One of the early lessons the produce industry is learning with social media is that a company doesn’t have to have a national consumer brand to have effective conversations with consumers.

While some national suppliers may look skeptically at the buy local trend, a component of local is consumers’ need to connect with where their food comes from.

Social media is often the solution.

Produce companies have a huge advantage over other food producers on this front, as anyone who’s smelled a dairy farm versus an apple orchard, for instance, can attest.

A workshop at the recent United Fresh 2011 featured large, national shippers telling their stories of consumer connections through social media.

Consumers want to hear that many produce companies are family-run, multi-generational operations. They actually grow fresh fruits and vegetables in soil and on trees. It’s not manufacturing.

Another lesson: It’s not difficult or expensive, but it takes persistence and commitment.

In addition to direct contact with consumers, produce companies can reach consumers through new media.

In mid-May, Dole Fresh Vegetables hosted a group of food bloggers for a tour of California field and processing operations.

Dole hosted one last fall for nutrition and health bloggers.

It’s a positive step that so many in the produce industry now market to consumers using more modern methods, rather than just talking about the need for change and then doing nothing new.

Even though these new methods don’t reach consumers in large numbers like traditional news or advertising, every impression makes a difference to that consumer, and it only expands from there.

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