Fresher is always better—especially when it comes to food.
Albeit better, fresh food is often compromised with alternatives that tout convenience, more attractive pricing, or options that simply play upon a consumer’s lack of awareness regarding the availability of locally grown food.
It is because of this that Stanislaus Grown—a coalition of local agricultural producers, growers, and supporters—strives to link the community to local farm fresh foods through the establishment of a cohesive brand, as well as a marketing and educational campaign.
“The benefit of Stanislaus Grown is not just to the community, but to local farmers,” said East Stanislaus Resource Conservation technician and Stanislaus Grown program manager Trina Walley. “Our underlying mission is to promote local agricultural products and the heritage of Stanislaus County.”
As a program under the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, Stanislaus Grown was created last year through the United States Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Promotion Program grant, which was awarded in 2012.
“We wanted to do something to bolster the economic feasibility for farmers on a lot of the small and medium sized farms,” said Walley. “We really wanted to increase consumer awareness of locally grown crops.”
According to Walley, Stanislaus Grown achieves this by attending local events, including the Stanislaus County Fair and various farmers' markets.
The program has also played a role in developing the Local Food & Farm Guide, where buyers can learn more about the benefits of buying local, find out more information about farmers' markets in their area, and browse through a detailed directory of local producers.
“We’re making consumers aware of all the benefits of buying local,” said Walley. “With this guide, people can refer to a written publication to help connect with local produce.”
Despite the fact that grant funding for Stanislaus Grown will expired in March, Walley assures that the program will live on through ESRCD for 2015 by continuing to promote and support the local agriculture industry in a number of ways.
“We want to continue facilitating opportunities for local farmers or producers at farmers' markets or retail settings to help sell their product to the consumer,” said Walley.
The program has grown through partnerships, such as its recent collaboration with Ag Link. Through this collaboration, Stanislaus Grown has effectively increased access to its Local Food & Farm Guide, as consumers are able to locate the guide through Ag Link CONNECT, the organization’s website and iPhone app.
Stanislaus Grown is also working with Stanislaus Business Alliance regarding downtown Modesto’s incentive program to bring in more businesses, especially local agricultural companies, to fill the many vacant storefronts.
“As part of that, we’re working on forming a cluster or grouping of like businesses along 10th Street that relate to Stanislaus Grown or Modesto-made products,” said Walley. “One that has already opened downtown is Rodin Ranch. Through their store, they sell their locally grown dried fruits and nuts and gift baskets.
“Our goal is to fill up more vacant store fronts on 10th Street with those types of businesses to create a locally grown corridor in order to create more farm-to-market connections for local growers,” continued Walley.
The program is also helping serve fresh, locally grown produce to area schools by participating in the local farm to school network with Ag Link, the University of California Cooperative Extension, and Stanislaus County Health agency.
“This is another way that we’re trying to connect the farm to marketing opportunities,” said Walley. “Our participation in the incentive program with downtown Modesto is an example of connecting farmers to retail opportunities, while our farm to school connection is providing farmers with opportunities in the local school market.”
For more information on Stanislaus Grown, visitstanislausgrown.org