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Programs connect consumers to locally grown products

New York state government is sending a strong message to consumers in the Empire State, encouraging them to take advantage of the Empire State’s rich agricultural heritage and bounty. The message: buy local.

Launched in 1996, the Pride of New York program has branded New York agricultural commodities by providing instant recognition for products grown and consumed in New York. “Be part of the Pride. Look for products displaying the ‘Pride of New York’ logo when you shop and support your neighbors — BuyLocal2Farmers’ markets provide consumers with community-based opportunities to purchase fresh produce grown in New York. Seen here is the Union Square Farmers’ Market. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)the generations of family farms and food processors who have made New York state one of America’s leading suppliers of food and agricultural products,” the Pride website states.

Last year, approximately 2,800 members participated in the Pride of New York program. Participants include farmers, food processors, vineyards and wineries, retailers, foodservice organizations, wholesalers and distributors, agri-tourism destinations, culinary arts programs and related trade associations.

Restaurants have actively embraced the program and continually promote locally grown products on their menus and in advertisements. A rich heritage of ethnic diversity and culture has earned New York the solid reputation as one of the most “foodie” locations in the nation.

On May 21, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that consumers can easily locate a wealth of information about local businesses using New York-produced commodities by visiting www.Open.Ny.Gov. The comprehensive open data portal was launched this past March and continues to be updated.

“With summer right around the corner, I encourage New Yorkers to pick up fresh produce at a local farmers’ market, raise their glasses at a local brewery, or visit a neighborhood vineyard, and support our state’s growing agriculture, tourism and beverage industries,” Cuomo said. “The state now offers a wide breadth of information on open.ny.gov on local farmers’ markets, wineries, breweries and distilleries, helping New Yorkers, tourism officials and local governments to bring new customers to our state’s small businesses.”

Several interactive maps — including links to New York’s farmers’ markets as well as all retail stores licensed by the New York Department of Agriculture & Markets — are available at the website.

In March, the governor also announced that $285,000 was made available for the third year of the “FreshConnect” program, which brings fresh food from New York farms to underserved communities in the Empire State. The purpose of the program is to increase the sale of locally grown food products, improve nutrition and promote economic development. The program fosters development of new farmers’ markets and supports existing markets located within communities in need.

“The FreshConnect program has been a real success in promoting healthy living while supporting the state’s vibrant agricultural industry,” Cuomo said. “This year, the program will provide even more avenues for low-income New Yorkers to purchase affordable, healthy and locally grown food. We are also continuing to support more marketplaces where local farmers can sell their goods and expand their operations. Through this program, more New Yorkers can eat healthy, and New York farmers can sell more products. That is what FreshConnect is all about.”