Farm Beat: Stanislaus County's local food fans can take survey

jholland@modbee.comMarch 7, 2014 

JBL Ag Prem Market

JOAN BARNETT LEE — Modesto Bee Buy Photo

— Promoters of locally grown food would like to know if you’re a big fan of farmers markets and other direct-to-consumer venues.

An online survey at www.eaststanrcd.org is part of the effort to create a “Stanislaus County Grown” brand for our fruits, vegetables, nuts and other products. It is being conducted by the East Stanislaus Resource Conservation District, which serves the part of the county east of the San Joaquin River.

The district got a $84,778 federal grant in 2012 to promote the brand and increase consumption of these foods. The effort aims especially at communities known as “food deserts” because of low incomes and a shortage of grocery stores.

Organizers said the survey will help them “to design the campaign to meet the needs of shoppers and producers.” It is not limited to Stanislaus County residents.

The survey asks for general information on age, income, race, education, shopping habits and other topics. Another question: “Would price be a factor in purchasing local over nonlocal produce?”

The grant was from the Farmers Market Promotion Program, created in 2006 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Stanislaus County produces a great abundance and diversity of food and drink – peaches, apricots, almonds, walnuts, tomatoes, milk, wine and more – but the vast majority is marketed outside its borders. These distant sales are a key driver of our economy because they bring in money that circulates among many people here.

The local food movement allows farmers to boost their income by cutting out the wholesale and distribution levels. And it provides residents with fresh, nutritious food and, often, a chance to meet the people who grew it.

We’re still in winter, when farmers markets are closed, with the exception of the year-round venue in downtown Merced. But fear not: The Modesto Certified Farmers Market will open April 5, and others in the region will do so on various dates.

Until then, let’s hope it keeps raining and we can spend a little indoor time answering the local food survey.

Got an idea for the Farm Beat? Contact John Holland at jholland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2385.

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