FarmVille's First Real-World Crops Sprout Next Week

Zynga's massive community of fake farmers will plant its first branded crops in-game next week, teaching FarmVille players about organic farming and green living through a partnership with General Mills subsidiary Cascadian Farm.

Starting Monday and running through July 26, FarmVille players will be able to plant Cascadian Farm-branded organic blueberries on their plots, a special crop that combines quick harvesting with large cash returns.

Special crops aren't unusual for FarmVille, with season and charity items regularly appearing in the game's market, but this marks the first time the company has included branded in-game crops in the massively popular social game.

This is FarmVille's "first branded, in-game crop integration, and we chose Cascadian Farm to offer our users something that would benefit them online and offline," said Vish Makhijani, senior vice president for business operations at Zynga, the company that also created Mafia Wars and FrontierVille, two other popular Facebook games.

Cascadian Farm is a nearly 40-year-old organic farm located in the Upper Skagit Valley of Washington's North Cascade Mountains. The farm began in 1972, selling food from local stands. Since then they've evolved into a leading grower, marketer and distributor of organic food products.

"We're at a crossroads for the brand," said Tim Goldsmid, marketing manager for Cascadian Farm. . . "We're looking to get our message out in a bigger way, and we wanted a creative way to do that."

The deal between Zynga and Cascadian Farm marks the second time FarmVille and a General Mills company have come together, with a Green Giant Fresh promotion in May placing stickers on products good for in-game FarmVille cash. $100,000's worth of units were redeemed online in five weeks.

The organic food market is booming, as people seek out food grown with minimal interference from synthetic chemicals. Many consumers will ignore the generally higher price tag in order to ensure they are eating organic fruits and vegetables.

I'm a fan myself, but given the choice I'm much more likely to buy produce from local stands. No offense to Cascadian, but I'd rather support local farmers.

For FarmVille Players, a Crop From a Real Organic Farm [The New York Times]