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Know Your Farmer Know Your Food in Action in Florida

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan meets with members of the at Fifth Generation Farms fresh market in Lake City, Florida on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. USDA Photo by Ellen Boukari.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan meets with members of the at Fifth Generation Farms fresh market in Lake City, Florida on Friday, Jan. 27, 2012. USDA Photo by Ellen Boukari.

Last week, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Fifth Generation Farms fresh market in Lake City, Fla., a farm family owned market selling local meats and produce.  When Fifth Generation Farms market opened in August 2011, it was the realization of a dream not only for Delvey and Cindy Dicks, but for their entire family as well.  For five generations, the Dicks family has been involved in farming and ranching in the North Central Florida area.  The Dicks knew that if the family farm was to remain productive for future generations, they would have to offset rising production input costs and the loss of summer tobacco crops.

Delvey and Cindy Dicks were awarded a USDA Rural Development Value Added Producers Grant to help them create a branded product named “North Florida Natural Black Angus.” The beef is raised on natural grains and fed on the Dicks farm pastures with no added hormones, antibiotics or animal by-products.  It is slaughtered locally under USDA inspection and then made available for direct purchase at the Fifth Generation Farms fresh foods market in Lake City.

The development of “North Florida Natural Black Angus” and “Fifth Generation Farms” has already had a positive impact on the community with over 50 local businesses benefiting either directly or indirectly in the process.  Twelve new jobs have been created and educational events have been conducted with more than 100 adults and children participating.  While the storefront market opened only months ago, it is already promoting products from 25 local producers, and the list continues to grow.

While at the market, Deputy Secretary Merrigan met with three generations of the Dicks farming family, representing not only fourth and fifth generation farmers, but looking to the future, the up-and-coming sixth generation as well.  The Deputy’s visit helped launch the Fifth Generation Farms month long “Celebrate Fresh from Florida” campaign.  Each Saturday in February, local farmers and producers will be on site at the market meeting customers and providing food demonstrations using their farm fresh products.   Talk about knowing your farmer!

The visit to Fifth Generation Farms fresh market was part of the Deputy Secretary’s two-day trip to Florida.  During her visit, she discussed the vision laid out in President Obama’s State of the Union address to help grow Florida’s economy.  She spoke to over 200 students, faculty and community leaders at the University of Florida, Gainesville and highlighted how local and regional food systems can stimulate community economic development and ensure equitable access to affordable fresh and local food.  The Deputy Secretary met with USDA employees based in our Gainesville field offices to answer questions about USDA’s Blueprint for Stronger Service.  She also met with Jacksonville business leaders for a roundtable about the economy and what this Administration’s vision is for an America built to last.  And finally, she concluded her trip by visiting the Jacksonville Farmers Market, tasting some Cajun boiled peanuts before heading back home.

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