'BUY FRESH, BUY LOCAL' BEGINS SECOND SEASON
The sign that made taste buds tingle gathered a huge following its first year in the state, and producers are hoping Alabama's "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" campaign will harvest even more fans this year - translating into more profits for farmers.
"Buy Fresh, Buy Local" is a joint venture of the Alabama Farmers Market Authority and Alabama Farmers Federation and this year will cover the entire state.
The program's website, BuyLocalAlabama.com, has been a tremendous asset to the program, according to State Farmers Market Authority Administrator Don Wambles. It helps connect consumers with farmers markets and roadside stands in their area, he said.
"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."
Brian Hardin, director of the Alabama Farmers Federation's Horticulture Division, said "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" gave the state's fruit and vegetable industry a noticeable boost last year. He believes the trend will increase this year.
"Farmers were so excited to see a wonderful campaign that they could connect with," Hardin said. "Consumers loved it too. It reminds them of where their food comes from, and it gives them an opportunity, in many cases, to meet and talk with the person who actually grew the food they're buying."
Billboards promoting the "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" campaign already are up in Mobile and Baldwin counties. They will be in place in central and north Alabama by June 1. Additionally, a statewide radio campaign has been coordinated through the Alabama Farmers Federation's in-house advertising agency, Creative Consultants.
Hardin said last year's campaign was a big success, and he expects the program to be even more popular this year. The interest in farmers markets is growing, according to Wambles. In addition to a more nutritious product, the best thing about fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables is the taste.
Henry Williams of Thorsby agrees. He grows strawberries, peaches and sod on his farm in Chilton County.
"The biggest difference between what you buy from me and what you might buy at a grocery story is fresh taste," he said. "Fruits and vegetables in a grocery store or other outlets have to be picked while they're still green just to make the journey from the farm - sometimes across the country.
"You just can't get any better than fresh," Williams added, "and the only way to really get fresh - other than grow it yourself - is to buy it from a local farmer."
Visit the Buy Fresh, Buy Local website at BuyLocalAlabama.com