ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia farmers and agricultural producers eager to sell abundant supplies of fresh produce and other products are being connected with consumers and other buyers who need their products through a new partnership between University of Georgia Cooperative Extension and the Georgia Department of Agriculture’s Georgia Grown program.
Because of disruptions to the industry triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, many agricultural producers in Georgia — particularly smaller growers and producers — are experiencing difficulties getting their products out to those who can use them.
Through its Georgia Grown Ag-products Industry Promotion and E-commerce Promotion programs, Georgia Grown — a state membership program designed to help agribusinesses thrive by bringing producers, processors, suppliers, distributors, retailers, agritourism and consumers together — will waive all membership fees for the service until July to help producers affected by the crisis.
“The first step is facilitating connections between consumers and growers. There are many people who are looking for fresh produce and cannot find it and we have producers who have produce and cannot sell it,” said Laura Perry Johnson, associate dean for Extension at UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Types of agricultural products that qualify for the program include everything from vegetables, fruits and other produce to seafood, meats, dairy, poultry products and any other agriculture-related products, such as honey and prepared foods.
“We are getting a lot of interest from many types of buyers, including consumer, wholesale, food banks and some restaurants,” said Matthew Kulinski, deputy marketing director for Georgia Grown. “This is a good way for producers who normally sell to restaurants to have a new outlet for their produce.”
Georgia farmers who are keeping regular hours, providing curbside pickup, home delivery or e-commerce sales during the COVID-19 crisis can join the programs by visiting the Georgia Grown Ag-Products Industry Promotion or Georgia Grown E-Commerce Promotion pages and filling out forms that will add their information to a statewide database of producers that will be shared with consumers and buyers.
UGA Extension will support the program through its network of county agents and specialists throughout the state.
“This is a grassroots effort that starts with all of our Extension agents, specialists and coordinators who have the relationships with these growers, producers and farmers,” said Johnson. “We are working on several different ways to get this information out to producers and consumers, including our Extension website emergency resources page and through traditional and social media. Together we can make this into something that will not only help agriculture in Georgia, but the people who need access to fresh food as well.”
For consumers who are interested in picking their own produce, Georgia Grown also provides a pick your own list of all producers who offer that option on their farms.
View the list of farms and markets by county at extension.uga.edu/ag-products-connection.
–Maria M. Lameiras, University of Georgia