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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Mobile Farms Move into Urban Settings

Thomas Lashmit and Megan Pierce

Urban farmers like Lashmit and Pierce avoid high land prices by storing their unit in a portion of a parking lot they rent in Marlborough County.

In the traditional sense, farming has always involved purchasing or leasing land to plow, plant, fertilize and harvest. As world population and land prices grow however, urban boundaries continue to expand, pushing farms and ranches farther away from the center of growing cities.

At the same time, many consumers are more aware of where their food is produced, preferring to purchase food grown locally in their communities. This trend pulls agriculture back into the heart of the city, with many agriculture enthusiasts stepping up to support the demand. Read more »

Photo-Worthy Meals

Girl with a plate of food

Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”

No, it’s really not. Read more »

Walk, Run, Ride to the First USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night poster

This Friday, the USDA Farmers Market will host its first night farmers market. Join us for live music, food trucks, and much more. We’ll provide everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall. (Click to enlarge)

For 20 years, my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has managed the USDA Farmers Market.  It’s quite a milestone, and I’m thrilled to celebrate it this week by hosting the first night farmers market in Washington, DC!  There will be live music, food trucks, and an array of farmers, growers, and vendors offering cured meats, fruits and vegetables, cut flowers, cheese and dairy, and delicious baked goods—everything you need for a perfect evening picnic on the National Mall!

As part of our work to support local and regional food systems, AMS is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed, including our own market in Washington, DC.  As we celebrate the USDA market’s 20th season, we are introducing night markets from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on May 15, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21, Sept. 18, and Oct. 16.  Each night market will have a different theme featuring live music and educational exhibits. Read more »

USDA Fosters Market Transparency in Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Industry

Sheep eating grass

USDA will release the National Monthly Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Meat report. This is the one of the first reports of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are over five million head of sheep and lambs in the United States, and over 2.6 million head of goats. A growing trend is producing these animals using grass fed production systems, especially for small to mid-sized producers.  

In response to the changing and widening marketplace, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service will begin releasing the National Monthly Grass Fed Lamb and Goat Meat report through their USDA Market News service today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.  This is one of the first reports of its kind, filling a significant data gap for the industry and increasing transparency in the marketplace. Read more »

Growing with the Times, Expanded USDA Farmers Market Opens for 20th Season

(Left to right)  Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini,  Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

(Left to right) Under Secretary Kevin Concannon, USDA AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal, Agricultural Market Service (AMS) Administrator Anne Alonzo, USDA Farmers Market Coordinator Annie Ceccarini, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Under Secretary Ed Avalos cut the ribbon opening at the USDA’s 2015 Farmers Market in the east parking lot of USDA in Washington, D.C. on Friday, May 1, 2015. USDA photo by Tom Witham.

This morning, Secretary Tom Vilsack and I kicked off the 20th season of the USDA Farmers Market.  It was quite a celebration, complete with balloons, ribbon cutting and bell ringing!  The market underwent a major redesign and expansion this year to make room for twice as many vendors as we’ve had in the past.  Featuring everything from fresh oysters to delicious pastries to crisp lettuce, today’s market is full of delicious offerings from local farmers, ranchers and food businesses.   

I am so proud that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, has managed this market for the past 20 years, turning it into a true gathering place for USDA and its neighbors, including Washington, D.C.-area employees, residents in Ward 2 and visitors to the National Mall.  The USDA Farmers Market also provides a great business opportunity for entrepreneurs. Read more »

USDA Continues to Expand Local and Regional Market Data

Organic tomatoes on  display at the La Montanita Co-op in Albuquerque, NM.

USDA Market News is now issuing a new weekly National Retail Report covering local and organic products. This report covers online advertisement surveys highlighting local or organic foods from about 534 retailers and over 29,000 stores nationwide. The report features advertised prices for fruits and vegetables, livestock, poultry, and dairy products. USDA photo courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Are you in the market for data covering locally and regionally produced agricultural products?  You are not alone.  Consumer demand for local and regional food products continues to soar, with retail sales at an estimated $6.1 billion in 2012.  Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA Market News created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products. 

USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – provides unbiased, reliable data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  The reports for local and regional food outlets – available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information webpage – provide farmers, agricultural businesses, and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information. Read more »