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Skaggs: An easier way to buy local food

POSTED: January 20, 2008 5:04 a.m.

If you have Georgia on your mind and need a taste of it in your belly, a new Web site from the University of Georgia can help with your search.

The UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development has rolled out Georgia MarketMaker (www.mar ketmaker.uga.edu). The interactive Web site has one of the most extensive searchable collections of food-industry data in the country.

"Our goal is to help producers sell their products and help provide markets for Georgia’s farmers," said Kent Wolfe, a marketing analyst with the CAED.

Restaurants in cities like to serve locally grown meats, vegetables, fruits and beverages. "MarketMaker allows producers to sell directly to consumers and make more money," he said. "We’d like to see it evolve into a locally grown food network."

It’s a network that’s already growing fast.

The University of Illinois Extension created the original program in 2004. Wolfe and Sharon Kane, a food-business development specialist with UGA’s College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, helped bring MarketMaker to Georgia. Other states in the growing national system are Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky and New York. Set to come online soon are Michigan, Indiana and Mississippi.

"Georgia businesses and producers can also search those states for produce and other farm products and vice versa," Kane said.

Georgia’s system, a searchable source for all businesses in the food supply chain, lists over 32,000 food businesses, from grain growers to grocery chains.

It works like this: Say you’re looking for locally produced butter for your biscuits. A quick search of MarketMaker could turn up Sparkman’s Cream Valley in Moultrie.

Or if your restaurant needs new lunch items, a few keystrokes will find goat cheese from Thornberry Village Homestead in Jasper, blackberry-muscadine wine from Georgia Wines in Ringgold or organic popcorn from Revival Gardens Organic Produce in Dahlonega.

The site is funded by the OneGeorgia Authority, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension and CAED.

"It’s a unique resource because it not only contains a comprehensive database but has demographic information and mapping capabilities," Kane said.

For more information about MarketMaker, call 706-542-1861, e-mail gamarket@uga.edu or visit www.marketmaker.uga.edu.

(Thanks to Stephanie Schupska, UGA CAES News Editor.)



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