When we first launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass in February, we knew you would use this digital record to explore USDA’s work on local and regional food. And you have.
When USDA released the 2.0 version of the Compass this month, we made it easier for you to find federal resources to support local food projects across the country by adding a better search engine. We also added new data sets to help you find farmers markets, food hubs, meat processing plants and other infrastructure critical to local food. From what we’ve heard, you’re exploring the new data and learning more about what’s happening in your community.
We also knew that you would have lots of questions about how USDA is supporting your local food economy.
On Tuesday, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan answered some of those questions via a Virtual Office Hours Twitterchat on local and regional foods.
@Chris_B_Leone wanted to know what the biggest obstacle is to getting local food in to local K-12 schools. (Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s twitter answer: Local passion conquers all, but money helps too! Grant info for Farm to School.)
Ed Garrrett of FreshSpinFarms.com asked about USDA support, training and resources to help young farmers pursue local marketing opportunities. (Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s twitter answer: Need more farmers! especially young ones! start2farm.gov & Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program can get new farmers started.)
@ChefMike wondered what business-to-business programs USDA provides to help connect farmers and businesses. (Deputy Secretary Merrigan’s twitter answer: Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and Value Added Producer Grants, and other Rural Business Services help. Use the KYF Compass to get good illustrations and examples.)
While these questions came in during Tuesday’s Twitter Virtual Office Hours, many others came in during last week’s White House Google+ Hangout about local food. We’ve assembled all the questions Deputy Secretary Merrigan has answered from these events in an easy-to-follow Storify here.
We created the KYF Compass to help producers, communities and businesses learn more about the resources USDA offers related to local and regional food systems. But we also hoped it would spur conversation – among community members, between groups that can share knowledge, and between you and the staff at your local USDA office. The conversation continues.
As the KYF Compass illustrates, one of the most important resources for local food systems development is the experience of others. Deputy Secretary Merrigan tweeted Tuesday: “Not all answers come from inside the Beltway.”
So explore the Compass, reach out to groups doing similar work, find your local USDA office, and keep the conversation going by using #KYF2 on Twitter or by sending questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.