MONTGOMERY, Ala.- Shoppers who want to buy local will soon have a new way to identify products raised in the state, thanks to a new marketing effort called “Sweet Grown Alabama.”
“As I travel across the state, most of the questions I receive from consumers are about their food and where it comes from,” said Commissioner Rick Pate of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. “We want residents of Alabama to walk into a grocery store or farmers market and easily identify products grown in Alabama. The Sweet Grown Alabama brand logo will allow them to do so and ensure the product they purchase is grown to the highest standards of quality and food safety.”
This new initiative’s mission is to enhance marketing opportunities for the state’s farmers. The initiative will connect retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products. Farmers and value-added product makers can join the program and brand their Alabama-grown products with the logo. Also, an online, searchable directory will list member farms and products.
“We are proud to be part of this effort to provide additional marketing opportunities for Alabama farmers,” said Jimmy Parnell, Alabama Farmers Federation president. “Our goal is to increase demand for Alabama-grown products and, ultimately, improve sales and profitability for farm families. Alabama is among America’s most agriculturally diverse states, and Sweet Grown Alabama gives us a chance to showcase the quality and variety of our products.”
Gary Lemme, director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, shares Pate’s and Parnell’s enthusiasm for the Sweet Alabama Grown initiative.
“Purchasing locally grown products strengthens the economy and quality of life in Alabama communities,” Lemme said. “The initiative will make it easier for the people Extension is educating in the importance of increased fruit and vegetable consumption to locate and buy them.”
Program membership is available in three categories, and dues are based on the farm or company’s annual sales.
- Member. For farmers and makers of value-added products with at least 50 percent of ingredients grown in Alabama.
- Associate. For associations, institutions, retailers, restaurants, businesses, farmers markets and others who support the mission but do not have a product to brand themselves.
- Supporter. For those committed to the Sweet Grown Alabama mission with a desire to improve the state’s agricultural industry and overall economy and who contribute a minimum of $5,000 annually.
Beneficial to the Entire State
“By strengthening agriculture, Sweet Grown Alabama will benefit the entire state,” said Horace Horn, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s Vice President of External Affairs. “Agriculture already contributes $70 billion to Alabama’s economy and accounts for more than 500,000 jobs. Sweet Grown Alabama will enhance economic development in rural communities by giving farmers and associated businesses additional resources for marketing.”
Kevin Burkett, a member of the Alabama Extension agribusiness management team, said there is growing interest and excitement about the Sweet Grown Alabama effort.
“Programs that can help Alabama farmers be financially successful are always a good thing,” Burkett said. “We expect it will benefit everyone involved.”
He said that Alabama Extension programs and research can contribute to this initiative.
“We all have a similar goal in supporting and highlighting Alabama agriculture,” Burkett said. “This program is another strong step in supporting farmers and their marketing efforts.”
Sweet Grown Alabama is a non-profit foundation, in which a board of directors, working with an advisory group, governs.