By Tamas Mondovics
Following its Website overhaul a couple of years ago, Hillsborough County staff has been working on tweaking its pages in hopes of serving residents the best way possible. One of its latest upgrades is the addition and debut of a brand-new Hillsborough-Grown Consumer Directory, where shoppers and chefs looking for locally-grown and produced food products can now find them easily.
The web-based resource from Hillsborough County Agribusiness Development was launched to help connect consumers to local farmers and sellers of agricultural products in the community. “The directory provides an easy way to locate products and their producers as well as establish a better communication between farmers, producers and the consumer,” said County spokesperson, Chrystal Pruitt.
The site currently features a searchable listing of 185 growers and locally-grown products sold directly to the public. From plant nurseries to organic farms, blueberry farms, vineyards and many U-pick farms, the list leaves none out. Pruitt emphasized that the free directory is part of the County’s effort toward economic growth.
“Our goal is to increase such growth as we anticipate the list in this new directory to grow as well,” Pruitt said.
According to Hillsborough County Agricultural Industry Development Manager, Simon Bollin, it recognizes the growing movement known as locavore, which refers to consumers whose diets consist of principally locally-grown or produced food items.
Bollin confirmed that a variety of crops and goods can be produced year-round in Hillsborough County and the new site’s Hillsborough Grown Product Availability link at HillsboroughCounty.org/locavore provides a listing of which crops are available when.
There is no doubt about the county’s locally-grown produce strength in the state. Bollin mentioned that Hillsborough County currently stands at number four in agriculture sales in Florida, with strawberries as its strongest product.
The latest numbers are said to be released soon, but Bollin said that in 2011, Hillsborough County reported a more than $832 million in farm sales.
“This is a huge industry in our county and it is expected to grow,” he said.
The directory can be found at www.HillsboroughCounty.org/HillsGrownDirectory. To be listed in the free directory, register online at www.HillsboroughCounty.org/HillsGrown.