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Every Family Needs A Farmer

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food badge

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Every family needs a farmer. Photo: Virtual Panorama of Reiter Berry Farms, in Watsonville, CA.

Since the beginning of April 2016, USDA has celebrated the success of small and mid-sized farmers in conjunction with local and regional food systems.  USDA officially kicked off Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Month by not only announcing a number of new initiatives, but also highlighting the vast array of accomplishments achieved by our stakeholders, grantees, employees and more.

KYF2 Month is soon coming to a close.  However, we still have a few announcements up our sleeves.  Today we’re rolling out the revamped Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website.  The site was redesigned to offer a more user-friendly experience that makes it easier to navigate the wealth of USDA and partner resources. Using updated web standards and visuals to optimize the user-experience, we’ve reorganized the information and gathered new content.  In short, the KYF2 website has become an even better a one-stop-shop for information on USDA’s local and regional food systems work. Read more »

Job Corp Youth Saving America’s Garden Heritage

Boxelder instructors Jerry Hood and Rae Rowell, along with student Seth Brand-Tindale admiring the flowers and vegetables in the Center’s greenhouse

Boxelder instructors Jerry Hood and Rae Rowell, along with student Seth Brand-Tindale admire the flowers and vegetables in the Center’s greenhouse during the 2015 harvest celebration. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Fuller.

It’s spring! And while gardeners typically scrutinize seed catalogs for what crops to plan, Boxelder Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students are working to save America’s diverse, but endangered, garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

The center, connected to the Black Hills National Forest, is one of 27 Job Corp Centers operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Read more »

Transitioning to Organic Certification

Conner Voss on his farm

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »

NIFA Supports Annual Science, Engineering Festival to Spur Future Scientists

Victor Villegas educating young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture

Victor Villegas also known as the ‘Drone Singer’ educates young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture, including crop surveillance.

The link between agriculture, science, and engineering is quite simple. Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, those three components work together to make a more sustainable environment. Thousands of students had the chance to learn about that and more, April 15-17 at the 4th Annual Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

Several members of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) participated in the festival to encourage children to become the next generation of agricultural professionals. Read more »

Conservation Wildlife Enhancements Inspire Creativity in a Delaware Farmer

Richard Clifton and NRCS soil conservationist Brooke Brittingham reviewing a conservation plan

Clifton and NRCS soil conservationist Brooke Brittingham review a conservation plan on his plant and flood wildlife habitat enhancement project. Photo: Dastina Wallace, NRCS

Muffled honking above draws wildlife painter Richard Clifton’s eyes to the sky. Flying overhead is a flock of nearly 30 snow geese preparing to land nearby in Clifton’s crop field in Milton, Delaware. In early March, this is a common scene due to his unique wetland ‘plant and flood’ restoration project that enhances wildlife habitat and production.

Clifton’s farming background combined with his love of duck hunting and passion for painting wildlife gives him a unique perspective on habitat enhancement. Growing up on a farm, as did his father and many generations before him, he recognizes the need to keep his fields in production agriculture. However, as an avid duck hunter, he wants additional habitat, food and breeding grounds for wildlife―all of which inspire his award-winning wildlife paintings. Read more »

Organic Study Uses Domestic Sheep to Facilitate Sustainable Farming

Sheep grazing on cover crops in a Montana State University sustainable farming study

Sheep graze on cover crops in a Montana State University sustainable farming study. Photo courtesy of Montana State University.

Environmental and economic management of weeds and pests is a priority for organic farmers and they typically use tillage to address these issues. However, frequent mechanical tillage can reduce soil integrity, which increases costs for farmers and negatively impacts future crop growth. Now, Montana State University (MSU) researchers are studying an alternate technique to manage these issues—domestic sheep.

Instead of using traditional tilling machinery or herbicides, MSU’s project features domestic sheep that graze farmland to eliminate the cover crop and control weeds. The study will determine if an integrated animal and crop production system is an economically feasible way to reduce tillage for certified organic farms. Read more »