Heart of Virginia Buy Fresh Buy Local Celebrates

   Written by on March 27, 2014 at 10:23 am

Recently, more than sixty-five people braved the cold weather to pack the auditorium at the Workforce Development Center on the Southside Virginia Community College to celebrate The Heart of Virginia Chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local as the organization presented its Annual Meeting.

The meeting showcased farms that produce and businesses that use local farm-based products from the following eleven counties: Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Cumberland, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, and Prince Edward. The Heart of Virginia Buy Fresh Buy Local is a “local” chapter of a national Buy Fresh Buy Local program, an initiative of a non-profit organization. Our local chapter is one of many community-based organizations across the U.S. building connections between local food suppliers and restaurants, institutions, and retailers.

The Buy Fresh Buy Local marketing campaign has been connecting consumers to sources of fresh, local food from growers they can know and trust, giving members a nationally recognized, brand name identity for locally grown food as a way of differentiating local products from the mainstream. Chairman Alecia Daves-Johnson was pleased to announce that the Heart of Virginia organization has distributed 8,000 Food Guides since its formation in January 2012 to promote more than 100 members.

Other accomplishments include attracting support from sponsors. Operating support has been provided by an Agribusiness grant from the Tobacco Indemnification & Community Revitalization Commission and a Marketing Grant from the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture’s Division of Marketing and Development. Area sponsors such as Farm Bureau offices in Charlotte County, Nottoway County, Prince Edward, and Buckingham County, the Farmville Area Farmers’ Market Association, Bank of Charlotte County, Benchmark Community Bank, Colonial Farm Credit, and Dragonfly Farm, LLC in Beaverdam, Va. have made it possible for participation in the organization to be at no cost for members.

By April 2013, nine farmers’ markets, five nurseries, five restaurants, one bank, and eighty farms, farmstands, and shops represented the membership. This was a huge success for a regional organization merely a year in existence.

The Annual Meeting provided members with an educational session centered around the theme of “Going to Market with Buy Fresh Buy Local” and presenting five venues where members can distribute their products. Leanne DuBois, with the Virginia Dept. of Agriculture & Consumer Services, presented the advantages of marketing through Farmers’ Markets. Molly Harris, founder of Lulu’s Local Food, gave an in-depth tour of building local markets using on-line marketing opportunities. Bob Jones, Charlotte County Cooperative Extension Agent, shared marketing tips and promoted the Southside Produce Auction as a wholesale outlet. Emily Wells, Manager at Virginia Food Works, LLC, described the season extension markets and encouraged producers to utilize the commercial kitchen at the Prince Edward Cannery. Scott Rogers, owner of the Horseshoe Restaurant in South Hill, described how using locally grown foods in his menu items creates a sense of place for his diners.

The meeting concluded with a “chat and chew” session where members networked while enjoying locally sourced refreshments provided through generous donations of local growers and shops. A special thanks to those who contributed other items and door prizes to make the evening a success.

Additional information about Buy Fresh, Buy Local in Virginia is available at www.buylocalvirginia.org or Facebook – Buy Fresh Buy Local Heart of Virginia.

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