Monetary sanctions aren’t unprecedented, though. The Connecticut Weekly Agricultural Report announcement cited a 2005 case in which a company paid the state $70,075 for falsely using the Connecticut Grown logo on its egg cartons and deceptively using the word “farm” in its trade name.
State officials have been getting repeated complaints from some Connecticut growers that out-of-state product is being brought in and sold as locally grown.
“No one goes around right now checking on the use of the Connecticut Grown label,” Mark Zotti, one of two state agriculture officials responsible for monitoring and promoting farmers markets, told the Advocate back in March.
The intensified scrutiny has uncovered “a few violations” in 2013, Sherman said.
“Some people that actually were growing products would also purchase other products that weren’t grown in Connecticut,” he said.
Sherman said spotting violations sometimes isn’t difficult.
“You can tell often when they’re out of season,” he said.
Whether violations were common misses the point of the enhanced enforcement, Revickzky said.
“While we do not believe misuse of the Connecticut Grown label is widespread, we recognize that trust is quickly damaged in the rare instances it does occur,” he said in the news release.
Complaints have been filed predominantly by growers, not consumers, Sherman said.
“We weren’t getting complaints from consumers so much, but I don’t think they realized that Connecticut Grown logo is a real selling point to consumers,” he said.
Produce vendors said there is increased call for Connecticut Grown produce.
“We’re definitely receiving a lot more recently than in the past, as far as locally grown produce,” said Al Parziale, president of Hartford, Conn.-based Tinarose Produce LLC.
State-grown fruits and vegetables are a key part of retail produce sales, said Lindsay Hawley, a spokeswoman for Stop & Shop New England, a Quincy, Mass.-based retail chain.
“Connecticut has a strong locally grown program, especially in the Connecticut River Valley area,” she said.
Paul Ryan, president of CT Fresh Inc., Stamford, Conn., said he hasn’t seen any violations of the Connecticut Grown rules.