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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Chinese High Tunnel Part of Innovation at Missouri Teaching Farm

Curtis Millsap works in the Chinese High Tunnel on his southwestern Missouri farm. NRCS photo.

Curtis Millsap works in the Chinese High Tunnel on his southwestern Missouri farm. NRCS photo.

You can get just about anything you want at Millsap Farms, including an education about market farming.

Curtis Millsap estimates that he, his family and a crew of interns feed about 200 families on 2.5 acres of his 20-acre farm near Springfield, Mo. While another seven acres of the farm sometimes includes sheep, poultry and cattle, it’s the vegetable operation that supports Millsap, his wife Sarah and their nine young children.

Millsap uses two greenhouses and three seasonal high tunnels to grow produce year-round. Read more »

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »

Reclaiming Spaces: One Farmers Market at a Time

The Ferry Building dominated the busy port as a main boat terminus. As cars and highways became more popular, the terminal went into disrepair. Now, farmers and vendors have revived the space, making the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market one of California’s most famous farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Jim Forest.

The Ferry Building dominated the busy port as a main boat terminus. As cars and highways became more popular, the terminal went into disrepair. Now, farmers and vendors have revived the space, making the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market one of California’s most famous farmers markets. Photo courtesy of Jim Forest.

At the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., the farmers market is nestled among other vendors including artists, craftsmen, and chefs all housed within colorful shipping containers.  Repurposed shipping containers are housing farmers markets on undeveloped lots in, Boston and Raleigh as well. Photo courtesy of Leonel Lima Ponce

At the DeKalb Market in Brooklyn, N.Y., the farmers market is nestled among other vendors including artists, craftsmen, and chefs all housed within colorful shipping containers. Repurposed shipping containers are housing farmers markets on undeveloped lots in, Boston and Raleigh as well. Photo courtesy of Leonel Lima Ponce

Consumer demand for local food is driving the expansion of farmers markets into places of all shapes, sizes, and locations. Ferry terminals, train depots, grain mills and shipping containers all can, and are, housing farmers markets across the country.  There are 8,268 markets listed in the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, a 76 percent increase since 2008.  Managed by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, the directory listings reflect continued growth and demand in every region of the country. Today farmers markets are as diverse as the communities they serve and can be found in unique rural and urban spaces across the country.

Built in 1903, the Southern Railways Station in Knoxville, Tenn., was a symbol of America’s great railroad heritage. The terminal is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its late 19th century architecture and its prominent role in Tennessee railroad industry.  Today, the main building has been repurposed into office spaces and a banquet hall that hosts a winter farmers market.  Last winter, the depot hosted its first market, offering 30 vendors an opportunity to extend their season and continue the tradition of celebrating Knoxville’s heritage. Read more »

Local & Regional Data Added to USDA Market News

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

America’s hunger for locally and regionally grown food has become a $7 billion-per-year market.  That means more consumers are savoring farm-fresh food, and more farmers—especially small and mid-size farmers—are profiting from new markets for their products.  It also means that a trove of useful pricing and volume data about local and regional food markets is now available, ready to be collected and analyzed.  Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making that data available to farmers and businesses of all sizes for free and helping to level the playing field.

USDA Market News has created a new series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products.  The reports—covering products from all commodity areas—are all available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information web page, which provides farmers, other agricultural businesses, and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets.  Three report categories are now online: Read more »

Thousands of Reasons to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market.  Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market. Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

The 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week is off to a great start!

Farmers markets connect and unite people living in urban and rural environments, provide access to fresh, healthy and delicious foods, and—best of all—put a face to the farmers and ranchers who produce their wonderful wares. We, in turn, can support farmers and local communities with our purchases. Read more »

In Colorado, Partnerships Bloom in Support of Regional Food Systems

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need.  One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF).  SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.

Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically.  The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference. Read more »