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"SWFL Fresh" brand created to increase local farm visibility

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UF/IFAS
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Did you know that farm-raised alligator meat, raw honey, hemp and lion's mane mushrooms are all grown right here? If not, a new brand intends to help increase awareness of items produced in Southwest Florida.

SWFL Fresh: Choose Local, Choose Fresh is a fledgling brand that came about in the wake of Hurricane Irma in 2017. The idea is to make foods grown and made in Southwest Florida easily identifiable in markets and stores with a trademark logo and marketing campaign.

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Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council
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SWFL Fresh logo

The Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council (SWFRPC) and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) received more than $752,000 in grants to work with small to midsize growers in the region to identify negative impacts on their production capacity after Irma and how to make them more resilient.

Growers voiced that a unified brand would be a solution to increase public knowledge of local food sources and better connect local food producers to consumers.

Asmaa Odeh, Project Director for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, says the grant-funded project will help with the resiliency of the local food system.

“If consumers are able to recognize that this is food that's grown here and produced here, packaged here and then purchased also within the same region, that then thrives the local economy,” said Odeh.

Odeh explains that the brand is just beginning to get started. Right now, 20 producers are involved under the SWFL Fresh umbrella.

One of them is Inyoni Organic Farm in east Naples. Started in 2001 by Nick Batty, the seasonal farm produces baby greens, root vegetables, tropical pumpkins and about 46 other vegetable and fruit varieties.

Batty said Hurricane Irma took out his entire field, making him have to start the crops over.

“The storm basically destroyed what we had in the field at that point, but anything you do at this time of year, there is the potential for that loss,” said Batty.

Though it took only a few weeks for Batty to become operational again, he says other farms endured months of lost time and profit. He feels the SWFL Fresh branding efforts will bring more attention to local growers, especially in times of need.

“It's just good to see that they're trying to, you know, keep a strong food system which, especially when there is a disaster, becomes even more important,” said Batty.

SWFL Fresh plans to officially launch at local farmers markets and produce an educational campaign in January 2023.

Local food producers who would like to get involved are asked to connect with the Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network facilitated by the UF/IFAS Agriculture Extension.

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