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Local before it was cool: Pick Tennessee Products celebrates 30 years

Staff Reports • Updated Jun 22, 2016 at 7:00 PM

NASHVILLE – Thirty years ago, Danny Shelton grew cantaloupes and peppers on his farm in New Market, near Knoxville. 

That’s when he heard the Tennessee Department of Agriculture was launching a brand new program called Pick Tennessee Products. The new program would help food growers and makers finds new markets and new marketing strategies to keep their Tennessee businesses growing.

Now, as Pick Tennessee celebrates 30 years of success, Shelton Farms stone ground cornmeal, grits and flours are the choice of top tier chefs and cooks around the nation and particularly at home in Tennessee.

“A lot of this is Pick Tennessee’s fault,” Shelton said with a smile. “I started with cantaloupes, then went to tomatoes, and now it’s this. Pick Tennessee has pointed me in new directions, sent me to a lot of tradeshows and put my products in a lot of places. They’ve been with me all along and I owe a lot to Pick Tennessee.” Shelton still uses the original logo, which features a banjo, on his artisan products. 

Pick Tennessee also helps consumers find local farmers like Shelton, along with local foods, recipes, farm products and farm activities. Rapid changes in technology and consumer interests influence the direction of the program.

“People want to know where their food comes from,” Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton said.  “Pick Tennessee Products puts our farmers, programs and products right in front of those customers. In its modern form, Pick Tennessee reaches people where they already go for information every day – their phones, mobile apps and other devices.”

The Pick Tennessee Products website launched in 1995 and was the state’s very first online consumer site. It remains the home to all Pick Tennessee farmer-to-consumer information. Pick Tennessee is active across social media, and users of the free mobile app search for the local foods, farmers markets and on-farm fun near them, then use the app’s GPS mapping to get there.  The latest feature of the Pick Tennessee app is a directory of restaurants committed to supporting local farmers and foods.

Pick Tennessee is a nonprofit service and provides critical exposure and marketing opportunities. “Pick Tennessee does not charge anyone for services or generate income for any agency,” Templeton said. “Tennessee farmers and producers list products on Pick Tennessee for free. For many producers, this is their only presence online.”

Pick Tennessee now lists nearly 2,500 Tennessee farmers and farm-direct businesses with almost 10,000 products. All Tennessee producers of agricultural products are eligible and can apply online. To be included, farmers and food producers must be in compliance with all permits, licenses and inspections administered by TDA.

Learn more about Pick Tennessee Products and the free mobile app at picktnproducts.org. Follow Pick Tennessee on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

 

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