(Nov. 15) The Pride of New York program is widening it accessibility on the Internet and providing monetary incentives to program participants as it attempts to build support for fruits and vegetables grown in the state.

The nine-year-old campaign, a component of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets’ Grow New York initiative, which provides economic and technical assistance to members of the state’s agriculture sector, also is stepping up efforts in the foodservice business.

“We’re seeing more and more demand at various levels,” said Jessica Chittendon, communications director for the department, based in Albany. “Last year, we were spending a lot of time at retail, and more retailers were getting involved. This year, we’re making a push in restaurants, helping them create menus that are Pride of New York-driven.”

Participants showcase New York-grown fruits and vegetables, as well as other commodities, on menus, just as retailers adorn their produce departments with Pride of New York logos, posters and point-of-sale materials. Bags, trays, labels and displays bear the program’s insignia in retail outlets.

About 1,200 growers, shippers, retailers and restaurants participate in the program, Chittendon said.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth in the program,” she said. “When it started out, it had something like 200 members.”

In March, Pride of New York unveiled a retooled Web site, www.prideofny.com, which lists all members and offers searchable information about them and their wares. The site also offers downloadable membership criteria, marketing information, upcoming events and recipes, Chittendon said.

“The Internet has made it possible for our members to bring their products into homes worldwide,” Agriculture Commissioner Nathan Rudgers said in a news release. “It also offers an easy way for retailers, the foodservice industry and consumers to find and buy New York foods.”

The program also attempts to recognize member organizations that help the program grow.

In May, for example, Pride of New York rewarded a marketing campaign undertaken by Burt-based Murphy Orchards in conjunction with four other Pride of New York members.

Murphy Orchards received a matching grant from the Pride of New York program that enabled it to partner with four other Niagara County farmers to sell farm-produced and processed products in two seasonal stores in shopping malls. Joining Murphy Orchards were Schwab Farm of Gasport; Lockport-based Niagara Landing Wine Cellars; Appleton-based Singer Farms and Burt-based Sun Orchard Fruit Co.

“We feel it’s a good way that New York is trying to help New York growers to sell more product — not just vegetables but all farm product,” said Jeff Kubecka, executive secretary of the Kirkville-based New York State Vegetable Growers Association. “There’s a lot of generic promotions that they do and a lot of promotions to major buyers.”