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SV Farmers’ Market promotes new state initiative

SPRING VALLEY – Earlier this year, Gov. Pat Quinn launched a “Where Fresh Is” campaign to better promote the purchase of Illinois-produced fruits and vegetables.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture specialty crops grant has funded the campaign, allowing 200 Illinois grocery stores and 100 farmers’ markets in the state to receive a starter pack of materials that includes a banner and product stickers with the “Where Fresh Is” logo.

The Spring Valley Farmers’ Market is the only place in Bureau County where residents can see this campaign being advertised.

Debb Ladgenski, Spring Valley economic development director, said promoting the campaign has been a positive initiative, because the logo and signage used at the market, on the website and in her emails helps draw awareness to the market and local vendors.

“I think that attendees notice the sign and stickers, which highlight ‘Illinois Where Fresh Is,’ and they understand the natural benefits of eating these foods,” she said.

Ladgenski said although the signs and stickers are raising awareness, she doesn’t think the farmers’ market attendees fully realize they’re helping the local economy through their support of the market.

“We have a great group of participating people, and I’d like more Spring Valley residents, local employers and employees and neighboring community members to take advantage of the healthy and delicious offerings available here,” she said.

The new logo features an assortment of fruits and vegetables grown in the state with an eye-catching yellow background and the “Where Fresh Is” slogan on a red ribbon beneath the word “Illinois.”

The campaign is also promoted though television, radio and billboard advertising. The state’s specialty crops each month have been highlighted: In June it was strawberries and blueberries; this month it’s watermelon and peaches; and later this month and into August sweet corn will be highlighted.

As part of the campaign, the governor encourages residents to take the “Buy Illinois Challenge” and pledge to spend $10 of their existing grocery bill per week on Illinois products. According to an Illinois Department of Agriculture press release, this would help generate more than $2 billion in new economic activity every year, create thousands of jobs in the farming and food industries and revitalize both rural and urban communities.

Ladgenski said this challenge is very similar to the “Buy USA” campaign. The campaign makes it easy for people to identify where goods are produced by reading labels in clothing or the information on the packaging and keeps dollars in the county.

“But I don’t think people are as knowledgeable about where their produce comes from,” she said. “If they thought of the ‘Where Fresh Is’ logo as much as the ‘Buy USA,’ then it could help generate economic activity.”

Ladgenski said while a lot of residents see a lot of corn and beans growing throughout the county, they don’t think about all the other types of produce grown within the state.

“If more communities utilized the ‘Illinois Where Fresh Is’ marketing program, then I think it would become familiar and comfortable for people to look for when shopping at local farmers’ markets and in grocery stores, and even at restaurants who serve dishes prepared with locally grown foods.”

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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