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Skaggs: 2 programs help promote Georgia food products
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If you have Georgia on your mind and need a taste of it in your belly, Georgia MarketMaker Web site from the University of Georgia can help with your search. The UGA Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development rolled out Georgia MarketMaker in 2007 and it’s been growing by leaps and bounds.

The interactive Web site has one of the most extensive searchable collections of food-industry data in the country. According to Kent Wolfe, UGA ag economist, the goal is to help producers sell their products and help provide markets for Georgia farmers.

MarketMaker can assist restaurants looking 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.”

The University of Illinois Extension created the original program in 2004. Wolfe and Sharon Kane, a CAES food-business development specialist, helped bring MarketMaker to Georgia. Other states in the growing national system are Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Kentucky, New York, Michigan, Indiana and Mississippi.

Georgia’s system, a searchable source for all businesses in the food supply chain, lists more than 35,000 food businesses, from grain growers to grocery chains. The site is funded by the OneGeorgia Authority, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Cooperative Extension and CAED.

Along the same lines, the annual Flavor of Georgia contest offers Georgians who have a unique food product a great opportunity to showcase their products. The Flavor of Georgia food product contest is an annual celebration of all the flavors Georgia has to offer.

Market-ready prototypes or commercially available food products are judged and critiqued by a panel of food experts.

Flavor of Georgia casts the spotlight on delicious, original food from right here at home. Unusual foods (like a catfish burger), unique sauces (such as blueberry salsa), and traditional southern foods (anything peach or pecan) are welcome in the competition.

Barbecue and hot sauces, confections, dairy products, meat products, snack foods, and jams, jellies and sauces are judged based on flavor, Georgia theme, unique or innovative qualities, commercial appeal and originality.

Product finalists from 2009 included Flat Creek Lodge Aztec Cheddar, Swainsboro; Buzzy’s Savannah Slather BBQ Sauce, Savannah; All Natural Pork Chops, Dixie; Georgia Peach Granola, Hahira; and Southern Peach Vinaigrette, Lyons.

Interested producers can now register online. Deadline for entries is Friday, Jan. 22. Final judging will be held March 15 and 16 at the Freight Depot in Atlanta. Gov. Sonny Perdue will announce winners at the Governor’s Ag Day on March 16.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.