PLANT CITY, Fla. — Fortified with new funding, Florida’s strawberry industry plans to market the upcoming season’s berries with increased consumer advertising.
Ted Campbell, the Dover-based association’s executive director, told growers the group plans to use $180,000 of a $286,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crop grant to fund billboard advertising in eight Northeastern cities including New York, Philadelphia and Boston.
“These are places we feel we can draw some consumer appeal for Florida fruit,” he said. “We need to define what Florida berries are and differentiate them from other berries.”
Doug OhlemeierChuck Hollenkamp (left), salesman for Wish Farms, Plant City, Fla., talks with Mark Sprouse, owner of Sprouse Farms in Plant City, at the trade show during the Aug. 13 in Plant City. The event brings Florida strawberry growers together to learn the latest on issues facing the industry.With growers competing against larger Mexican imports, that differentiation remains important to Andy McDonald, the association’s president and farming operations manager of Sweet Life Farms LLC.
“I think we’re in dire straits, that’s where our industry is going,” McDonald said. “Unless we stand together, we can go out of business.”
The association plans to invest the remainder of the funds in research, Campbell said.
Erica Field, farm to school training coordinator with the Tallahassee-based Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Division of Food, Nutrition and Wellness, discussed how the agency is working with school districts to include more fresh produce in their meals.
“There’s been no change in our kids’ menus for 30 years until 2010,” she said. “There also hasn’t been a push in schools to educate our foodservice directors about produce. If we can get the districts to collaborate, they can serve strawberries on Mondays and sweet corn on Tuesdays.”