Consumer interest drives the quest for fresher foods
(from the January 18, 2012 issue of Farmer’s Pride)
It used to be referred to as “home-grown.” Locally cultivated produce now bears trendier labels that reflect a growing movement often designated “slow food” or “locavore.”
“Consumers are becoming far more concerned with the freshness and safety of their food and the proximity of its source. That’s the big reason for the attendance growth at this conference,” noted Bob Houtz, chair of the University of Kentucky’s horticulture department.
The 2012 Kentucky Fruit and Vegetable Conference and Trade Show was held January 4-6 in Lexington.
Blogger, food writer and gardener Joyce Pinson made the trek from her Pikeville home to meet more of her fellow foodies at the conference and to learn more to fuel her passion for locally-produced foods. It was Pinson’s first visit to the annual event, but probably not her last.
“I didn’t know what I was getting in to, but I really enjoyed it,” Pinson remarked. She was particularly impressed by the appearance of Kentucky’s newly-minted agriculture commissioner, James Comer. “I understand from some of the veterans that this was the first time a commissioner has been to the conference in a good while.”
Much of the conference concentrated on marketing and the tools available to smaller producers to “get the word out.” Anna Lucio marketing specialist and director of new media for the Kentucky Department of Agriculture conducted a workshop on “Marketing your business through Facebook and Twitter” which Pinson found especially useful. “Social media has been very important for me in helping me understand agriculture perspectives that are different than what I’m involved with.”
Pinson has an agriculture degree from the University of Kentucky, so she’s used to discussions of plant varieties, hardiness and yields. Where some presentations might benefit, however, would be in better understanding what the end-user, the consumer, is looking for in terms of taste and texture. “Producers selling at a farmer’s market want to know ‘if I’m going to grow this, what’s it going to taste like.’” Pinson said she’d like to see flavor profiles for different varieties. “Knowing how many bushels can be produced is great from a producer standpoint if we can make money at it, but if it tastes like cardboard, nobody’s going to buy it.”
Pinson also shared her appreciation for insights of samplings at farmers’ markets. “If you add a recipe card with your produce, it will bump your sales a little bit. Providing a sample as well as a recipe card yielded a marked increase in sales.”
The conference is a joint meeting of the Kentucky State Horticulture Society, the Kentucky Vegetable Growers Association, the Kentucky Farmers’ Market Association, the Organic Association of Kentucky, and the Kentucky Vineyard Society.
The University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service, Kentucky State University and the Kentucky Department of Agriculture jointly sponsor the conference.