Agriculture Marketing Division Chief, Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture
Joanna Gresham began her professional career with the House of Representatives where she served as Community Affairs Director for more than eight years. She joined the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture in May 2007 to assume management of PA Preferred, the Commonwealth’s branding and marketing program for products produced by Pennsylvania agriculture. In that position she developed and implemented marketing strategies and directed outreach. She also serves on the Pennsylvania Wine Marketing and Research Board and the Pennsylvania Equine Council’s Board of Directors.
PA Preferred is the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s branding and marketing program that enables consumers to identify food and fiber grown, harvested, processed or produced in Pennsylvania. Studies have shown that 93 percent of Pennsylvanians want to purchase locally produced items. The program promotes the awareness and consumption of PA Preferred products through advertising campaigns and special events. Among the types of products eligible for PA Preferred are meat, eggs, dairy, produce, aquaculture products, processed and prepared foods, honey and maple syrup, and beverages. In addition, products from the state’s floraculture and nursery industries qualify as well as lumber and finished wood products. PA Preferred also licenses and promotes restaurants, distributors, retailers and food service establishments.
The program’s appeal is broad-based and growing as the slow food movement continues to spread throughout communities. By supporting local producers, PA Preferred boosts local economies while providing product freshness, optimal taste and quality. PA Preferred products require minimal transportation. This is an economic as well as and environmental advantage that is not lost on consumers. The program’s integrity depends on strong standards and consumer confidence in them. Fresh foods, hardwoods and nursery products must be 100 percent harvested in Pennsylvania. In the case of processed foods, 60 percent of the ingredients much meet fresh food criteria and 100 percent of the final processing and packaging must be done in the state.
All products must meet or exceed all local, state and federal safety and quality requirements. They must not be re-packed or re-dated after initial processing and packaging. If a product is labeled organic, the producer must be United States Department of Agriculture-certified by an approved third party. PA Preferred has a multi-media advertising program that includes broadcast and cable television and outdoor advertising such as billboards. The program’s web site, www.papreferred.com, features a search function so visitors can search by product or by company. Chefs participate in the program’s Culinary Connection at the Pennsylvania Farm Show the popular Best Chef competition. PA Preferred hosts buyer-vendor shows for retailers and distributors and facilitates member participation at trade shows.
The benefits of membership in the program include a presence on the program’s web site, free point of purchase materials, use of the registered logo, free promotion and consulting with marketing and economic development staff at St. Joseph University’s Center for Food Marketing. Interest in the program has grown exponentially. In 2004, 178 companies were participating. Now the program boasts more than 4,000 member locations and record traffic on its web site.
In an effort to provide wide-ranging views and perspectives regarding the practice of and issues surrounding agriculture, the Philadelphia Society for Promoting Agriculture (PSPA) seeks speakers representing a variety of perspectives. The statements and opinions they present are strictly their own and do not necessarily represent the views of PSPA.