The Produce Lady Program Grows with New Grant

N.C. MarketReady, a program of N.C. Cooperative Extension, was awarded nearly $100,000 in grant funding ($91,937) from the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission to expand its popular The Produce Lady program. The grant, focused on strengthening markets for farmers and educating consumers, provides funding through 2012.

The Produce Lady program is the brainchild of Leah Chester-Davis, coordinator of communications and community outreach for N.C. MarketReady, which is based at the N.C. Research Campus.  Chester-Davis serves as director of The Produce Lady effort and works closely with Brenda Sutton, who is The Produce Lady. Sutton is also director of Cooperative Extension in Rockingham County.

The Produce Lady will serve up new Web resources, healthy cooking demonstrations, an e-newsletter, online videos and printed materials that promote North Carolina fruits and vegetables and the farmers who grow them.

The Produce Lady uses spring vegetables and free-range eggs to prepare a frittata at a recent food demonstration.

Visitors to will find videos that provide tips on selecting, storing, preparing and preserving fresh produce items; healthy recipes that use fruits and vegetables; nutritional facts and advice; and an event calendar for The Produce Lady’s latest appearances. Additional videos and resources will be added in the coming months. Beginning this fall, a new monthly e-newsletter will harvest the latest updates in one place for subscribers.

Fruits and vegetables will go virtual as The Produce Lady offers online preservation workshops next year via live Web streaming technology. People can still see The Produce Lady in person as she travels across the state providing free, public cooking demonstrations at farmers markets. A blog offers her personal insight into these and other agricultural activities.

“The Produce Lady is all about promoting North Carolina-grown fruits, vegetables and other farm products,” said Chester-Davis. “The Produce Lady has gained quite a following – Brenda does such a fantastic job! Many people visit farmers markets just to meet her. This grant will help us encourage even more consumers to buy from North Carolina farmers, which will benefit our communities, our economy and our health.”

The N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission targets projects for funding that stimulate the agricultural economy in North Carolina communities through sales of local foods. The Produce Lady was a perfect fit according to the Commission’s chairman, Billy Carter.

“The Produce Lady is exceptionally valuable because she speaks directly to consumers and farmers in a way they can relate to,” said Carter. “The Tobacco Trust Fund Commission is excited to work with N.C. MarketReady to support and grow the wonderful resource that is The Produce Lady.”