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UF/IFAS Extension helps develop campaign to connect Southwest Florida consumers, growers

NAPLES, Fla. – Southwest Florida’s farmers want you to eat their produce, and many consumers crave locally grown food. To meet those desires, a UF/IFAS Extension agent is helping launch a new marketing campaign to urge consumers to buy and eat food grown in the region.

And although the idea for the campaign goes back to damage caused by Hurricane Irma, the coronavirus pandemic moved up the timeline for the marketing “really quickly,” said Jessica Ryals the sustainable food systems agent with UF/IFAS Extension Collier County. “It just feels like the time is now.”

“SWFL Fresh brand,” as the campaign is called, was developed by UF/IFAS Extension and others, including area farmers and the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council.

“Right now, we are in the process of getting farms to create their public profiles on the website and applying for funding for a marketing campaign” said Ryals, who is educating consumers about local food production and connecting local farmers with resources to access that demand for local foods.

A team that includes Ryals is designing and implementing the campaign to encourage Southwest Florida residents and visitors to choose food and beverages that come from Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee and Sarasota counties.

The idea for “SWFL Fresh” came after the devastation brought to regional farms by Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017, Ryals said.

“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 eventually make these growers and the local economy more resilient,” she said.

With small and mid-sized farmers struggling after Irma, Ryals worked with the regional planning council and farmers to make sure growers could recover from the hurricane and stay on their feet financially.

To help get farmers back on their feet after Irma, Ryals and worked with her collaborators 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. The SWFL Fresh campaign came as a result of the assessment.

The results of that collaborative work can be found here.

“The ultimate goal is also to address to distribution challenges that many small growers face getting their products to consumers.”

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By: Brad Buck, 813-757-2224 (office); (352-875-2641 (cell); bradbuck@ufl.edu

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

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