HUTCHINSON — When it comes to purchasing local Kansas-made food, the Kansas State Fair offers an abundance of opportunities.


But this year, with the fair closed due to COVID-19, the food merchants were unable to show off their goods — until now.


The Kansas Department of Agriculture has offered its From the Land of Kansas virtual program to fair exhibitors and consumers. This virtual fair-supporting experience, called Purple Ribbon Marketplace, will take place from Sept. 11-20. As at the site and at the fair, the virtual arena will showcase Kansas-made food products.


After the cancellation of this year’s Kansas State Fair, the program wanted to find an alternative way to showcase Kansas businesses and offer consumers the opportunity to purchase local products.


People hunting for popcorn, cheese, jelly or more will be able to purchase their favorites on the site. Alma Creamery, Prairie Harvest, Sticky Spoon and others will be part of this virtual mall.


"Last year we got to be there in person," said Debbie Gerard, co-owner of Sticky Spoons in Hutchinson. "This year, it’s not going to work."


Because other events have also closed, small Kansas businesses like Sticky Spoons are losing revenue. By doing this virtual store, the fair and the small businesses will gain back a small bit of revenue they lost from the fair’s year off.


"Maybe we’ll reach more people this way," Gerard said. "Word may spread."


Purple Ribbon Marketplace will feature special deals like half-off shipping, and special offers from each producer, as well as interactive opportunities to learn about Kansas agriculture businesses and the stories behind them. KDA created a Facebook group, www.facebook.com/groups/thepurpleribbonmarketplace, to begin sharing the stories about its members before product sales begin on Sept. 11.


"This will be an easy way for these businesses to remain connected with consumers so they can enjoy high-quality food and unique products and share with their family and friends," said Janelle Dobbins, From the Land of Kansas program director. "This virtual format will allow for more interaction, and, of course, the special state fair offers we all love."


Eighteen Kansas products will be offered through the Purple Ribbon Marketplace, including popcorn, cheese, sunflower oil, coffee and dip mixes, sauerkraut and honey. Boot Hills Distillery will be selling its hand sanitizer.


From the Land of Kansas is the state’s trademark program that promotes and celebrates agricultural experiences and products grown, raised or produced in Kansas. It supports the KDA mission to serve Kansas farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and consumers by providing agribusiness marketing opportunities and allowing consumers to identify and choose to support Kansas products.


"You can keep shopping after the fair," Dobbins said. "We have a lot of companies that are pivoting into online."