The ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ College Tour continued this week with a visit to Iowa State University, where I had the opportunity to speak with students, faculty, and members of the community about USDA’s efforts to promote local and regional food systems.
Having spent the past eight years as a professor at Tufts University prior to becoming Deputy, it felt great to be back on a college campus. I am continually impressed with the feedback and ideas I receive from students about the direction of the department under the Obama Administration and the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative.
On Tuesday night, over 300 people, mostly students, gathered at Iowa State to hear about Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Students are excited about this Administration’s renewed focus on local and regional food systems and want to get involved. After my speech, I spoke with countless young people who are interested in careers in agriculture and farming.
To be sure, these young men and women represent the future face of agriculture.
The average age of farmers in the US is 57 years old. Now, more than ever, we need to recruit the next generation of agricultural leaders. Below are some of the exciting programs administered by USDA to support beginning farmers and ranchers:
Direct Operating and Direct Ownership Loans: We’ve set targets within this program for money to go to beginning farmers and ranchers. This program makes sure that farmers and ranchers can get a loan in order to cover the cost of buying land, equipment and general operating expenses.
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program supports programs focused on education, outreach, and technical assistance through a competitive grant process.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Kathleen Merrigan