The Smithfield-based North Carolina SweetPotato Commission is one of six sponsors of the new Ag Tour Bus, a promotional vehicle on wheels created by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The bus is a recreational vehicle with a giant TV affixed to its side, Sue Johnson-Langdon, executive director of the commission, said.

Two thirty-second spots highlighting North Carolina sweet potatoes will rotate with videos from the other five sponsors.

The RV will be staffed by department employees.

The bus will park in grocery store parking lots and at sporting events, fairs and other activities, Johnson-Langdon said.

The commission will either set up a tent next to it to conduct cooking demos and other activities, or the Department of Agriculture will provide those services from the RV.

“We really think it will be a wonderful promotional tool,” she said.

The bus will make its debut at the North Carolina State Fair in mid-October.

For the second year in a row, the commission will conduct promotions at college campus dining halls across the country, Johnson-Langdon said.

Campus foodservice programs that source North Carolina sweet potatoes receive table tents, leaflets and other materials highlighting the nutritional and other benefits of Tar Heel product, Johnson-Langdon said.

Penn State University, the University of Massachusetts, North Carolina State University and Smith College were among the participants last year, she said.

Sweet potato bowling, in which a yam served as the ball, and sweet potato hockey, when one did duty as a puck, were among the creative uses colleges found for the program last year, Johnson-Langdon said.

Online outreach

The commission continues to expand its social media presence via Facebook, Twitter and other channels, Johnson-Langdon said.

Sweet potatoes’ nutritional content is central to those efforts.

“We’re concentrating on healthy eating, how sweet potatoes are used in weight loss plans,” she said.

The commission also is contacting people who blog about diabetes, Johnson-Langdon said.

The specific health message to get across there is that people digest sweet potatoes slower than other foods, avoiding spikes in blood sugar, she said.

In addition to communicating with bloggers, commission members will attend an upcoming conference for diabetes educators, Johnson-Langdon said.