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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Taking a Bite out of the Local Apple in the Windy City

The Chicago Public Schools System has incorporated locally-grown produce into school menus, providing students with fresh, healthy food. (Administrator Anne Alonzo, 4th from right) USDA Photo Courtesy of Peter Wood.

The Chicago Public Schools System has incorporated locally-grown produce into school menus, providing students with fresh, healthy food. (Administrator Anne Alonzo, 4th from right) USDA Photo Courtesy of Peter Wood.

March is National Nutrition Month, and local food plays an important role in providing Americans with fresh, healthy fuel for their bodies. From farmers to financiers to schools and hospitals, there is a lot of passion for sharing good food by supporting strong local and regional food systems. I experienced this firsthand during my trip to Chicago, Ill., where I spoke at last week’s Good Food Festival & Conference.

The trip came on the heels of a recent announcement that USDA is making $97 million available to expand access to healthy food and support rural economies.  Grants from my agency — the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – make up over $90 million of that funding.  AMS was a sponsor and exhibitor at the trade show, where we shared information with stakeholders about the many resources we have to support local and regional food systems. Through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (comprised of the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program), AMS supports producers, local food entrepreneurs, and rural and urban communities across the country. Read more »

USDA Helps Plant a Seed for a Healthier Next Generation of Inner City Students

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

Miller Grove students inspecting the plants as they go into the soil. NRCS photo.

As teams of agriculturalists across America celebrated National Agricultural Day on March 18, a group of volunteers and professionals arrived at Miller Grove Middle School in Lithonia, Georgia.  They were there to give a hands-on outdoor lesson on how to build, plant and maintain a school garden to a group of Atlanta metro-area students who have likely never experienced what it’s like to grow their own food.

On this made-to-order, cool and clear morning, just two days before the official start to spring, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Dr. Joe Leonard was the first to share remarks.  He began by thanking Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for his commitment to providing community gardens to underserved communities. “Miller Grove School is a perfect example of how partnerships between the federal government (USDA’s Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights and Natural Resource Conservation Service), non-profit organizations (The Stewart Foundation and Two Rivers Resource Conservation and Development Council) and the DeKalb County School District can work together on behalf of children.” Read more »

Hoop Houses in Nevada Elementary Schools to Help ‘Plant a Seed’ in Young Minds for Healthy Eating

Lisa Maslach, school counselor; Judy Halterman, Veggies for Kids Program; and Staci Emm, with the Extension, discuss planting techniques and strategies at Yerington Elementary School. NRCS photo by Heather Emmons.

Lisa Maslach, school counselor; Judy Halterman, Veggies for Kids Program; and Staci Emm, with the Extension, discuss planting techniques and strategies at Yerington Elementary School. NRCS photo by Heather Emmons.

Above the sounds of whirring drills and nails being hammered into wood planks, squeals of excitement and oohs and ahhs emanated from Yerington Elementary School students as they filed past the hoop house being built on their way to the lunchroom.

March is National Nutrition Month, so it only seems fitting that three rural elementary schools in Nevada had hoop houses installed in late February and early March as part of a partnership among USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and Urban Roots Americorps. Read more »

Small Start-Up Brings Big Change for Philly Communities

The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.

The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.

It all started with one truck—one truck and the idea that bringing fresh, healthy foods into Philly communities was just a question of coordination.  For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market was the logical solution to solve the food access issues they saw in the communities around them.

“The core of Common Market is selling to schools and hospitals,” said Johnston. “Historically, they have been the hardest institutions to reach. They serve the most vulnerable population. That’s why we focus on partnering with schools and hospitals.”

Their food hub business model connects local farmers in the rural Mid-Atlantic region with wholesale customers in urban areas.  In their first year, Common Market worked with only a dozen farmers and had 22 customers, but they kept growing—adding trucks and building relationships with local family farms and institutional buyers in urban communities. Read more »

The Girl with Grit

Jaclyn Moyer’s got grit.

Somewhere between the 12 hour days Jaclyn spends on her 10 acre farm in Northern California plus her off-farm baking job, she somehow found time to pen a great piece in Salon about her experiences as a new farmer.  She describes how she and her partner are struggling to balance their love of the land and passion for farming with the financial challenges of starting a new business.  ”Surely many farmers enjoy what they do, as I often find pleasure in my daily tasks, but ultimately farming is work, an occupation, a means of making a living that must fulfill the basic function of a job: to provide an income,” she writes.

Couldn’t have said it better myself. Read more »

100 Years of USDA Market News: The Trusted Source – Then, Now and Always

In 1915, the first USDA Market News report was sent by telegraph, letting buyers and sellers across the country know the price of strawberries in Hammond, Louisiana. A century later, the impact of USDA Market News reports is clear. Through USDA Market News, AMS provides timely, reliable, unbiased data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy. Each year, AMS issues more than 250,000 reports that get more than 53 million views. (Click to enlarge)

In 1915, the first USDA Market News report was sent by telegraph, letting buyers and sellers across the country know the price of strawberries in Hammond, Louisiana. A century later, the impact of USDA Market News reports is clear. Through USDA Market News, AMS provides timely, reliable, unbiased data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy. Each year, AMS issues more than 250,000 reports that get more than 53 million views. (Click to enlarge)

Have you ever wondered how American farmers and businesses track the price of their commodities?  Today, farmers, ranchers, and the entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News – administered by my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for timely, reliable, unbiased data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.

But 100 years ago, everyone was in the dark about how much things cost.  That’s why, in 1915, the first USDA Market News report was sent by telegraph, letting buyers and sellers across the country know the price of strawberries in Hammond, Louisiana. Read more »