A preeminent component to sustainable agriculture is maintaining the viability of farmers. In this time of retail consolidation, heavy regulation and intense foreign competition from free trade agreements, the viability of all farms, regardless of size, is in jeopardy. Redland Raised provides opportunity, for those consumers that care about the source of their food, to make informed and educated decisions on what to purchase. In turn, the brand provides growers who are facing these issues, the option of promoting their product in a manner that is out of their individual financial reach.Charles LaPradd, Agriculture Manager Miami-Dade County Department of Regulatory & Economic Resources
Local produce is fresher, better for the environment, and supports the local economy. For this reason, Miami-Dade County and local farmers, in conjunction with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, developed a local produce branding initiative called Redland Raised. Redland Raised showcases and promotes the consumption of fresh, local produce and promotes the “buy local” program throughout the county and the state of Florida. The brand is aligned with the Fresh from Florida program and brand, of which the majority of local produce growers and packers are members. The benefits of the program extend to growers, packing houses, retail grocers, community supported agriculture (CSA) businesses, and consumers.
This marketing concept started in 2005-2006 and the program officially kicked off in 2009-2010. The idea was initiated by the Miami-Dade County agricultural manager. The three focus groups that were formed to help with the initiative all voiced a preference to reinforce the affiliation with the existing Fresh from Florida brand. In order to do this, the county had to get permission from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to co-brand Redland Raised with the Fresh from Florida brand. The agricultural manager was able to come to an agreement with FDACS to align the two programs and brands. Through the agreement with the state, the Redlands Raised initiative avoided the issue of having to obtain a licensing agreement which the county did not have the ability to enforce.
Next, the program had to design a logo. FDACS staff helped with this aspect of the program. The rest of the marketing materials, largely brochures, posters, store shelf danglers, and promotional items, were developed by Miami-Dade County.
After marketing materials were developed, the agricultural manager had to get Redland Raised-branded products into local retail stores and supermarkets along with associated promotional signage and brochures. The agricultural manager sent letters to all local grocers requesting them to be part of the promotional program by providing display space for Redland Raised produce and marketing materials. The initial target was for Redland Raised-branded produce to be placed in 189 stores. This target has been exceeded — Redland Raised produce can be found in 1,200 stores.
In 2013, promotional efforts led to the publication of “Local Flavor: Recipes Raised in the Florida Redland,” a cookbook centered on food grown in south Miami-Dade. The proceeds are reinvested in promoting Redlands Raised.
As of 2015, the program’s newest promotional effort was launched at Miami International Airport, where several local restaurants showcased dishes made with Redland Raised produce and helped market the program.
The program had an initial timeline of between three to five years. The concept was introduced in 2005-2006, and it took approximately four years to design the first promotional materials and get products onto store shelves. The official kickoff of the program was in 2010. The initiative is designed to last indefinitely; however the intention is for the growers to begin to take on the promotion of the program themselves and for the county to no longer have to lead this initiative.
A Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) of $142,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in conjunction with FDACS was received by the county in FY2010 and utilized for the program from 2011–2013. These funds were expended for initial point-of-purchase promotional materials at the retail stores, as well as promoting the brand through various media outlets. Due to changing grant requirements, the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants can no longer be used for the Redlands Raised program, as USDA has disallowed the use of SCBG monies for local and regional branding programs. Subsequent funding for ongoing marketing materials has been funded by sales of the cookbook. However, sales of the cookbook continue at a relatively low pace and are hampered by the fact that the county, as a nonprofit entity, is not able to collect sales tax and therefore can only sell the books wholesale. Therefore, the program must rely on retailers for cookbook sales, and these retailers may or may not have the same concern for ensuring successful sales. The lack of an ongoing dedicated funding source has hampered the program.
Agricultural producers, packers, and sellers can benefit from increased produce consumption associated with Redland Raised promotional efforts. The program helps support local farmers economically and validates the need to maintain farmland in the community. The state provides some small grants to members of the Fresh from Florida program, of which the Redland Raised is an offshoot. Membership in the program is required in order to be eligible for the grants. The state also pays a printing cost share to grocers who advertise the Redland Raised and/or Fresh from Florida brands in their advertisement circulars. By purchasing locally grown foods, consumers can enjoy fresher, more nutritious foods and lower the greenhouse gas emissions associated with long-distance transportation of produce and food products.