State agriculture departments bolster local produce deals - The Packer

State agriculture departments bolster local produce deals

07/07/2014 01:59:00 PM
Melissa Shipman

Kentucky and Tennessee have strong support from the state for promoting local produce. Various programs are thriving in both regions.

Ben Shaffar, director of business development for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Office of Marketing, said the state’s Kentucky Proud program was re-evaluated when Commissioner James Comer took office in 2012.

“We cleaned up the system, and fact-checked all 4,500 members of the program, and found we had an active membership of 3,000, so it’s a stronger, leaner group than the previous administration had allowed,” he said.

Then, in 2013, the state launched its Homegrown by Heroes program to support sales of agricultural products from current and former members of the U.S. military.

This offshoot of the Kentucky Proud program soon grew to extend past the state’s borders.

Commissioner Comer’s goal was to have the program spread on a national level, and on Veteran’s Day, it was announced that Davis, Calif.-based Farmer Veteran Coalition will administer the program on a national level.

Shaffer said Tennessee is set to begin working with the brand in the upcoming weeks, but the goal is to have all 50 states participating by the end of 2015.

In addition, Kentucky also recently launched another local initiative, this time focusing specifically on the Appalachian region of the state.

The goal of the program is to promote economic growth and agricultural development in eastern Kentucky, Shaffer said.

“We’re looking to encourage and support more food production out of that region,” he said.

The program launched in February.

 

Tennessee

The Tennessee Department of Agriculture is also actively trying to support local produce.

Through a U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop project, the state developed an application to complement its Pick Tennessee program.

“Customers can now just search for( whatever) they’re looking for, whether it’s a tomato, a farmers market or a farm, and get GPS mapping to that place, plus links to any Web links and contact information,” said Cynthia Kent, creative director for market development.

Users can search by item, region, or season.

The app also provides customers with tips for storing and choosing fresh produce, as well as recipes from the Pick Tennessee website.

Current Pick Tennessee participates are already included in the app, and new growers can still apply.

“If a farm is listed on Pick Tennessee Products, that farm is automatically available on the new Pick Tennessee mobile app for GPS mapping,” commissioner Julius Johnson said in a news release.

The app is free to download from the Apple App Store or Google Play.



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