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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

On the Road in Santa Fe – Saluting Farmers Markets All the Way

The Santa Fe Farmers Market

Farmers markets like the Santa Fe Farmers Market are at the heart of many towns and cities, attracting foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores, bringing together rural and urban Americans, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Greetings from New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!  I’m here at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, where local farmers and ranchers have come together to sell their goods to the community for more than 50 years.  This popular farmers market started with just a handful of growers and now has more than 100 vendors, more than any other in the state.  It’s the perfect place to celebrate all that farmers markets do for rural and urban communities around the country by kicking off the 16th annual National Farmers Market Week.

Audio story from USDA Radio available on the USDA website.

The growth in Santa Fe’s market mirrors what is happening across the country – Americans want to get to know their farmers and learn where their food comes from.  Farmers markets like this one are at the heart of many towns and cities, attracting foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores, bringing together rural and urban Americans, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers.  That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed. Read more »

The Price is Right: Local Beef Reporting in Vermont

Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont

This report is pioneering the way beef is marketed by providing local price information for farmers, increasing transparency in the marketplace, and enabling institutions to properly assess the value of a small or mid-sized farm, which sells its commodities locally. Pictured here is Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont.

There’s no doubt about it – gears are turning in the world of local food production.  From rural communities to large food retailers, local and regional food is a growing business across the country.  In the USDA’s Market News division, developing market reports to keep up with the growing need for local food data is a priority for us.

Following Secretary Tom Vilsack’s lead to ramp up local and regional food efforts, USDA Market News – part of the Agricultural Marketing Service – issues a local beef report for the state of Vermont each month.  Two Market News reporters from Pennsylvania ventured to the Green Mountain State to meet with existing customers and recruit new ones.  Trekking all throughout the state, they visited a total of 10 farms, talked to numerous people about grass-fed beef, and learned about how Market News can better serve this sector of the industry. Read more »

“Hot & Cold” Music, Food and Fun on the Menu for July 17th USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market Hot and Cold infographic

In Washington DC? Bring your dancing shoes and join the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, July 17 from 5 to 8 PM! (Click to enlarge)

If you’re in the Washington, DC-area on Friday, July 17, join us between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters at 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W., near the Smithsonian Metro stop.  Bring your dancing shoes, friends and appetite.  We’ll be holding the third in a series of 6 monthly USDA Farmers Market at Night.  The July night market’s “Hot & Cold” theme will feature Brazilian Music, local food trucks and free blueberry ice cream.

Farmers markets across the country are gathering places where local food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to neighborhoods across the country. As the demand for local food continues to increase, farmers markets are maturing from small stands to entertainment destinations with extended hours, live music, and a variety of local products. Read more »

Lessons from the Field: A New Series for Food Hub Development

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services in California

Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services (third from right), met with the Sacramento County of Governments and other partners to discuss food hubs in the greater Sacramento area. Rural Development’s new report Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned From the Field, is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to food hub development and other local food enterprises.

Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 local food opportunities, including food hubs, small scale processing and farmers markets across all 50 states and the US territories. These investments include over 12,000 loans and micro-loans to small-scale producers who often sell products locally and over 13,000 high tunnels (low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later in the year).

However, as with any investment, the success of a business depends not just on an infusion of capital, but also on good planning.  Technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business planning, financing strategies, supply chain logistics, marketing, and guidance with the policy and regulatory environment are equally important. Read more »

A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaking ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaks ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents.

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market.  I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.

As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community. Read more »

Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

Federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »