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Certified SC Grown celebrates 10th anniversary with over 2,000 members

On its tenth anniversary, the Certified SC Grown program has more than 2,000 members, not counting 500 retail stores and 300 restaurants, which are associate members.

South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh E. Weathers obtained a 2006 state appropriation to create the Certified SC Grown branding program to help consumers easily identify and purchase South Carolina products, while increasing market opportunities for farmers across the state.

HUGH-E.-WEATHERSHugh E. WeathersIn arguing his case to the state legislature, Weathers cited a consumer survey that found 90 percent of the state’s residents would buy South Carolina food products if consumers knew where to buy them. Nine years later, in 2015, 67 percent of the state’s population knew about the Certified SC Grown program.

Sales of South Carolina-grown fruits and vegetables climbed from $131 million in 2006 to more than $200 million in 2015. “Demand for locally grown food has never been higher,” said Weathers. On average, the state has invested $1 million a year in the Certified SC Grown program; members invest an average of $7 for every $1 in state funding for the program.

Membership in the Certified SC Program is made by advance application to the South Carolina Department of Agriculture, according to Ansley Turnblad, head of the department’s Certified SC Grown and Fresh on the Menu programs. All farm producers, food manufacturers, specialty food producers, packing facilities and others engaged in the production or manufacture of agricultural products in South Carolina are eligible. First-quality products grown in South Carolina must meet U. S. Number 1 Quality Grade Standard of higher U. S. Grade Standards, whichever is the accepted USDA standard for that commodity.

The 300 restaurants who use local foods on their menus belong to the Fresh on the Menu application which can be used to locate the participating restaurants by mobile phones and tablets.

The 500 in-state retailers include leading supermarket chains and several out-of-state retailers.