State Branding Promotions Support Local

State-based umbrella programs bolster brands and increase sales.

Originally printed in the May 2024 issue of Produce Business.

Launched in 1984, New Jersey’s advertising, promoting and quality grading program has become the benchmark for many other states’ branded promotional programs designed to help farmers and manufacturers inform consumers about their products. Today, nearly every state now has some type of similar program to highlight its products, stimulate demand, and consequently boost product sales.


Jersey Fresh began as a radio advertising campaign, but has used billboards, TV and print ads, social media, and a range of point-of-purchase materials as it evolved. New Jersey grows 100-plus different varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs. It ranks in the top 10 nationally for blueberries, peaches, bell peppers, squash, tomatoes and cranberries.

Although Jersey Fresh is well known, the program’s marketing emphasis is the Eastern Seaboard, from Richmond, VA, to Montreal, Quebec. Because the produce is grown in New Jersey, the proximity to local distribution allows harvest at the vine-ripened stage — at the peak of flavor and freshness.

Farmer participants are licensed and must adhere to the quality standards. Inspections and certifications ensure food safety and quality. The Jersey Fresh logo indicates the contents meet standards.

Although Jersey Fresh is well known, the program’s marketing emphasis is the Eastern Seaboard, from Richmond, VA, to Montreal, Quebec.

Surveys have found retailers have profited because consumers have been pleased with the quality and freshness of the produce and are willing to pay more for it. Each season, a diverse advertising campaign plan incorporates the displays, materials and an interactive website that shows the current availability of the produce items.

“Our amazing farmers continue to yield outstanding produce that is picked at the peak of freshness,” says New Jersey’s new Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Wengryn. “As the Jersey Fresh brand enters its 40th year, we are excited about the upcoming season of delicious fruits and vegetables being grown and harvested in the Garden State.”

The Made with Jersey Fresh logo is available to companies making food items using New Jersey products. The processor must also meet or exceed the inspected quality and grading standards and acquire the license.


The Certified South Carolina Grown marketing program is a cooperative effort among producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for branding and promoting South Carolina-grown and processed items.

The program started in 2007, and Communications Director Eva Moore notes, “it’s one of the older and more successful programs in the country.”

The program operates from funds from the legislature, plus state and local investments. It receives substantial support — partnerships involve producers, distributors and retailers who identify South Carolina-grown fruits and vegetables.

According to Chris Whitmire, director of the marketing department, “In 17 years, $35 million built the program.”

The Certified South Carolina Grown marketing program is a cooperative effort among producers, processors, wholesalers, retailers, restaurants, and the South Carolina Department of Agriculture for branding and promoting South Carolina-grown and processed items.

Based on surveys, 82% achieve brand recognition among in-state consumers.

The Department of Agriculture sponsors an annual South Carolina Trade Show in Columbia in March, which showcases its products. Participation in other trade shows includes the International Fresh Produce Association’s Global Produce and Floral Show, the New York Produce Show, the Southeast Produce Council Expo, plus several restaurant shows.

“The state offsets some of the participants’ expenses,” Whitmire says, “plus, it contributes to the pavilion at the shows.”

Influencers and social media call attention to the state’s vast produce array. These include “Southern greens” — collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens — and, as Whitmire points out, “South Carolina grows more peaches than Georgia.”

Moore adds strawberries are especially popular in retail markets, along with blueberries, tomatoes and yellow squash. Watermelon production accounts for the top acreage at 4,040 acres, cucumbers are next at 3,795, and Southern peas are produced on 3,617 acres.

All farms can apply to become licensed Certified SC Grown members. Whitmire says, “We have small, 5-acre farms to big producers in the program. We support and leverage each the same way.”

In addition, any business that promotes and sells Certified South Carolina Grown members’ products may apply as an associate member. Participating Retail Certified Associate members can receive free Certified SC branded materials to merchandise South Carolina products in grocery stores or other retail outlets.

Whitmire notices retailers enjoy talking about farm stories. “Retailers say customers like to connect on an emotional level with the growers.”

The website provides a directory of seasonal availability by product, and where to buy. Details regarding applying for farms and other data are listed as well.


The Pick Tennessee Products (PTP) program cites its program goals as “connecting people everywhere to all of the great things that come from Tennessee’s farms and food businesses.” It has been a part of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for more than 30 years.

