golden beets that were the size of a baby’s head! I was able to bring home two grocery bags worth of beets. That farm even gave me 10 lbs of fresh, local pork in exchange for my work harvesting. BEST DEAL!
Interested? Find a gleaning program in your area!
Find a U-Pick Patch
Lots of places will sell produce in bulk for a really great price if you do the picking! Definitely don’t calculate in your labor cost for this one! Otherwise, you’ll feel like those berries are more expensive than normal! Further, it’s nice to spend a day outside with family or friends.
U-pick patches are especially great if you’re a pretty quick picker and know how to judge ripeness well. New to harvesting? Ask the farmer for what’s underripe and overripe or give it a quick Google search.
Call a neighbor/knock on a stranger’s door
Chances are, there are people near you with fruit trees. Mature fruit trees produce so much fruit that the average person can’t manage that much excess! Some people truly want all of their harvest though, so please ask first! If you notice a fruit tree always dropping fruit on the ground, the owner is probably not using the fruit. They may appreciate your help!
Again, I live in berry country. Here in Western Washington, we have wild berries growing everywhere! We have:
- both red and blue huckleberry,
- wild raspberries,
- salal berries,
- native blackberries,
- invasive Himalayan blackberries
- and more!
It’s a true bounty here!
Especially with the invasive blackberries, they grow in massive brambles all over the place. There are so many open spaces with berries. I usually harvest a couple of gallons of blackberries to freeze or make jam! They are totally free and a fun, but scratchy adventure.
If you want to know what you can harvest in your area, check out these foraging guides!
Try a local co-op
Depending on what you need, a local co-op grocery store may be a great resource! In my area, the local co-op is really small and is mostly connected to small farmers who sell at markets. In co-ops elsewhere, they are able to connect with larger distributors who can offer greater quantities.
Buy bulk produce online from Azure Standard
If you don’t know about Azure Standard yet, please read my review! Even when everyone else was sold out this Spring, Azure came through with flour and other staples for me! This Oregon company supplies dry goods, frozen meat, dairy, fresh and frozen produce, cleaning supplies, and even fresh produce. I love the company’s ethos and truly believe they are living their values. Their products are all amazing and I just could not recommend them more!
Especially if you are trying to process organic foods, you should consider a resource like Azure!
For example, Azure Standard offered 18 lb cases of organic Bing cherries this summer at $54.40. That’s just over $3 per lb for certified organic cherries! That’s a good deal for sure as I could only find fresh, conventional cherries for that price locally.
Check out restaurant supply stores
I love a good restaurant supply store! However, they usually do not have local produce grown on small, sustainable farms. I definitely make exceptions for crops I can’t find that well in abundance locally. I also shop there if I need to make a recipe right away for some reason!
We have a restaurant supply chain near us called Smart Foodservice that offers bulk quantities of pretty much everything! However, their produce may not be as fresh or as flavorful as a farm down the road, Still, this can be an excellent resource!
Buy buy produce at a food liquidation company
If you’re wondering where to buy bulk produce for canning, search for “discount grocery stores” in your area! These are not the same as Grocery Outlet. We have a place about half an hour away in Tacoma called Valley Liquidation. They offer extremely discounted prices on lots of food items, but especially fresh produce. I’ve seen entire cases of bananas for about $6. This August, I saw Roma tomatoes being sold for a dollar per pound. I saw 50 lb boxes of red potatoes for $3 and 60 lb bags of yellow fingerlings for $7!
Naturally, the offerings and prices completely flux depending on the season and what they have on hand. Meanwhile, they could see the same product for twice as much two weeks later depending on other factors. They have a great Facebook page, though! I simply watch for their posts and head down when the products I want go on sale.
Search online for “discount grocery store” and your zip code or town name.
Buy bulk produce from Costco
Naturally, you can also find lots of great produce at Costco or even your neighborhood grocery store! Even our local Winco sometimes has great deals! This can be really convenient in you live in areas away from local farms. Watch the ads and know your ideal price point for specific crops. For example, I always stock up when cherries are less than $2 per pound.
Find a Wilco!
Do you have a Wilco in your area? There are a couple near me now and at least once per year, they offer giant produce sales! In July, they usually have a one-day berry sale. Also, they have produce case sales for crops besides berries in early September. Check the details from your local Wilco for information on specific offerings. I get updates from them via email, which helps me know what’s going on!
This is a pretty long list, but I know it’s not exhaustive! Please share with us your favorite places to stock up on bulk produce so others can do the same!
Before you get shopping, make sure you have all the canning supplies you need!