The Benson-based North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission has joined “Got to be NC Agriculture,” a state-focused program of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said Sue Johnson-Langdon, the commission’s executive director.

“It’s about homegrown,” she said of the program, which urges retailers and foodservice purveyors to offer North Carolina-grown products first, if available.

As part of the commission’s participation, the department of agriculture created a retail promotion, “52 Ways to Love Sweet Potatoes.” Three chains — Piggly Wiggly LLC (part of Keene, N.H.-based C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc.), Lowes Foods and Ingles Markets –— participated in the promotion, which ran in February.

The program included signage, as well as contests for consumers and participating produce department managers, Johnson-Langdon said.

Lowes also had chefs on hand to prepare sweet potato chowder for in-store sampling, she said.

Lowes and Piggly Wiggly also offered samples of sautéed sweet potatoes with a dip from Golding Farms, a North Carolina-based manufacturer of sauces and dressings, Johnson-Langdon said.

As February drew to a close, Johnson-Langdon said it was still too early to assess the promotion’s success, but she said she was optimistic.

“We’re extremely excited to do something with retail because that’s where 70 percent of our sales are, and we want to try to move that needle even more,” Johnson-Langdon said.

It was the commission’s largest foray into retail promotions, although not its first, she said.