ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Buy California program has been around for nearly 20 years in one form or another to promote crops grown in the state.
“We’ve been through a real transition period,” said Watte, who also is executive director of the Stockton-based California Asparagus Commission. But we’ve picked up membership and reinvented it, making Buy California more relevant to the industry. It’s on the right track, and my goal is to keep it on the right track because we have really good momentum.”
Funded in part by a federal funds from the Specialty Crop Block Grant through the California Department of Food and Agriculture this year, CA Grown partnered with Visit CA, the state tourism department, to promote California as a food and beverage destination. CA Grown just received another grant to help fund 2015 efforts, she said.
A big part of the program involves a partnership with Food and Wine magazine and six advertorials that presented many of the state’s specialty crops in a gourmet light.
“They were the bomb,” Watte said. “hey were a smashing success and were very well produced.”
An accompanying video and digital campaign was conducted through social media outlets.
Throughout the year, CA Grown also conducts contests sometimes at the spur of the moment on social media to build enthusiasm and interest.
In addition, the program is giving back through a social media campaign that links participation to California food bank system donations.
For every picture with the hashtag #CAGrown that’s posted on social media, members will donate a pound of food. The contributions, which Watte said she hopes will top 1 million pounds, will be distributed during the holidays.
“It’s a way of giving back and promoting a lifestyle and helping facilitate that lifestyle for everybody in California,she said.
When Buy California was first discussed nearly two decades ago, some growers expressed concern about having one entity represent the state’s more than 230 diverse commodities.
But Watte said with the advent of social media, messages can be effectively and economically tailored to different audiences and involve different commodities.
The CA Grown program is voluntary and members include several commodity groups, nursery and cut flower growers, and even more general grower associations such as the California Farm Bureau. Most recently, California Certified Organic Farmers joined.