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GROWN LOCAL campaign launched and gaining momentum

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Large yellow GROWN LOCAL Marin County signs are popping up at local farmers markets, calling to consumers on a mission to buy local food. These bright signs are part of a new united marketing campaign that helps consumers and community members clearly identify food producers who are working hard to grow and raise fresh, healthy food right here in Marin.  GROWN LOCAL producers sell at local farmers markets and throughout the county.  You can find a list of local producers and more information at www.buylocalmarin.org.

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The momentum for a united marketing campaign, inclusive of all Marin agricultural products, was the result of discussions among farmers and ranchers at the Marin Agricultural Summit in 2010. At the Summit more than 90 of Marin’s farmers, ranchers, and partners identified the opportunities for local agriculture’s continued success and the steps needed to realize them. One of these important action items was the creation of a campaign to promote Marin agricultural goods. After exploring multiple models from near and far, interviewing growers, and generous sponsorship by the Marin County Board of Supervisors, GROWN LOCAL Marin County was launched in January at the Agricultural Roundtable hosted by Supervisor Steve Kinsey.  

Many of Marin’s farmers and ranchers are eager to participate and the first applications came in immediately after launching.  "The GROWN LOCAL program is another valuable way to bring awareness to people in our community about where their food comes from.  Supporting locally grown food means supporting local farmers.  It means spending their food dollars here where it gets recycled directly back into our local economy.  We are happy to be a part of the GROWN LOCAL program," says Jerry Draper of Draper Farms.

Local farmers and ranchers also realize the benefit GROWN LOCAL could bring to their businesses. “A recognizable local Marin County label would be a valuable marketing asset,” insisted a local agricultural entrepreneur when asked about the program. “It seems as though people take for granted that vendors are local at the farmer's market.  Yet we know this is not the case…I believe the sign stands out and will help distinguish local sustainable agriculture for those customers that want to support a local economy,” commented rancher Guido Frosini of True Grass Farms.

GROWN LOCAL Marin is a pilot project sponsored by the Marin County Board of Supervisors and the Grown Local Committee, which includes representatives from Agricultural Institute of Marin, UCCE, Marin Organic, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Farm Bureau and County of Marin. Additional committee members include Marin producers Kevin Maloney (Fallon Hills Ranch), Julie Rossotti (Rossotti Ranch/Point Reyes Preserves), and Lynn Giacomini Stray (Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company).

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The GROWN LOCAL campaign is a win-win for farmers, consumers, and the local economy. Supporting GROWN LOCAL Marin producers helps keep farming families in business and our dollars in our own communities.  Buying locally-produced food is good for the body, for the earth, and for the local economy.  Because the food does not travel long distances to get to you, fewer fossil fuels are used in distribution and shipping when you buy local.  GROWN LOCAL Marin encourages community members to learn more about where food is grown, how it is grown, and who grows it, building important direct farmer to consumer relationships.  

Inspired by the Sonoma GO LOCAL Cooperative’s successful model, GROWN LOCAL Marin County has collaborated with the neighboring cooperative as part of the North Coast Regional Food System Network’s plans to expand the food related GO LOCAL branding campaign to Marin, Lake, Mendocino, and Napa counties.

Currently, over 10 Marin farmers and ranchers are participating and with hopes of adding as many as possible to the list so those bright yellow signs fill the aisles of local farmers markets. All producers in Marin are invited and encouraged to participate and apply now.

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At the end of this year-long GROWN LOCAL Marin pilot program, the project partners will conduct an assessment of the program and make recommendations for continuing it in the future. The committee hopes to partner with local retailers to follow Oliver’s Markets’ success promoting local products and businesses. Future plans also include the launch of the MADE LOCAL mark, including value-added products, meals, and drinks made with a majority of Marin-grown products, taking the campaign into retail markets, and hopefully restaurants.

Approximately 50 percent of the land in Marin is dedicated to agricultural production, and the GROWN LOCAL campaign, coupled with the potential MADE LOCAL Marin campaign, is one way to support farmers and ranchers to keep these working landscapes viable and agricultural businesses economically sustainable.

By Juliet Braslow