'Eat local' is theme of campaign

New Web site aims to help farmers and consumers

August 31, 2008|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

Surrounded by crates of fresh produce, a freezer full of local beef products, shelves with jars of honey and jam and planters brimming with newly cut flowers, Harford County officials have launched www.harfordfarms.com, a Web site designed to boost sales of local products as well as assist farmers and consumers.

"It is one-stop shopping for consumers and farmers," C. John Sullivan, deputy chief for the Division of Agriculture said at a news conference at The Mill in Bel Air, which sells local goods. "The site also lists all the agricultural agencies, related businesses and calendar events."

The site is a revamped version of the technology Harford farmers have used for nearly a decade to help market their products and services. Designers have made it more consumer-friendly, officials said.

"We decided to beef up our Web site," said County Executive David R. Craig. "We have plenty of food to buy here. You don't really have to leave the county to buy food."

With a click on any number of products, visitors can find information on which farms sell ice cream, beef or fruit. Visitors can also click on a farm to see what it offers and how to get there.

"This is all about marketing and letting people know what is out there," Craig said.

Richard Holloway, chairman of the Agricultural Advisory Board, said the site has worked well and will only be more beneficial now.

"I know this works," he said. "I had calls for my hay last year from all up and down the East Coast because of it."

A Darlington beef and grain farmer, Holloway said local products are increasing in popularity with consumers.

"When you buy local, you don't have to worry about spoilage and transportation from thousands of miles away," he said. "People know that what is grown here is well taken care of."

Gene Umbarger, a Churchville farmer and advisory board member, said he uses the Web site frequently.

"This is really worthwhile," he said. "People like to know where their food comes from, and they appreciate that it's available locally."

Kate Mason, a marketing specialist with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, praised the county's record in promoting local farms and called the site a great stride.

The new site could become a model for other counties, particularly those focusing on agribusiness and tourism, she said.

"If you want to expand your Web site, this is the way to go," Mason said. "Everybody who wants to be listed is there. The county can continually add to it, and it has been made so easy for consumers."

County Councilman Chad R. Shrodes said the site gives consumers a valuable tool.

"People here want to support the local farmer," Shrodes said. "This tool shows them what they can buy locally and how to get there. The site really puts everybody together. It will help keep farms profitable and viable into the future."

Now, if only somebody could open a restaurant that specializes in the county's fresh farm products, he said.

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