Last Friday, I was honored to announce $9 million in new grants through USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP). The program targets producers, cooperatives and organizations that market products directly to consumers – just one of the many marketing approaches that make American agriculture so successful.
FMPP grants have helped open new doors for farmers and ranchers across the country, strengthened the connection between producers and their communities, and expanded consumer access to farm-fresh foods.
For example, this year’s awards include support for Earth Learning in Miami to expand Harvest Markets, a hub for local produce, meats, dairy and more. Funds will enable the group to expand a community farmers market, develop a new mobile market, and ensure that both markets accept electronic benefits like SNAP. That means new business opportunities for farmers and ranchers in southern Florida and greater access to fresh foods for local consumers.
In Ohio, Flying HIGH will use FMPP funds to recruit and train young urban adults as farmers, showing them how to grow and sell produce at new farmers markets in Youngstown and throughout Mahoning County. A combination of production and marketing education, technical support services, supplies and professional development will have significant impact on the long-term success of young farmers in the community.
I announced the newest round of FMPP awards during a trip to Cleveland, OH, a city that is reaping the benefit of its region’s diverse agricultural industry. At the Downtown Farmers Market in Cleveland’s Public Square, I met producers from the state’s rural areas who were boosting their bottom line through direct-to-consumer sales. Shoppers at the market relished the opportunity to learn more about where their food comes from. I saw value-added businesses making use of local produce to create delicious products. I spoke with one family who launched a successful pizza business at the market, topping their pies with whatever was fresh at the market that day.
Our agricultural industry is strong because it is so diverse, and direct marketing opportunities are part of that diversity. FMPP is just one example of how USDA is supporting these opportunities for farmers and ranchers of all sizes. Through FMPP and other programs, we have helped build infrastructure, provide training, expand businesses and support farmers and ranchers as they work to meet consumer demand for local foods.
You can find out more about the program and this year’s awards on USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service website. An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods, including FMPP, is available through the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.