Farm Markets and Growers Encouraged To Use Free Resource To Get Connected

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Getting local produce to market goes hi-tech for the internet-savvy. New website offers free resources to growers and fresh farm markets, as well as a way to connect with consumers.

Health experts now tell us we need at least nine servings of fresh vegetables and fruits daily, so making fresh produce available to consumers is important…but even more important is the quality of that produce. Today’s consumers are more health-conscious than ever, and picky about the produce they choose. Locally-grown is best, but where do you find it? And who has time to look?

The Mid-Atlantic Consortium, a group of educational institutions, businesses, and community and government organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region created a colorful new website to help solve that problem, and are offering free signups to fresh farm markets and growers to get the word out about their product. The new website, http://www.agri-culturehealth.com, was launched earlier this year, and the push is on to get farm markets and growers to list their products before the fresh produce season starts.     “We created a user-driven website with a database of farm markets that can be accessed by market name, county or crop,” says project director Carl German of the University of Delaware’s Department of Food & Resource Economics. German administers the incoming applications for farm market and grower signups and notes that the site was designed to offer more than just free advertising.

“It’s more than just a list for consumers,” he notes. “The website is a powerful tool for markets and growers. We designed it with in-depth information on planning farm markets, links to food safety and health resources, daily and weekly market and crop reports and wholesale auction information.”

The website is being advertised at farm fairs and local agriculture events throughout the Delmarva Peninsula, and the goal is to get as many farm markets and growers as possible to populate the database.

“The more people sign up to use the system,” predicts German, “the more popular it will become. We provided a platform for local growers and fresh markets to connect with each other and with consumers, and we’re getting the word out any way we can to give them an opportunity to take part.”

Markets and growers with a little internet savvy are seeing the value of this new opportunity to connect with consumers and each other.

“This should be a tremendous tool for people to use to find fresh produce in season,” said Mary Fifer Fennemore of Fifer Orchards, Inc. in Wyoming, Delaware, who listed her business recently. She hopes that the flexibility of the database will increase the orchard’s “pick-your-own” trade and traffic into their country store as well.

Farm markets sometimes struggle with traditional ways to get consumers to shop with them. Huge grocery chains, and even Wal-Mart are getting into the fresh food act, but health-conscious Americans are becoming more reluctant to rely on foreign food imports, and are looking for ways to find healthy alternatives to heavily processed foods. The Mid-Atlantic Consortium hopes local markets and growers will capitalize on those interests by becoming more visible to today’s tech-savvy consumer. They want information fast, and they go to the internet to get it.

“Through the cooperation of many people in the industry, we’ve put together a website that helps everyone find what they need—whether they’re a seasoned grower, someone planning a new farm market, or consumers who want a healthier lifestyle,” said German. “We want to call all growers and farm markets to jump onboard and kick-start this program. The ultimate goal is to promote a healthier population with more local produce choices.”

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Carl German

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