“The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Pick Tennessee Products program transformed the way farmers can market their produce and other agricultural products,” says Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Charlie Hatcher, D.V.M.

“One primary way we do that is an annual trade show where Tennessee-made products are promoted to retailers. We’ve found that grocery stores want to offer local produce because consumers place a high value on locally grown products.”

Produce must be Tennessee-farm produced, and manufactured products must be processed in the state. There are about 2,900 producers and 788 fruit and vegetable producers in the program. Eligibility requires high quality, and meeting or exceeding applicable government and/or state of Tennessee standards.

To find products, the website provides searches by east, middle, or west region and by county. Categories include retail and specialty store listings by type. PTP program-approved applicants may use the logo and must be listed on the web directories.

Tennessee retailer John Dyke, owner of three The Turnip Truck stores in Nashville, with a fourth store opening soon in Charlotte, NC, artfully connects local produce with customers. Kat Britt, coordinator for food service and culinary innovations, stresses the importance Dyke places to bring local produce to market.

“He wanted the food he grew up on as a child,” Britt says. “He supports partnering with local vendors with responsible growing practices.”

The Turnip Truck sources local organic growers also through the foodservice department and juice bar. “If a product is not retail-ready,” Britt reports, “he is a life-saver for the farmer, by incorporating that product into a juice.”


“It’s hard to believe Taste NY is 10 years old,” notes New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets Commissioner Richard Ball. Although the program is still comparatively new, Ball is pleased with its goal of promoting New York state farmers and food and beverage products and creating new opportunities.

“In the last 10 years, there was $100 million in sales,” says Ball.

He stresses that with 70-plus venues across the state, which includes welcome centers, big ballparks and events, anyone can find their value-added products from local New York family farms.

“Once they try a product, they look for it again.”

Ball adds that every state has an “our state local” concept, but urged New York to step up and make sure that its program is more than “just local.” Consequently, food safety and farm practice standards are part of the New York State Grown and Certified program. What’s more, it’s free to all program members. He wanted retailers to be certain New York farm practices and environmental standards are managed to a high degree.

Ball illustrates the significance of certification, with simple descriptions. “Know there is good stuff in the box here,” he says, and “Be confident about buying.”

He explains that all program products have a label that guarantees the certification message. Therefore, “you can eat healthy and support the product.”

For prospective applicants for Taste NY and New York Grown and Certified, its websites denote requirements and details on the standards. In addition, the sites provide search tools for specific products and locations, as well as finding the producer(s).

“New York State Grown and Certified is very gratifying to me personally. I farm myself,” says Ball.


The Arizona Grown program is undergoing expansion efforts. The Arizona Department of Agriculture, under the leadership of its new director, Paul Brierley, and Katie Hobbs, governor, is strengthening the nonregulatory side of the department to support stronger local food systems.

“These efforts will include administration of grant programs and revitalization of the Arizona Grown promotional program in support of a thriving and resilient agricultural economy in Arizona,” Brierley reports. “Arizona Grown will be rebuilt with input from the production agriculture industry to assure that it works for them as well as possible.”

Due to its huge variety of crops and livestock and the opportunity for year-round production, Arizona is known as the Nutrition State. As an example, Arizona provides 90% of North America’s leafy green vegetables between Thanksgiving and Easter.


In 2004, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture launched PA Preferred to create opportunities to identify and promote food and agricultural products grown, produced and processed in the state. The PA Preferred Act became law in 2011, and with its trademark, PA Preferred became the official branding program for local foods and farms.

“Buying products with the blue and yellow PA Preferred checkmark means one simple thing: You’re supporting Pennsylvania farmers and producers and keeping your dollars right here at home,” says Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding. “You can be confident that what you’re buying is grown, harvested or produced in Pennsylvania.”

At the website, products can be searched by county, town or ZIP code.

The program offers free point-of-sale and other materials to retailers. Media events and promotions on member farms, restaurants, farm markets, and other retail locations are highlighted throughout the year.

The Pennsylvania Farm Show each year in early January draws 500,000 visitors, and for eight days, the PA Preferred Culinary Connection Stage hosts cooking demonstrations every hour. After each hour, guests can sample the food and return home with the complimentary cookbook.

