“It’s local farmers and local businesses that are using the products grown here, that are employing our neighbors,” Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said of the Onondaga Grown ad campaign. (Photo by iHeartMedia)
The Onondaga County Agriculture Council and iHeartMedia kicked off the third annual “Buy Local. Buy Onondaga Grown” initiative last Thursday at Reeves Farms in Baldwinsville. The campaign, which lasts through October, uses radio and TV ads as well as social media to encourage Central New Yorkers to support local farms and restaurants that use locally grown ingredients.
“Locally grown products provide you and your family with the freshest, best tasting, and healthiest foods available,” Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney said at the kickoff event. “When you buy local you are also supporting our local farms, which contribute so much to our county’s economy and rural communities.”
Mahoney said agriculture is a $300 million industry in Onondaga County, contributing to good nutrition, job growth and the preservation of green space in Central New York.
“It’s local farmers and local businesses that are using the products grown here, that are employing our neighbors,” Mahoney told Eagle Newspapers.
Eating at restaurants that source their ingredients from local farms provides the “best-tasting food because it’s grown closest to your table,” Mahoney said.
Consumers should be on the lookout for retailers and restaurants displaying the Onondaga Grown logo.
“If you’re a business that serves local products we’re asking that you hang up a poster or put up a window cling to show you’re supporting the Onondaga County farmer, “ said Patty Bombardo of iHeartMedia. “The whole thing is bridging the gap between the consumer and the farmer, letting them know there’s a lot of food that is grown right here.”
While the primary focus of the Onondaga Grown campaign is the push to buy local, the Onondaga County Agriculture Council also devotes itself to education about agriculture.
“It’s valuable because we have so many chronic issues that can be solved if people understand the value of local farming to our health and to our economy,” Mahoney said. “We know from prev campaigns that the best way to change behavior is to make sure that the children understand, and that’s a focus of the ag council.”
With funding from the county legislature, the ag council provides grants to local agricultural projects such as the Helping Hands Urban Farm Garden at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Syracuse.
Mahoney said the county health department is working with the ag council to provide boxes of fresh produce for recipients of the county’s social service programs.
“We’re making sure that we are reaching every bit of Onondaga County,” she said. “We’re trying to fold this in in a comprehensive way with everything we’re doing to make sure this touches as many people as possible.”
Onondaga Grown’s social media efforts have reached 30,000 people this year alone, according to Mahoney, and feedback has been positive.
“It’s the enthusiasm of the farmers, support of the agricultural community and the acknowledgement of [that] support,” she said.
The Onondaga Grown campaign extends into the fall and will see the return of the ONFarm Fest on Sept. 9.
“The agriculture council is excited to continue the Onondaga Grown campaign to promote and support our local agriculture,” David Knapp, Onondaga County legislator and agriculture council co-chair, said in a release. “In addition, we are pleased to announce that the second annual ONFarm Fest, which will encourage the community to visit and tour some of our local farms, will be held on Sept. 9. We will share more details as they become available, but we hope to build on last year’s event, which was a tremendous success.”
Bombardo said 1,500 people participated in the 2016 ONFarm Fest, which featured a tour of seven farms.
“Above all, we just want to educate consumers that there’s a lot of food that they purchase — whether it’s at the grocery store [or] restaurants — locally grown here in Onondaga County,” she said.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.