Learn more at www.picktnproducts.org.
CLEVELAND, Tenn. - This summer is the 25th anniversary of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture's "Pick Tennessee" marketing slogan.
The phrase, seen on banners and stickers across the region wherever local produce is on sale, is a reminder to support local growers and eat well, too.
To celebrate the anniversary, the state agriculture department's marketers are touring some farmers markets. Last week they were in Athens, Tenn., where a new downtown market is now open.
The Athens market was approved through the Tennessee Agricultural Enhancement Program's Farmers Market Capital Development Grant to receive cost-share funding in the amount of $100,000. That money is for an open-air, covered pavilion. Athens also has received another grant for $2,500 for signs and a community tree planting grant for $9,661.
Twenty-five years ago the marketing division was new and looking for a way to "brand" Tennessee products, said spokeswoman Casey Mahoney.
"We've seen changes throughout the years, but the goal of Pick Tennessee Products remained steady - bring consumers closer to their food producers while supporting jobs and entrepreneurship both on our farms and in our urban food centers," she said.
Through a website, www.picktnproducts.org, the program promotes more than 1,500 farmers and farm-direct businesses. The website averages 20,000 visits per month.
Farmers markets are a success, Mahoney said, because a growing number of people want a direct connection to their food sources - someone they can meet and ask questions.
Restaurants and retail stores also are making an effort to feature local produce, Mahoney said.
The Five Points Market in downtown Cleveland, organized by MainStreet Cleveland, and the Peerless Road market, overseen by the Bradley County UT Agriculture Extension Service, are benefiting from the slogan in the middle of the summer growing season.
The Five Points Market at First Street Square got a state grant of just less than $2,500 to help advertise the market, said MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr.
"We were able to do a nine-week advertising campaign to let more people know we are here," she said.
The Five Points Market, now in its third season, is attracting more growers, Marr said. The market is open from 4 to 7 p.m. each Thursday.
"People are becoming more aware of where products come from. And, they want to help support the local economy," Marr said.
"This summer three restaurants, that I am aware of, have been shopping here for ingredients for their menus," Marr said.
At the Peerless Road market, a big "Pick Tennessee Products" banner will be on display soon.
"We tell people we only allow local produce from this region," said Agriculture Extension Agent Kim Frady. "The Pick Tennessee sign reassures people that we are doing just that."
Three times a week - Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - during the growing season, growers and backyard gardeners from Bradley and surrounding counties get to the Peerless Road site early to be ready for the hundreds of customers.