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Harnessing NRCS Programs to Support Local and Regional Food Systems

When we launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative,  I asked each agency to take a realistic look at their programs for opportunities to better support farmers trying to access local and regional markets.  Since then, we have been excited to be able to share details and concrete examples on how programs in our Rural Development and Research, Education, and Economics mission areas and the Farm Service Agency and Agricultural Marketing Service are able to do so. Read more »

Dakota Farmer’s Success Catches On

Dan Forgey has always had an abiding respect for the land that he’s farmed for more than 40 years, which is why, as manager of the 8,500-acre Cronin Farms in Gettysburg, South Dakota, he strives to build soil health—and yields—sustainably. First, he shifted the farm to 100 percent no-till in 1993. Then in 2006, after spending years developing diverse crop rotations, he received a grant from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, a USDA-funded grants and outreach program, to test the introduction of cover crops into his system. This move has given him higher yields with fewer inputs, and therefore better profits. Read more »

Fort Bragg Food Bank

USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) teams up with the Mendocino Food and Nutrition Program to provide needy families with nutritious meals at the Fort Bragg Food Bank.

As Americans struggle to feed their families during these tough economic times, communities are relying on food banks to provide nutritional meals for disadvantaged households. For the northern California community of Mendocino County, residents in need are finding help in the Fort Bragg Food Bank, run by the Mendocino Food and Nutrition Program, a local nonprofit. Read more »

Training the Next Generation of Top Chefs

Last fall I was honored to participate in the Job Corp’s Top Chef Competition held on at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  I must say it was one of the most delicious assignments I’ve ever had!  The competition, inspired by Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, was a huge success.  Over 20 Food Service managers from Job Corps centers across the country competed in teams to showcase their culinary talents while applying healthy eating principles to their competition entries.

The Job Corps program is a residential education and training program that serves over 60,000 youth annually between the ages of 16 and 24.  Across 124 Job Corps centers, Food Service staff serves three square meals every day to our students.  Thus, it is critical to ensure our meals meet nutrition and health guidelines and requirements.  More importantly, we understand our role in promoting healthy lifestyle practices to our students, who will then apply what they learned in their independent lives after Job Corps. Read more »

Expanding Access to Healthy Food for All Communities

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is helping expand access to healthy food in low-income communities.

USDA has launched a resource to assist in expanding access to healthy food and eliminating food deserts: www.usda.gov/fooddeserts. As outlined by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, three Federal Departments – Agriculture, Treasury, and Health and Human Services – are working together for the first time to combat food desert issues.  The webpage provides information on available grant programs that support the development of sustainable strategies aiming to increase access to healthy, affordable foods. Read more »

Custom-Built Tax Resources for Farmers and Ranchers

Farming isn’t easy.  It’s a seven-days-a-week job that requires a diverse set of skills, long hours, and some luck with the weather.  It’s with this in mind that the National Farm Income Tax Extension Committee recently created RuralTax.org, an online tool that provides agricultural producers with a source for agriculturally related income and self-employment tax information that is both easy to understand and continually updated to reflect changes in tax laws.

The Committee has a 50-plus year history of working with the IRS to edit Publication 225: The Farmer’s Tax Guide. It’s comprised of representatives from more than 12 land-grant universities around the country, who realized the need to partner with USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to provide more information for farmers about Federal taxes. We at RMA are dedicated to providing useful tools for farmers to access crucial information and are proud to have provided support for the website. Read more »