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Sunday September 21st 2014

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Same Name, Different Model

By Jennie McKeon

Panhandle Fresh Marketing Association is undergoing major changes in 2012. Instead of consumers having to search for local produce, Panhandle Fresh is working to get the fruits (and vegetables) of local farmers’ labor into grocery stores.

Kayla Gude, the marketing coordinator and new member to the Panhandle Fresh team, is working diligently to make the organization’s goals a reality. The goals are to have a distribution center, located in Jay, ready by May to sell a limited amount of five crops—blueberries, watermelon, sweet corn, peppers and squash—and help farmers sell their produce to local retailers.

“We’re looking at completely remodeling the whole company,” Gude said. “The only thing we’ve kept is the name.”

The old system had customers pay a membership fee and then choose which produce items and how many they wanted online. They could then pick up their items at one of the four pick-up locations.

“Sales dropped drastically and there was a lot of produce that wasn’t sold,” Gude said. “We need to put our produce where people shop and push the buy-local movement.”

The company wants to offer two options for local consumers:  the distribution center, where consumers can shop with no membership charge, as well as offering the local goods at grocery stores.

“It’ll spark some economic development and keep the customer’s money here,” Gude said. “We’re pushing the whole ‘know your farmer, know your food’ thing.”

Panhandle Fresh wants to help farmers sell their items, no matter how big or small their farm is. Right now, the organization has 15 farmers under its belt. Gude is hoping to reach more.

“Next year, we’re hoping to reach out to smaller farmers who wouldn’t be able to reach retailers on their own,” she said.

The Panhandle Fresh Marketing Association provides several services to farmers, such as liability insurance policies, vendor identification numbers, distribution assistance, bookkeeping and accounting assistance and food safety training certifications.

There will be opportunities in the coming months to help PFMA reach their goals. Contact Gude at mkt.pfma@gmail.com for more information.

DETAILS: panhandlefresh.co