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Ont. on-farm marketers launch search engine

The Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association has revamped its website to include a new search engine for consumers to find specific foods or types of direct farm markets.

“Whether you want to pick fresh strawberries, juicy peaches or sweet blueberries, with over 200 Ontario farms that are open to the public, there’s one that is sure to fit your farm adventure and our site is designed to help you choose the right one with a click of a button,” the association’s executive director Cathy Bartolic said in a release Tuesday.

Consumers can search by region, produce, U-pick opportunities, attractions (such as mazes, rides or hosting opportunities for corporate functions) or browse through all farms in the association’s database.

The results include such details as a farm’s location, directions, contact information and hours of operation, the association said.

The association’s retooled web presence was launched on the same day as the provincial government hosted a farmers’ market on the lawn of Queen’s Park to promote locally grown food available direct-marketed on-farm, at farmers’ markets, in grocery stores and at restaurants.

The province, in a separate release Tuesday, quoted a study from last fall that found 63 per cent of customers spend from $16 to more than $100 per visit at an on-farm market. “The study said that family fun, freshness of product and tradition are prime motivators for customers visiting on-farm markets,” the province said.

“The Pick Ontario Freshness Campaign has started to make a difference in our members’ businesses,” Bartolic said in the province’s release. “Consumers are seeking out fresh, healthy Ontario products and looking to support Ontario farmers. We applaud the provincial government for taking the lead on this type of a campaign.”

Also, “as a result of government and industry efforts, more farmers’ markets are opening across Ontario and more people are visiting farmers’ markets,” the province said.

“Last year, 12 new farmers’ markets opened in Ontario totalling 160, with more to come in 2009. There were also more than 15 million shopper-visits made to farmers’ markets in Ontario in 2008.”

Agriculture Minister Leona Dombrowsky said in the province’s release that its efforts “are paying off. We are bringing together local food networks including producers, processors, retailers and individuals dedicated to selling the fresh foods that are grown and made right here in Ontario.”

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