Special to The News-Press, May 30, 2020
Southwest Florida is home to a wide range of agricultural commodities, and our farmers are producing some of the freshest fruits, vegetables and seafood you can find. That’s good news for our residents and visitors, many who seek out locally grown food.
To meet those desires, UF/IFAS Extension Collier County is working with the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council to launch a new marketing campaign to urge consumers to buy and eat food grown in the region.
The idea for the campaign goes back to damage caused by Hurricane Irma, but the coronavirus pandemic moved up the timeline for the marketing in a hurry.
“SWFL Fresh: Choose Local, Choose Fresh,” as the campaign is called, was developed by UF/IFAS Extension and the SWFL Regional Planning Council. Partners along the way included Priority Marketing, the Florida Gulf Coast University Agribusiness Center and EatLocaLee. Most importantly, area farmers and local consumers guided the brand development.
Right now, we are helping farms create their public profiles on the website and applying for funding for a marketing campaign.
The idea for “SWFL Fresh” came after the devastation brought to regional farms by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017. Following the shocking loss of crops and equipment, governments in Southwest Florida decided something must be done to protect family farms and community providers that would help our producers be more resilient.
To help get farmers back on their feet after Irma, UF/IFAS Extension agents collaborated with producers and industry experts to assess the state of small to mid-size farmers to determine what actions, public or private, might result in increased profitability for farms in the region.
Farmers of the 21st century understand the necessity of marketing and branding and suggested a brand for the region that could help them stay on their feet financially. The SWFL Fresh campaign came as a result of the assessment.
The ultimate goal of this brand is to encourage Southwest Florida residents and visitors to choose food and beverages that come from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota counties.
Our vision is to help address some of the distribution challenges that many growers face getting their products to consumers and support other regional agricultural food businesses that are so important to our local economy.
The results of that collaborative work can be found at www.swflfresh.com
(Jessica Ryals is the sustainable food systems agent for UF/IFAS Extension Collier County. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. ifas.ufl.edu | @UF_IFAS
By Jessica Ryals, UF/IFAS Extension Collier County