New York ag department programs promote local produce, products

07/15/2011 11:21:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

Despite budget cuts and limited funding, the Empire State’s agricultural promotion agency keeps plugging the state’s fruit and vegetables.

The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, Albany, has considerably fewer dollars than in the past when it could run numerous advertisements on television, radio and billboards.

The program is realigning its resources to target campaigns that focus primarily on promoting local produce, said Tim Pezzolesi, the agency’s manager of marketing and promotion.

The agency is using a $45,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop funding grant to help promote New York grown produce by creating stickers wholesalers can affix to cartons so consumers, growers, retailers and distributors can more readily identify the state’s local produce, Pezzolesi said.

Part of the USDA funding has gone to Pride of New York cooperative funds for advertising local produce.

That program, which included matching state funding, was well-received, Pezzolesi said.

The agency uses another grant program to help retailers promote local foods, Pezzolesi said.

“With all the interest in buying local, we want to help them be able to help consumers identify which products are from New York,” he said.

“With all that local interest, just raising that consumer awareness at the point of purchase is something that’s very important.”

Pezzolesi said the program remains successful and it helps give retailers an extra boost of encouragement and financial assistance to draw attention to their local sections.

The program provides $5,000 per store, with $3,500 available to promote local produce, Pezzolesi said.

“A lot of times, consumers only think there are local products in the stores during the growing season,” said Jessica Ziehm, the agency’s director of communications.

“This program is important for those stores to do some cross-merchandising and point people to the dairy case or to some of the local salad dressings they can use on fresh greens and fresh vegetables.

“A lot of that cross-merchandising can really benefit a store by providing more visibility in different areas as well as throughout the entire calendar year,” she said.

The agency promotes local produce by working with supermarket chains such as Tops Markets LLC, Williamsville, N.Y.

To foster young peoples’ interest in local, the department has a Farm to College program.

At the Great New York State Fair, the Pride of New York Marketplace features New York-made foods.

Located near the fair’s main entrance, the operation, run by area youth, resembles a farmers market and serves as another venue to sell New York products, Pezzolesi said.

“A million people go through the gates, so this is an opportune time to educate them on the wide variety of products grown in the state,” he said.

Pezzolesi said the fair, scheduled for Aug. 25 to Sept. 5 in Syracuse, N.Y., has increased its emphasis on Pride of New York programs in recent years.



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