By Mark Ambrogi
Charlie Ferguson sees only positives from the Indiana Grown initiative.
The initiative, developed by the Indiana State Department of Agriculture, makes it easier for Indiana residents to identify, find and purchase products grown, produced and processed in Indiana.
Ferguson, who produces salsa from his Noblesville farm, said he sees a lot of benefits for Crazy Charlie’s Salsa products. Crazy Charlie’s uses Indiana-grown tomatoes and fresh cilantro, garlic and lime juice to make the salsa.
In addition to several variations of Crazy’s Charlie Salsa, he also makes queso, guacamole mix and two varieties of chili sauce.
“Our C&G Salsa company has been around 14 years,” Ferguson said. “The Indiana Grown (program) lets the people know the company was started in Indiana. We’ve won 26 international awards. We’re an Indiana company that a lot of people don’t know. It opens some doors up.”
Ferguson said his products have been sold at major retailers in Indiana, Illinois and Ohio, including Fresh Thyme and The Fresh Market.
“The State of Indiana has many hidden gems in that the companies have top quality products, and the state of Indiana is getting us recognition as well as media attention by bringing it to light these top-quality companies,” Ferguson said. “Otherwise people in neighboring state may not know about us. It’s giving us opportunities to distribute products in our stores.”
Ferguson said his salsa has been featured on the Food Network.
“This gives us even more of an opportunity to for people to know about our company and mission for heaving a healthy all-natural produce that is gluten free,” Ferguson.
David King serves as program manager for Indiana Grown and Buy Local.
“Indiana Grown is growing and expanding, and the enthusiasm is greater than our expectations,” King said. “We’re growing three to five members a day. We’re increasing weekly one or two partners every week. We’re excited about the level of interest. Based on the feedback we’re getting, consumers seem to be relating to the fact when they see Indiana Grown they are very comfortable that it’s a local product.” As of Oct. 6, the program had 259 members.
King said he hopes the encouragement to buy local will benefit the local economy. “We need to buy more products from ourselves,” he said.
The new initiative, led by Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann, ISDA and a 12-member Indiana Grown Commission, will connect businesses that use or sell agricultural products such as restaurants, grocers, wholesalers, processors and farmers’ markets with Indiana-based producers of meat, milk, cheese, fruit, vegetables, wine, beer and forest products.
“My daily work has quadrupled from people calling, farm and business visits,” said King, who was hired by ISDA as local foods program manager in October of 2014. “I’ve probably gone from one phone call a day to 25 phone calls a day.”
In September, Marsh Supermarkets officially became a major in-store partner with Indiana Grown.
King said Indiana residents spend $16 billion per year buying food, yet more than 90 percent is sourced outside of Indiana.
“We’re hoping with Indiana Grown and the visibility and making consumers aware of this, we can certainly sell more Indiana products to Indiana folks,” Ferguson said.
For more on Crazy Charlie’s products, visit cgsalsa.com.