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‘Grown in Monmouth’ taking root with marketing

By RICHARD SKELLY
AFP Correspondent

ASBURY PARK (Dec. 15, 2016) — The recently established “Grown In Monmouth” marketing campaign for Monmouth County farmers and seafood producers held one of a series of events on Oct. 17 to show off the organization’s new logo and marketing efforts at Brookdale Community College’s Culinary Training Center, located next to Asbury Park High School on Sunset Avenue.
The 2016 Grown in Monmouth Culinary Competition was held with the assistance of Monmouth County farmers, who donated produce, and three area expert chefs, who judged appetizers, entrees and desserts. 
Chefs included Andrew Araneo, a Culinary Education Center alumnus who launched Drew’s Bayshore Bistro in 2005 in nearby Keyport; Emily Chapman, an alumna of the education center who is executive sous chef at the highly-rated Pasquale Jones restaurant in New York City, and Erik Witherspool, executive chef at Monmouth University for Gourmet Dining Services.
“An idea was spawned to do some kind of competition to promote the new marketing campaign,” said John Ciufo, executive director for Economic Development for the County of Monmouth.
The Grown in Monmouth campaign, orchestrated by consulting group Spinelli and Pinto of Long Valley, is a USDA grant–funded initiative.
The marketing campaign is an offshoot of an earlier campaign to promote small businesses in Monmouth called Made in Monmouth. 
Angelo and Anna Trappani of Millstone, owners of Trapper’s Honey, were part of the Made in Monmouth marketing campaign launched six years ago and they’re also participants with Grown in Monmouth.
“This whole program is based from an economic development perspective, not from a technical or agricultural perspective,” Ciufo said.
“We are working with new farmers and new farmer programs, we’ve developed our Grown in Monmouth logo, and that’s our brand. We have licensing agreements for those in our ag community and it’s free to them, they can use it electronically on their websites,” Ciufo said, noting restaurant owners can also display the Grown in Monmouth logo on their windows and on menus.
The grant funding came from the USDA’s Rural Business Development Program.
Invited guests and some Monmouth County freeholders enjoyed samples of the food while judging was going on in a room adjacent to the culinary center’s large commercial kitchen. Brookdale’s Culinary Education Center is also a restaurant that is open to the public during fall and spring semesters at the county college.
Aside from using USDA grant money to advertise and promote the “Grown in Monmouth” brand, Spinelli and Pinto also worked with officials at Monmouth’s office of Economic Development to create a website for the brand, www.GrowninMonmouth.com.
“We developed a database called a searchable online directory, or S.O.D., and our farmers will populate the directory with information about their farm and what products they grow and services they offer,” Ciufo said, “and then we’re going to drive consumers, both residential and commercial, to that directory so they can all find one another.”
“We’re also trying to identify new markets for our growers to consider,” Ciufo said, “because we have some farmers that are in a position to be supplying our restaurant industry twelve months out of the year.”
Smaller farmers and producers in the county are invited to get involved with the initiative, Ciufo  explained “whether they qualify for farmland tax assessment or not.”
“If you’re farming for revenue, we want to be able to help you out,” he said, noting some of the Made in Monmouth small businesses that got involved in that initiative six years ago have grown into mid-sized companies now.
Ciufo noted four other counties in New Jersey have applied for similar grant funding from the USDA, “but we are the pilot, and the USDA is currently looking at us, so if we can make agriculture stronger in New Jersey, all the better, and Rutgers Cooperative Extension has been a great partner with us, we’re fortunate to have two ag experiment stations here in Monmouth County.  “We’ve been able to work with them as they’re developing new technologies. Now, we want to be of assistance in helping farmers find new markets for their products.”
“No farm is too small, if you’re farming in Monmouth, nobody is too small,” Ciufo said, “especially now that there are growing markets for specialty crops too.”