A year ago, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) into law. Equipped with resources from the Bill, USDA continues to support the growth of farmers markets and local and regional food systems. In fact, last year the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program.
In addition to financial investments into our communities, we also invest our time and expertise to help farmers, ranchers and others strengthen the local and regional food sector and the communities it supports. That’s why we’re excited to begin a series of grant writing workshops with our sister agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).
The workshops will be held nation-wide and coordinated through the Agricultural Marketing Service Technical Assistance (AMSTA) Project, led by Dr. Stephan J. Goetz of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development at Penn State University. The project will help potential grant applicants understand how to develop and submit solid grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program.
These grants facilitate marketing innovation and spur economic growth in communities across the country. For example, a Farmers Market Promotion Program grant was awarded to the Delta Land & Community of Almyra, Ark., to help improve sales at two existing certified locally-grown farmers markets and establish two new farmers markets. The project involved a series of on-farm and in-market training programs for market managers, new farmers and vendors. With the help of our funds, the project boosted sales from $300,000 at two seasonal farmers markets to $1.556 million at four seasonal markets and one year-round market.
AMS and the USDA as whole is committed to making solid investments into our community. Our grants provide farmers and ranchers around the country with the tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities, and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. In addition, we also work with our partners in Local Foods, Local Places to provide technical support to rural communities looking to build strong local food systems. Through our Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, the department coordinates its policies, resources, and outreach efforts related to local and regional food systems.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development. With the help of grants, educational workshops, and partnerships, we will realize this goal, yielding a positive return for the entire country.