Texas’ homegrown food is riding more than a wave of support behind the locally grown movement that’s sweeping across the U.S.
It also has the power of Texas behind it.
The Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan marketing program promotes all food grown in the Lone Star State.
And, produce suppliers say, it makes a difference — even to buyers outside the Lone Star State.
“We promote all of our stuff as being Texas-grown,” said Cliff Wiebusch, sales manager at McAllen, Texas-based Val Verde Vegetable Co. Inc.
Go Texan is a multi-pronged program that pushes Texas produce and other agriculture products in restaurants and grocery stores, but it does more, organizers say.
“The popularity of the local food movement is changing the way farmers market their products and connect with consumers,” said Lindsey Pope, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Agriculture.
Restaurants and chefs are also connecting with local growers to highlight fresh, local ingredients in their menus, she said.
Growers and shippers of Texas produce commonly latch onto the marketing advantages of promoting products close to home, Pope said.
“New communities are forming between consumers and farmers, in some cases farmers are talking directly to consumers to find out what to grow, based on consumers’ wants and needs,” Pope said.
Through a marketing program that attempts to promote products grown, processed or produced in Texas, Go Texan helps to form partnerships in a common homegrown cause, Pope said.
“Go Texan further supports local foods by certifying farmers markets across the state, and interest continues to build, said Todd Staples, Texas’ agriculture commissioner.
It’s more than a passing fad, Staples said.
“More people than ever want to know where their food comes from,” he said.
Staples noted that research shows that Texans, when given a choice, prefer locally grown produce and other food products.
“The Go Texan program brings together the best offerings of Texas farmers, ranchers, seafood producers, breweries, winemakers and chefs with consumers looking for the fresh, quality local foods,” Staples said.
Retailers and restaurants place a heavy emphasis on Texas produce, said Bret Erickson, president of the Mission-based Texas International Produce Association.
San Antonio, Texas-based retailer HEB Grocery Co. LP is an active promoter of Texas produce, as are other chains that operate in the state, Erickson said.
“You go into the produce section, and you’ll see pictures of a grower and his family and pictures from the farm set up,” Erickson said.
The homegrown phenomenon is particularly strong in Texas, Erickson said.
“Texans have a pretty strong identity, and I think it’s helping these guys to showcase their product,” he said.
The Texas Department of Agriculture provides labels, stickers and other materials for stores and restaurants to help them showcase Texas-grown items, Erickson said.
“That seems to do pretty well,” he said.
Go Texan participates in numerous community programs scheduled across the state year-round, even though the program is as susceptible to funding cutbacks as any other state program, said Ray Prewitt, president of the Texas Vegetable Association in Mission.
“Last year, the department took a 40% cut across the board, and it’s fair to say their marketing program was cut by that amount, so we’re hopeful this year that funding will be restored in this session,” he said.
Revenues generated by the state’s current oil boom should help there, Prewitt said.
“The encouraging thing is with the oil activity, it looks like the state budget will be in better shape,” he said.
Whatever the funding situation, consumer interest in Texas products remains high, said David DeBerry, director of category management at Crescent Fruit & Vegetable LLC in Edinburg, Texas.
“As always, there is significant interest in the Texas-grown onions, especially the 1015 sweets, but really all the SKUs (stock-keeping units) are well-received,” he said.