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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

The Easy Way to Find Local Food – USDA Launches New Local Food Directories

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point, a food hub that offers a wide variety of household food staples and specialty items. USDA’s new food hub directory will help connect schools, hospitals and restaurants across the U.S. with food from local farms and vendors.

What a great time of year to visit your local farmers market! From root crops such as beets, carrots and radishes to salad greens like Swiss chard, lettuce and spinach—farmers markets are full of fresh ingredients that you can use in your favorite fall recipes. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, where you can search for local markets and discover where to get your squashes, pumpkins, pears and apples. There are over 8,200 farmers markets listed with their locations, operating hours and other details, providing a simple and easy way for consumers and producers around the country to find each other.

Local and regional food systems, including farmers markets, are one of USDA’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies and improve access to fresh, healthy food for millions of Americans. Last month, I announced that AMS was building three new local food directories for food hubs, community-supported agriculture operations and on-farm markets. I asked local food enterprises to go online and list the details of their businesses in the new directories—and they responded! Read more »

A Kentucky Professor Works to Improve Irrigation Efficiency, Soil Health in High Tunnels

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff  view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.

Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »

USDA Teams Up with Vermont Beef Producers to Provide Local Market Data

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

It wasn’t too long ago that beef was far less traveled, and families often put a side of beef away in the freezer for the winter. Modern day conveniences make beef and the beef buying experience more suitable to a faster pace of life, but old traditions are hard to let go. Across the board, we’re seeing a return to buying local, and—although modern conveniences are still enjoyed—local beef is also more accessible.

USDA Market News, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, recently created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef.  As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Read more »

Conservation Tools Help ‘Pick-Your-Own’ Farm Thrive

Wade Butler talks about how drip irrigation system benefits black raspberries on his farm.

Wade Butler talks about how drip irrigation system benefits black raspberries on his farm.

A farmer’s field is dotted with people busily picking blueberries off bushes and loading them into large red buckets. But they’re not at work. They’re picking for their own pantries.

Butler’s Orchard, located near Washington, D.C. in Germantown, Maryland, is a 300-acre family-owned farm that grows more than 180 crops including 25 different kinds of vegetables, fruits and flowers. For the past 60 years, this farm has opened its rows and orchards for people to pick their own. Read more »

NRCS Assistance Helps Local Food Pantry Provide Year-Round Produce for Low-Income Families

The Share the Harvest Food Pantry uses a seasonal high tunnel to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for people in need.

The Share the Harvest Food Pantry uses a seasonal high tunnel to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for people in need.

For the past several years, USDA has been making a concerted effort to increase consumer awareness of food origins. That’s an easy task in Greenview, Missouri, where patrons of the Share the Harvest Food Pantry need only look in the parking lot to see where their fresh produce comes from.

Practically right outside of the front door of the food pantry is a 72-foot-by-30-foot seasonal high tunnel purchased and constructed with financial assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Judy Wimmer, food pantry director, said the pantry had been using raised beds and another nearby garden spot to grow summer vegetables to distribute to low-income families. Read more »

Just Like a Peach, Without the Fuzz

Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex.  In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods.  As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.

Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.

They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.

The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children.  As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »