Grocery shopping for Indiana grown products is about to become much easier.
The state is launching a new initiative to put “Indiana Grown” labels on designated meats, milk, vegetables, cheese, fruit and other local produce.
Also, a new app will soon allow consumers to use their smartphones to scan UPC codes to learn more details about each product’s source.
Less than 10 percent of the $16 billion that Hoosiers spend on food each year is from Indiana, a percentage that is twice as high in some states.
The new Indiana marketing effort launched Tuesday morning by Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and Ted McKinney, director of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, is expected to boost that number and coincide well with consumers’ increasing push to find more locally grown and fresh food.
More than 35 other states already have similar marketing campaigns. Indiana Grown program manager David King led Kentucky’s project.
“Indiana has been a bit slow to address this issue,” King said.
“The statewide initiative will have dramatic effects on the purchase of local products. I’m confident we will see a significant increase over the next five years.”
Laura Karr of KG Acres Farm welcomed the move.
“Consumers are really starting to take notice of where food comes from, and I know that personally I would always choose something local over something grown in California or elsewhere,” Karr said.
The increasing popularity of locally grown produce has been “transformative” in recent years, she added.
Food won’t be the only focus of the initiative. It also will help promote Indiana beer, wine and other Indiana agricultural and forest products, such as wood flooring and cabinetry.
King said his team conducted a pre-launch six months ago to judge enthusiasm and have since attracted 100 to 125 Indiana Grown members. These include farmers, producers, processors, artisans, retailers, grocers, restaurants and specialty food stores. King was excited that some of Indiana’s largest farms have already applied for Indiana Grown membership.
Alex Carroll, president of Lifeline Farms, signed up in early March after being impressed with the new initiative.
“Indiana has tremendous untapped potential in this market and this will help keep smaller family farms. Some of those are 100 or 150 acres, so if they don’t get a niche market they’re going to disappear,” Carroll said.
“Personally, it will help me approach retailers from a position where we have standards to maintain. That gives the retailer more confidence and adds a lot of credibility to my business. It will also benefit consumers by having more locally grown options in stores.”
An app called Indiana Grown Locator will soon be released, one of the first of its kind in the country. It will enable consumers to scan the code of an Indiana Grown product at any retailer and will present them with a description, the specific source and who has produced the product.
Indiana Grown products are able to be identified using four different categories: “100% Indiana” where products are grown in Indiana, “Prepared in Indiana” where ingredients are sourced from anywhere but production takes place within the state, Indiana Grown “Partner” where the company assists in marketing homegrown products and Indiana Grown members, and “Indiana Grown” for all other members.
“People don’t know how important this will be for the poor rural farmers who will have the ability to make $10 or $15,000 a year,” Carroll said.
“It’s enough to support the family or at least earn a good second income. That opportunity could change their lives.”