Arkansas Grown Push Aims to Connect Farmers, Buyers

The Arkansas Agriculture Department is working to bring more attention to its Arkansas Grown program in an effort to connect local farmers with consumers.

The push will encourage food producers and consumers — restaurants, schools, grocery stores and individuals — to visit ArkansasGrown.org in an effort to create an accurate master list of food producers, said P. Allen Smith, an award-winning designer, gardening and lifestyle expert, whose working in partnership with the agriculture department.

"One part of the push is to encourage producers to get registered, get signed up so everyone knows who they are, what they produce, when they sell and where they're located," he said. "The other part is to encourage consumers to go to the website for the master list of producers."

In turn, Smith says this will help farmers spend more time in the fields, instead of worrying with marketing themselves or their product.

"Most farmers are not good marketers, and that's because they don't have time to be," Smith said. "They're doing what they need to be doing. This is what got me excited about this project, it helps producers get the word out so they can spend more time doing what they do best."

Recently, the country has seen a shift toward consumers wanting to buy food locally if at all possible. That trend has not been lost on Arkansas consumers. 

In the past decade, the number of farmers markets in the state has tripled, according to both Smith and Deputy Secretary of the AAD Cynthia Edwards.

"People are more health conscious in general," Edwards said. "They want to know where their food is coming from."

AAD Secretary Butch Calhoun said the changes to the Arkansas Grown program should benefit all involved.

"Arkansas Grown will help consumers more readily identify locally grown foods so they can make informed choices and stimulate their local economy by keeping their food dollars in the community," Calhoun said in a news release announcing the changes. "The program will bring more awareness to Arkansas' producers and help create more markets for their products."

The AAD also offers the Arkansas Grown Branding Program which is a mark used to promote products made in the state. An Arkansas agricultural product is defined as "raw or finished goods consisting of or made substantially from farm, forest and nursery products produced in Arkansas."