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A Partnership Firmly Rooted in Alabama’s Agricultural Heritage

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Nearly five years ago, a group of agricultural and industry leaders in Alabama got behind the idea of helping local farms and ranches get their products to market. Sweet Grown Alabama was born, giving Alabama farmers and ranchers new ways to market their products and grow their operations. The Poarch Band of Creek Indians jumped at the opportunity to become a founding supporter. Since then, the non-profit organization has used that funding to build an extensive network that connects local farms with retailers, restaurants, farmers markets and other outlets to sell their products. 

Through a focused public relations and advertising program, Sweet Grown Alabama touches every aspect of the supply chain and creates a unified brand for Alabama agriculture. For an industry that already generates more than $70 billion in economic impact for the state, there is still tremendous upside for growth. More than 43,000 farms work more than 8.9 million acres in the state of Alabama. While there are certainly some very large operations in the state, the vast majority are family farms. 

The Poarch Band of Creek Indians operates Perdido River Farms, one of the largest cattle ranches in the state. In 2024, the Tribe plans to launch the state’s largest beef processing plant near the ranch. The plant will process beef for many Alabama ranches, large and small, bringing fresh beef to market at a cost that makes local ranching operations more sustainable. While Perdido River Farms has stood as the Tribe’s flagship agricultural operation since 1992, many Tribal Members operate smaller farms that benefit from Sweet Home Alabama’s efforts. 

The organization has helped hundreds of small farms reach new markets by using Federal grants to provide incentives to grocers who stock local produce, meats and value-added agricultural products. They have also advocated for state legislation and funding that helps local farmers keep more of the revenue they generate. In the 2022 legislative session, the Sweet Grown Alabama Act was passed, eliminating sales tax on value-added products made from Alabama-grown produce. The session also secured more than $300,000 in state funding to expand Sweet Grown Alabama’s efforts. Rick Pate, Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries, explained, “We’re actually using that money to incentivize our nutritionists to put local Alabama products on kids’ plates, and so we actually reimburse them 20 cents every time.” 

The Tribe continues to support the organization because of shared values. We have always been good stewards of the land. The Alabama Cattleman’s Association has recognized Perdido River Farms with the State Environmental Stewardship Award. We understand how vital agriculture is to rural Alabama communities because that is our heritage. And, we know how important food security is for our neighbors living in poverty. Initiatives like the Farm to School Program help feed students with healthy, local meat and produce. 

With Sweet Grown Alabama set to celebrate its fifth anniversary in 2024, the program has gained traction and already produced results for Alabama farmers and ranchers. Raising awareness of Alabama agricultural products among consumers certainly helps farms thrive. But only a fraction of Alabama’s 43,000 farms have joined the program. The organization can achieve tremendous upside for Alabama’s agricultural industry by raising awareness among these producers and demonstrating the benefits of membership.  

“Sweet Grown Alabama exists to connect Alabama farmers and families and ensure consumers hard-earned money stays in Alabama,” said Sweet Grown Alabama Assistant Director Aisling Walding. “Studies have shown that for every dollar spent locally, 60 cents are reinvested back into Alabama’s economy.” 

Working with the State of Alabama, the Poarch Creek Indians have demonstrated the power of economic development, especially in rural areas of the state. The partnership with Sweet Grown Alabama will be a shining example of how we can improve the lives of Alabamians by securing the future for family farms across the state. Perdido River Farms hosts several youth programs and events that support the next generation of Alabama ranchers. Sweet Grown Alabama will help ensure the industry continues to grow to provide opportunity for generations to come. 

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