The idea is to help consumers who are interested in supporting Kentucky agriculture identify state-grown fruits and vegetables and the retailers who sell them.
The program, announced at Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville, is being financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. State Agriculture Commissioner Billy Ray Smith said yesterday that the new effort is ''only the first step, but this is the most important step'' for Kentucky as it attempts to promote its agricultural products the way neighboring states have done for years.
The department has had advertising campaigns to support Kentucky products, often in cooperation with various commodity boards, Smith said, but that approach has ultimately confused consumers with a variety of symbols and slogans.
In the Kentucky Proud campaign, ''the focus is on the consumer, on the end user,'' he said. ''The logo gives a common identity to all our agricultural products.''
Kentucky imports more than 70 percent of the food that its residents consume, Smith said, and he believes it's possible to double the state's share of its own food basket.
The Kroger Co. will feature Kentucky Proud in its 98 Kentucky stores. So will Wal-Mart, in its 35 Supercenters in the state. Using local produce is consistent with Wal-Mart's ''store of the community'' concept, said Michael Salisbury, regional produce buyer, who stocks grapes from Whitley County, cantaloupes from Bourbon County, and peppers and squash from the Lexington area.
Wal-Mart might feature Kentucky Proud items in a separate display for the campaign's kickoff, Salisbury said, but it will ultimately sell them side by side with other produce to give consumers an immediate choice.
Joe Cecil, general manager of the West Kentucky Grower Co-op in Owensboro, said the logo and advertising will support what groups like his already do. ''The key to our survival is marketing,'' Cecil said. ''We hear on the local level (people asking), 'How do we know we're buying your produce?' This is a way to identify things as being Kentucky products.''
Restaurants that feature Kentucky products will be eligible for state help in producing new menus with the Kentucky Fresh logo and with advertising. Kentucky is the ''France of America,'' said Lynn's Paradise Cafe owner Lynn Winter, because it's second only to Texas in the number of family farms. Her restaurant is known for using state produced foods.