Sweet Grown Alabama makes extra effort for farmers during COVID-19 crisis

Sweet Grown Alabama makes extra effort for farmers during COVID-19 crisis
(Boozer Farms produce, Sweet Grown Alabama)

Spring has sprung, and Alabama farms are in full swing bringing fresh produce, meat, dairy and other homemade products to market. And now, Sweet Grown Alabama, is making it easier than ever to have access these locally grown goods.

(Sweet Grown Alabama logo)

“Started in 2019, Sweet Grown Alabama is a public relations and advertising program that touches every aspect of the supply chain and creates a unified brand for the state’s agriculture and forestry industries,” said Ellie Watson, Sweet Grown Alabama director.

“It was founded in partnership with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, the Alabama Farmers Federation and other industry groups to identify and brand local products with a logo that guarantees to consumers the product they are purchasing was grown in Alabama,” Watson said.

The goal of the membership-based organization is increase marketing opportunities for farms and businesses that extensively utilize Alabama goods. With over 40,000 farms in Alabama, 97% which are family-owned, Sweet Grown Alabama hopes that by increasing awareness and access, Alabama farm families will see greater profits, and the state will be recognized for its agricultural diversity.

“Sweet Grown Alabama membership applications opened in September, and there are already over 100 farmer members,” Watson said.

To be eligible to join, one either has to produce Alabama-grown products or value-added products, like jellies, sauces and candy, that use at least 50% of ingredients grown in Alabama or be an associate, like a retailer, restaurant or business that supports the mission and economic benefit of the branding program.

Soon, the public will be able to search for and identify these member farmers and associates’ products through the “Sweet Grown Alabama” online searchable database. But for now, shoppers can find and shop farms directly through the Sweet Grown Alabama regularly updated COVID-19 product list.

According to Gov. Kay Ivey, farmers markets and farm stands have been deemed essential services during the pandemic, and Sweet Grown Alabama farms are “adapting to meet local food needs using social distancing techniques, accepting pre-orders, adopting market or farm drive-thrus, and other creative solutions to continue providing fresh, high-quality products,” Watson said.

Sweet Grown Alabama board members Horace Horn, Rick Pate and Jimmy Parnell proudly show off some of Alabama’s finest home-grown products. (Sweet Grown Alabama)

“For example, I recently visited Lone Oak Farm, in Notasulga, to U-pick strawberries,” Watson said. “They have a numbered row system and are only allowing a certain number of visitors on the farm. … They are keeping these folks well over six feet apart by using this creative solution.”

Sweet Grown Alabama is off to a robust start, with plans to develop statewide consumer advertising campaigns, e-newsletters, farm-to-table dinners, chef partnerships and more.

“By strengthening agriculture, Sweet Grown Alabama will benefit the entire state,” said Horace Horn, PowerSouth Energy Cooperative’s vice president of External Affairs, in a news release announcing the program.

“Agriculture already contributes $70 billion to Alabama’s economy and accounts for more than 500,000 jobs,” Horn said.  “Sweet Grown Alabama will enhance economic development in rural communities by giving farmers and associated businesses additional resources for marketing.”

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