In 2023, the PA Preferred Organic brand was named to give consumers confidence that the same quality and high standards will be met with Pennsylvania’s organic-grown products in the PA Preferred Organic program.


Since 1983, the Something Special from Wisconsin (SSfW) program has helped its members stand out on grocery store shelves and connect consumers with genuine Wisconsin products.

“Wisconsin is known for its quality products, and the Something Special from Wisconsin program helps consumers identify Wisconsin-grown and produced goods in the marketplace,” says Dan Richter, deputy communications director, Wisconsin Department of Agriculture.

“Whether it’s the program’s distinctive logo on products, through effective media campaigns, or by locating member businesses on, it’s now easier than ever for consumers to buy local and support Wisconsin businesses.”

Program members certify that at least 50% of a product’s ingredients, production or processing is from, or completed in, Wisconsin. The red and yellow logo provides a quick and reliable way for consumers to identify high-quality member products at grocery stores, retail outlets and restaurants.

Member benefits include trademark use, access to member events, publicity in program marketing opportunities including a business profile on the SSfW website. Member companies are also featured throughout the year in numerous media stories and on social media.

SSfW-labeled products enjoy a strong competitive edge with consumers. Surveys indicate that over 70% of Wisconsin consumers are more likely to purchase a commodity made or grown in Wisconsin than one from outside the state.

Regardless of size, any business may participate in the program. Nominal fees are based on gross sales from the previous year’s business. The application can be completed on the website.

According to Program Director Lois Federman, The SSfW program has point-of-sale items, such as shelf danglers and shelf rail sliders, that are available to retailers at no cost. “However, those materials must be used only to promote products from SSfW member businesses.”

“We support and promote our membership as a whole and the SSfW brand through social media, including Facebook and Instagram. We also organize and participate in several promotional campaigns and events, including the Alice in Dairyland holiday campaign; and partner with entities such as the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, Wisconsin Bakers Association, Wisconsin Grocers Association and Farm Wisconsin Discovery Center to have a presence at their trade shows/expos, where we offer exhibit space to our members.”

Also, they are an underwriter of the “Wisconsin Foodie” TV show.

The SSfW program links directly to members’ websites so visitors can learn more and place orders for their products, Federman adds. The program also works with the Wisconsin Department of Tourism to place consumer-focused information cards in all of the state’s visitor centers.

Growers and retailers appreciate the Something Special from Wisconsin program. Larry Alsum, owner of Alsum Farms and Produce, Friesland, WI, markets multiple potato varieties. Regarding the SSfW and the vegetable growers’ program, he says, “Both help present potatoes that are very healthy for the consumer and grown organically, which benefits the environment. It’s a win-win!”

Woodman’s Markets, Janesville, WI, with 19 stores in the state, often features local products. “We like to involve local producers, and our customers really enjoy local products,” comments Josh Hamill, manager of the Green Bay store. “We use signage and stickers to promote local produce for customers to know they are local.”


The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) marketing program, “Fresh From Florida,” promotes Florida’s fresh fruits and vegetables.

Marketing and Development Director Susan McKinley emphasizes “Fresh From Florida engages shoppers and drives them to look for and choose Florida produce during peak season.”

The Fresh from Florida campaign typically runs from November through June. Media advertising includes TV, radio, social media, digital display, print and more. For example, the TV spot “Sunshine Delivery,” which features real Florida farmers, airs in all major Florida markets. “There’s Sunshine in Every Bite” messages air on traditional and streaming radio.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ marketing program, “Fresh From Florida,” promotes Florida’s fresh fruits and vegetables. The “Fresh From Florida” logo is on the products participating in the program.

Consumers discover recipes, farmer videos, and the Fresh From Florida Club through social media and digital display ads. The club has more than 820,000 social media followers and more than 65,000 members.

Culinary websites also use shoppable ads that feature Florida ingredients in recipes.

Nearly 100 retailers in Florida, domestic U.S., Canada, Central America and Europe partner with Fresh From Florida.

Promotional activities include POP, in-store displays, sampling events, circular ads, recipe cards, and social media promotions. McKinley says last year, Fresh From Florida expanded its retail presence with the addition of floor graphics and grocery cart ads in more than 2,000 stores. Floor graphics and grocery cart ads are being featured again in fiscal year 2023-2024.