Officials promote ‘Sweet Grown Alabama’ branding for local products — ‘Safest way to shop during pandemic’
MONTGOMERY — Prominent officials from Alabama’s public and private sectors, including Governor Kay Ivey, joined together at the Capitol steps on Wednesday to publicize the new “Sweet Grown Alabama” brand that is meant to promote products grown and made in the Yellowhammer State.
The Sweet Grown Alabama website features a database of Alabama products and farms from across the state that consumers can use to see where they can buy local in their area.
“Everything that is grown in the state of Alabama can be found on our website,” said Ellie Watson, director of the Sweet Grown Alabama initiative.
Multiple officials stressed the lack of coronavirus risk in buying local.
“What’s a safer, healthier food than when you know it is just one other person who has ever touched your food?” Agriculture Commissioner Rick Pate asked rhetorically in regards to keeping farmers’ markets open during the pandemic.
“When you buy from a local farmer, you know exactly how your product has been grown, and exactly whose hands have been on that product,” added Watson, who also said buying local was the “safest way to shop during the pandemic.”
Ivey declared July 22, 2020, “Sweet Grown Alabama” day across the state on Wednesday, and visited several of the stalls set up as part of a pop-up farmers market in downtown Montgomery.
Ivey said one of the goals of the Sweet Grown Alabama brand was to “increase demand for Alabama grown goods.”
“Sweet Grown Alabama focuses on helping consumers identify and purchase locally grown products,” added the governor.
Ivey was joined by Pate, Watson, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Alabama Farmers Federation President Jimmy Parnell and PowerSouth Energy Cooperative Vice President Horace Horn for the event.
Pate, Horn and Parnell are all board members of Sweet Grown Alabama.
Sweet Grown Alabama is incorporated as a 501(c)6 business association that exists as an independent offshoot of the Alabama Department of Agriculture.
The founding sponsors of the program are the Alabama Dept. of Ag, ALFA Farmers, Alabama Farmers Co-op, Poarch Band of Creek Indians, Alabama Association of RC&D Councils, First South Farm Credit and Alabama Ag Credit.
Mayor Reed told the public that his wife was an enthusiastic supporter of local farmers markets.
“I can’t buy tomatoes out of the grocery store, I have to buy them from the farmers market or else I get in trouble,” he remarked.
Reed also said that locally grown products can help alleviate food deserts such as ones experienced in some parts of his city, by providing fresh food options from local producers.
Commissioner Pate commented that Alabama did not have any branding for products grown in the state when he was elected, and he was glad to have pushed along the effort to make that happen.
Parnell said Sweet Grown Alabama “has the potential to be much bigger than ever imagined by any of us.”
“There is a possibility of so many items that the consumers in this state consume … products that could be branded Sweet Grown Alabama,” added Parnell.
Yellowhammer News asked Commissioner Pate what he thought were some hidden gems among the many products grown and made across the state.
“You know honey has got to be it, the honey people are just everywhere,” replied Pate.
“I think people would be surprised at the depth of what we grow here,” added the commissioner, who also mentioned Alabama’s production of catfish, sweet potatoes, peaches, Slocumb tomatoes, Sand Mountain tomatoes, and the citrus trees in Baldwin County.
“That’s the whole thing about SweetGrownAlabama.org, you can go on there and search for all the different fruits and vegetables you’re looking for,” he concluded.