Georgia Grown is Blooming in Georgia

Gary W. Black, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Agriculture

March 7, 2012

Since I joined the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) in January of 2011, the past year has been a whirlwind of new activities. Despite the office I have in our Atlanta headquarters building, I have spent the majority of my first year as your Agriculture Commissioner traveling across our great state – meeting with farmers, processors, agribusinesses and consumers to hear from you and share news about agriculture, Georgia’s No. 1 industry, which has a $68.9 billion output impact annually on our state’s economy.

One of our new programs that I am most excited about sharing with you is our revitalized Georgia Grown campaign. Complete with a redesigned logo that is more user-friendly and easily identifiable, the new corresponding website www.GeorgiaGrown.com also launched at the start of this year.

The Georgia Grown program provides a powerful new branding tool as well as education, marketing and business connections to expand agribusinesses and the agricultural industry throughout Georgia. It is an economic development vehicle for those of you looking for local business resources, bringing farmers and processors, retailers and consumers together in one place. Whether you are a consumer looking to take your family out for a day of pick-your-own strawberries or a small artisan looking to grow your business, whether you are a niche farmer wanting to find a new place to sell products or a corporation looking to increase trade opportunities and add jobs -- Georgia Grown is the channel you can use to find what you need.

As it continues to grow in the coming months, the benefits of the program will be wide reaching; Georgia Grown offers all of us a better understanding of agriculture, its impact on everyday life and the opportunities it affords in terms of future employment and investment to businesses and the public.

To all Georgians with a vested interest in agriculture, I encourage you to learn as much as you can about Georgia Grown, look into becoming a member and definitely share your feedback with us as this initial year of the program unfolds. Anyone interested in having a listing on the program’s searchable database can post business information for free. Additionally, Georgia Grown subscription memberships offer specific benefits to help your business grow and reach the next level of success. These benefits include professionally designed Georgia Grown marketing tools and templates, economic development help for businesses looking to become regional (or even international) suppliers and more.

Spinning off of the new Georgia Grown campaign, our Nutrition Specialist and Outreach Coordinator Melanie Hollingsworth will celebrate one year with the GDA in May. This position brought about a renovated and expanded test kitchen at our headquarters building, which is designed to be an educational tool to promote the use of Georgia Grown products; as a media outlet to test and promote consumer recipes and to aid in food preparation training for farm-to-school efforts, and will be a collaborative tool to promote a healthier Georgia through nutritional education. The GDA is in the process of establishing partnerships through the use of the kitchen, which will benefit all Georgians in the months to come.

On the topic of farm-to-school, our latest collaboration with the Georgia Department of Education will come to fruition in April and May with our inaugural “Feed My School for a Week” campaign. This brand new farm-to-school program increases awareness about the importance of proper nutrition and healthy eating, while teaching Georgia students more about where their food comes from. For this pilot program, Bleckley, Colquitt and Hall counties will each be represented by an elementary school in their district.

In the coming months, Georgia Grown will continue to bring fresh, exciting things to our state and I look forward to sharing our news with producers, retails and consumers. In the meantime, I once again encourage you to visit www.georgiagrown.com and have a look around. Get to know the Georgia Grown program and review the membership packages to see if one of them is right for your business.