Editor's Note: This is the Field Notes column, written by editor Vicky Boyd and published in the November-December 2012 issue of Citrus + Vegetable Magazine.
One of the first things that Adam Putnam did after being elected agriculture commissioner was change the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service’s website and every employees’ email address to end in freshfromflorida.com.
It may have looked like a cosmetic change. But the move represented a philosophical shift toward embracing and celebrating the state’s agriculture and seafood production.
The Fresh from Florida campaign has been around for years, but the ag department began revamping it once Putnam took office nearly two years ago, Shannon Shepp, deputy agriculture commissioner told attendees of the recent Florida Ag Expo near Wimauma.
For the first time, the department will spend $3.2 million on television advertising this year in five of the state’s major metropolitan areas to promote Florida agriculture.
It also plans a magazine campaign, Shepp says.
The campaign meshes well with results of a recent survey by the University of Florida’s Public Issues Education Center.
The center conducted 10 consumer focus groups around the state last summer to determine their buying habits and their views on local produce, says Tracy Irani, center director.
Based on the focus groups, she says consumers typically consider local to be products grown or harvested in their immediate county, neighboring counties or within 100 miles of their homes.
If the products aren’t produced within that region, then they’d opt for ones grown in Florida.
If a commodity, such as apples, just isn’t grown in the state, then they preferred those grown in the United States.
The PIE study reinforces the department’s efforts.
For just $50 per year, Florida growers, packers, shippers and even retailers can display or affix the Fresh from Florida logo on their packaging, shelves, point-of-sale material and even websites, Shepp says.
You’re already seeing the logo in many of the state’s retailers.
Walk into the produce department in the Brandon Walmart Supercenter, and a large point-of-sale display greets you. On one side is a picture of Duda Farms of Belle Glade, on the other the DiMare family in a Hillsborough County tomato field.
Stroll through the produce aisle in a Publix store, and shelf talkers—cards attached to shelves—point out orange juice that’s Fresh from Florida.
Elsewhere in the produce department, placards feature pictures of growers and a short story about them. In a Naples Publix, for example, a sign above Tasti-Lee tomatoes introduces you to Red Diamond Farms and Juan Lopez and Javier Tores, who grew the fruit.
Not only are these efforts helping consumers identify Florida products, but they’re also personalizing the people behind the state’s food production.
As the months go by, let’s hope Putnam’s department can maintain the momentum and keep it fresh.