From farm gate to dinner plate, consumers are looking for more local food options. According to the latest USDA Census of Agriculture, industry estimates put local food sales at $7 billion in 2011, reflecting the market’s growing importance.

A revamped online tool, called Florida Food Connect, at www.floridafoodconnect.com, offers agricultural producers an easy-to-use way to reach new customers and offers consumers an easy way to find local growers of the freshest foods.

Florida Food Connect offers large and small producers and growers opportunities to diversify sales and build profitable relationships.

The creators of Florida Food Connect will host a free, hourlong webinar June 25 starting at 10:30 a.m. to ensure that interested users understand how to use the site. Participate in the webinar by going to http://uf.ifas.adobeconnect.com/floridafoodconnect between 10 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. to log on.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services worked together to make the site easier to use. The new site is a more user-friendly replacement for Florida Market Maker.

On the site, producers can create a profile with photographs and information about their offerings and what makes them unique; while consumers can easily search for the nearest producer of a particular crop, or search by county to see what’s available. Consumers can also use the site to request products.