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August 20, 2004   Email to Friend 

Campaign Promotes Alabama Agriculture
Debra Davis

New signs popping up at farmers markets throughout the state will guarantee Alabama consumers are getting the freshest fruits and vegetables possible, while they help Alabama farmers. Buy Fresh, Buy Local is a new public awareness campaign sponsored by the Alabama Farmers Market Authority and the Alabama Farmers Federation.

"The campaign will educate consumers about the nutritional benefits they'll receive from buying fresh, locally grown produce, and they'll learn how their shopping habits benefit Alabama farmers," said Don Wambles, administrator of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority.

Jerry Newby, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said he's glad the state's largest farm organization is part of the campaign because when consumers buy directly from farmers, farmers receive more money for what they produce.

"Farmers markets are one of the best tools we have that allow consumers to make a direct connection with the person who actually grows the food they eat," Newby said. "Alabama is blessed with a good climate and soils that allow us to produce a variety of crops. Consumers can take advantage of this abundance by shopping at farmers markets."

The campaign was launched in mid-June at news conferences at major farmers markets throughout the state. Billboards, radio advertising and numerous news stories also we used to promote the new Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign.

"When we first began talking about the Buy Fresh, Buy Local program, I went to the Alabama Farmers Federation for help," Wambles said. "Since that organization was founded by farmers, for farmers, it was a logical choice to help launch this campaign. The Public Relations Department has been extremely helpful in promoting this campaign, which will benefit both farmers and consumers in our state."

Farms that participate in the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign through the Alabama Farmers Market Authority range in size from an acre to several hundred acres, Wambles said. But they all have one thing in common--they're owned by Alabama farmers.

"The typical farm that raises produce in Alabama is 1-2 acres," he said. "But you can raise a lot of produce on that size farm, often generating as much profit as bigger row crop operations. That's the beauty of a farmers market--there's an opportunity for any size farmer to be successful."

Increased concerns by consumers about food safety also have contributed to the popularity of farmers markets, Wambles said. Purchasing food grown by a farmer who lives near them guarantees consumers their food is fresh and safe, he said.

"A century ago, most Alabamians grew at least part of the food they ate," Wambles said. "That's not the case today, with most state residents working off-farm jobs. Most consumers purchase their fruits and vegetables from grocery stores, and an increasing amount of that food is grown in foreign countries. That could be one of the reasons that farmers markets are growing in popularity. In the past five years, the number of farmers markets in Alabama has quadrupled."

Consumers love to buy fresh food from a farmer, Wambles added. And farmers benefit from being able to diversify their farms and bring in additional income, he said.

The Buy Fresh, Buy Local signs will be displayed at the nearly 70 farmers markets certified by the Alabama Farmers Market Authority. The signs also will be displayed at certified roadside stands and U-pick operations.

For more information about the Buy Fresh, Buy Local campaign, or to locate a certified farmers market, roadside stand or U-pick operation near you, call Wambles at (334) 242-2618 or visit www.BuyLocalAlabama.com.


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