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Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi were in the area this week, visiting nearby Martin Viette Nursery to encourage the support of local food, plant and wine producers. They were promoting the Support Long Island Grown and Grown on LI campaigns that kicked off during Earth Month. The campaigns were founded on the notion that by nurturing local agriculture, residents can ensure a greener Long Island, with more jobs and healthier people eating better food.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand was back in the area this week. She joined County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi, Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph M. Gergela III and others in addressing the importance of buying locally produced food, flowers and wine.

Long Island Farm Bureau Executive Director Joseph M. Gergela III led the press conference, and said that for years he has appreciated the help of Senator Gillibrand.

"She gets it," he said, praising Senator Gillibrand's steady support of Farm Bureau efforts while she was in Congress and now that she is in the Senate. Mr. Gergela said that the senator has brought great focus to farming interests and has spearheaded important research and promotional efforts.

County Executive Suozzi was also commended for his support and commitment to local agriculture. Mr. Suozzi asserted that jobs, health and the local environment are on the line, and true efforts have to be made to keep local production going.

"This stuff doesn't just happen," he said. "Farmers need the advocates like the Farm Bureau and the partners like King Kullen who buy locally."

He continued saying that farms are a necessity on Long Island that he would fight for, because, "Industry will eat up open space if the government doesn't step in."

Senator Gillibrand followed the county executive. She cited that in all of New York State, farming is actually big business. Hundreds of millions of dollars are generated through agriculture and it makes up a large percentage of state output, she said.

"Our local farmers are the backbone of our economy," said the senator.

Senator Gillibrand added that in this recessionary period, New York farming could actually be an important avenue toward recovery. She touted the possibility of large job growth and a lot of money being spread around the state if the farming industry could be built up. The first step in that recovery would be campaigns like Support Long Island Grown and Grown on LI.

"I am happy to join the Long Island Farm Bureau in announcing the Grown on LI campaign," the senator said. " It is important to highlight locally grown foods, flowers and locally produced wines so Long Islanders know what great products are grown right here in their backyard. I made sure that buy local and organic transition provisions were included in the Farm Bill and will continue to work hard on behalf of New York and Long Island's farmers."

She was in agreement with County Executive Suozzi's statement that a partnership was needed between farms, government, advocates and partners. Along those lines she also commended stores like King Kullen for buying and selling locally produced food.

Executive Director Gergela added that it was King Kullen that, "Made the program real in Long Island."

Tom Cullen, CEO and owner of the supermarket chain was thankful for the praise and enthusiastic about Long Island produce. "You keep growing it, we'll keep buying it," he promised local farmers. "We are true Long Islanders as you are."

The planning for the Support Long Island Grown campaigns was self-funded by grower donations. It has coincided with Earth Month, although the planning began early in 2009. Beyond the press conference, the campaign planners are providing a lot of information for people to, as they say, "do their part in saving the planet and reducing their carbon-footprint by buying locally-grown fruits, vegetables and horticultural items."

The emphasis on good health is touted as well by the campaign.

"New York State has tremendous agricultural resources including fertile soils and a perfect climate for farming. This means fresher produce and healthier plants grown closer to home by people you know. When you buy bedding plants and nursery products grown in Long Island, you not only keep your garden growing, you keep the Long Island economy growing too," explained New York State Agriculture Commissioner, Patrick Hooker.

More details about the Support Long Island Grown campaign can be found online at: www.grownonli.com. On this site there are also locations of local retailers who sell LI grown items, some of the top reasons to buy locally on LI, as well as various gardening tips and recipes.

Consumers can further contribute to Support Long Island Grown by becoming a "green friend" with a $25 donation. Retailer-involvement is welcome, as are all media-inquiries.

Contact Support Long Island Grown via the www.grownonli.com website, or by calling Executive Director Joe Gergela, at (631) 727-3777.


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