September 1, 2010

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Utah’s Own

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Utah’s Own Executive Panel

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Utah’s Own Executive Panel

Utah Business Staff

September 1, 2010

Participants: Steve Reich, Associated Retail Stores; Spencer Eccles, GOED; Bob Harmon, Harmon's; Ian Brandt, Sage's Cafe/Cali's Natural Foods; Keith Lawes, Fat Boy Ice Cream; Ian Campbell, Log Haven; Rachel Hudson, Consumer Advocate; Lisa Gough, Sysco; Jeremy Glauser, Lunchboxers; Shaney Cornell, Apple Beer Corp; Ashley Simmons, Apple Beer Corp; John Frederickson, Miller's Honey Co.; Steve DeJohn, Lehi Roller Mills; Barry Houghtalen, Nicholas & Company; Kent Winder, Winder Farms; Riley Cutler, GOED; Clark Caras, GOED; Seth Winterton, Utah Department of Agriculture; Steve Calister, Associated Retail Stores; Richard Sparks, Utah Department of Agriculture

What is the status of Utah's Own today?
REICH: Right now there is actually pretty strong knowledge of Utah's Own. When I talk to people—neighbors, people in the stores—they understand that Utah's Own products are Utah products. And they understand that it's important to buy Utah products because some of that money stays in the community.

Buying local has become a big movement because people feel like local foods are safer and healthier. That may or may not be the case—but people increasingly want to support local producers. With the economy where it is today, it's more important than ever to get that message out there.  

The state has a great team that is working with Utah's Own on marketing. The effort has been incredible. But the state has cut back on its finances, and so it has not been able to give any additional funding to Utah’s Own. If the state comes out and does some marketing, they require that whatever money the state puts in, we match it from the retail side. And each of the individual manufacturers kick in, so that that matches it too. So the state is only paying about a third of the marketing costs.

The biggest need we've got is to continue to tell the story. Like any marketing message you put out there, you can't just stop. It just dies. So my hope is to figure out a way to continue funding the program going forward.

DEJOHN: I would like to see more education—through Utah’s Own—about the importance of job growth. In my neighborhood, I'm surrounded by more people than ever before who are unemployed—people who have high skill levels—and it's because of businesses shutting down, consumers cutting back. It's great to have the Utah's Own sticker in the grocery stores, and it's great to have someone on television talking about buying locally, but we need to offer more information to the consumer about the benefit to the whole economy of job growth.

CAMPBELL: Fifteen years ago, the amount of local products available to us at Log Haven was dismal, and we were having to source from California. But in the last 15 years, it's exploded. Amano Chocolate, Creminelli Meats, Lehi Cheddar, Winder products—it's been wonderful to see the growth of these local vendors. And it's key that we have recognition on our menu that those products are from Utah. Sometimes it makes the menu descriptions a little bit long, but it is very important and the consumer is definitely demanding that more and more.

GLAUSER: Lunchboxers is initiating what we are calling a farm‑into‑school initiative. We offer local corn on the cob, peaches, pears, etc. to the schools and then open up an invitation for the students to visit those farms. This helps educate them on why it's important to eat a vine‑ripened tomato or corn on the cob that is grown just down the road.

It comes down to educating the students in our schools while they are young. Consumers, as well, should learn where a product has come from, how it is grown, what it looks like, what it tastes like and what the differences are.

REICH: Our [Associated Foods] stores and Harmon's have both negotiated with local farmers and bought their entire fields because we knew their quality. We bought their fields and put up signs that said, "This corn you will see at Macey's or Harmon's."

GLAUSER: One of the biggest fears for farmers is the unknown of whether or not they are going to be able to sell their produce. They are scared that if the crop ends up not being purchased, they have wasted their season, their land.

Agriculture is a big deal here in Utah. Whether it's through co‑ops or farmers markets or community-supported agriculture programs, we can do a lot to invest in our farmers.

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