Pick Tennessee Products (PTP), the flagship marketing program of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture (TDA), marks 30 years in 2016, and it continues to grow and help the state’s farmers and producers get their products to market.
PTP came out of the department’s new Marketing Division, established in 1984 by newcomer Joe Gaines. He brought the perspective of the modern consumer to the division.
“Joe envisioned and then established a division at TDA that addressed all the aspects of modern marketing including packaging, distribution, promotion and advertising,” says Cynthia Kent, TDA Market Development creative resources coordinator.
By 1986, the PTP program was born. Gaines and his team worked on developing and branding the PTP marketing program. Kevin Hosey came up with the program name and Pete Cardinal worked on the logo. Later, Keith Harrison worked on launching a website with John Burkitt. Picktnproducts.org was the first state-sponsored website in Tennessee.
PTP started as a retail program focusing on getting Tennessee products on grocery store shelves – products like Monterey Mushrooms and Pictsweet, a family-run frozen vegetable business. Other early members of PTP include Strickland Place Farms, Shelton Farms, Sweetwater Valley Farms and Colts Chocolates.
As the local food movement began to grow, so did the opportunity to market farm-direct and artisan products. Producers like Danny Shelton, initially a tomato, pepper and cantaloupe grower for commercial markets and grocery stores, began to embrace the new opportunities of the direct-to-consumer market.
TDA’s marketing team kept working to get products in grocery stores, but also focused on finding other ways to help farmers reach consumers and become more profitable. From advertising to point-of-sale marketing to web and social media, the program has helped producers reach customers they could not have reached on their own. All of these services are free to the state’s farmers.
At least part of the success of the program can be linked to the close- knit agriculture community, Kent says. There’s a trust that’s been built through years of FFA and 4-H and working together in the Farm Bureau and other ag organizations.
Agriculture is especially good at holding onto history while still adapting for the future, Kent says.
“There’s so much continuity in agriculture, so some of the things have stayed the same and others have been modernized as we’ve gone along.”
Part of that continuity has been the support the program has received over the past three decades. Every Tennessee governor has actively supported and promoted Pick Tennessee Products.
“Other programs tend to come and go with administrations,” Kent says. “Pick Tennessee Products has not done that. We have people who have been with us from the start.”