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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

On the Road to Success for Local and Regional Food

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Finding creative ways to navigate transportation issues is critical to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food. A new report by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service serves as a resource for strategies and solutions to help small- and mid-size farm operations, food hubs, agribusinesses and researchers solve these issues. Photo courtesy David Ingram

Rivers, roads and rails—the shortest distance between two points is not always a straight line. Finding the best path forward can be difficult as city traffic gets worse each year, frustrating commuters and thwarting deliveries. Also in the transportation mix are farmers traveling the same roads trying to bring the freshest produce to city markets.  With the $7 billion-per-year market for local and regional food continuing to grow, more and more goods are being transported along local routes.

Developing creative ways to navigate transportation challenges is critical for farmers and consumers alike to meet the increasing demand for local and regional food.  Farmers relying on local and regional food systems may not have the scale or capacity to use established food freight systems. That’s why USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has taken a fresh look at food distribution issues, especially for the local and regional markets. Read more »

South Carolina Farmer Honors Great-Grandfather’s Conservation Ethic

Hallie Robinson, left, and NRCS District Conservationist Lori Bataller, survey the rapid growth of produce in the high tunnel. NRCS photo.

Hallie Robinson, left, and NRCS District Conservationist Lori Bataller, survey the rapid growth of produce in the high tunnel. NRCS photo.

Hallie Robinson farms a small piece of land with an enormous amount of energy and excitement. She and her husband, William Robinson, farm three acres of vegetables and raise ducks, geese, goats and cows in Lee County, S.C.

They moved to the farm in 1979, and much of her farm knowledge comes from her great-grandfather, Joe Jenkins, who worked the same land.

She was inspired by his dedication and passion for farming, and she has strived to continue working the land with the conservation ethic that he taught her. She is following his example by farming for a bountiful harvest while ensuring that her impact on natural resources – such as water and soil – is positive, and not harmful. Read more »

Delivering Along the Food Value Chain

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

A recent trip back home to Louisiana sparked memories of a simpler time when old trucks full of fresh produce rumbled down dusty roads to deliver goods to the local market. The 2012 Census of Agriculture tells us that 50,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are now selling to local retailers and that 150,000 of them are selling their products directly to consumers. Although these farmers and ranchers are still using this direct approach, the agricultural industry is certainly more dynamic today.  This means that producers need to follow a strategic business model.

The reality is that food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer. Before it is served on the table, food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. My agency, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain, including farmers markets and food hubs. For example, we invest in projects that help farmers and businesses understand emerging trends, create new markets, and stimulate our nation’s rural economies. Read more »

Small Farmers Share Land, a High Tunnel and Knowledge

Phalla Nol, Nancy Faulkner and Jim Faulkner in front of the high tunnel.

Phalla Nol, Nancy Faulkner and Jim Faulkner in front of the high tunnel.

When Jim and Nancy Faulkner bought their small farm in Boxborough, Mass. in 2009, the place was a mess. Buildings were falling down, the soil was poor and the land was covered with invasive plants. Nonetheless, they wanted to turn it into a sustainable farm.

Help came from two very different directions: a government agency and another small farmer.

“I really needed a farm plan,” said Jim Faulkner, who wanted to ensure he complied with town bylaws. “I wanted to show that I was serious and that I had a plan.” Read more »

The Food Bank-Food Hub Connection: A ‘Win-Win’ for Local Economies

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Second Harvest holds ribbon cutting ceremony for a new 65,000 square-foot regional distribution center in Thomasville, Georgia.

Across the country, food banks are committed to providing healthy food for those in need. Food banks also have a vested interest in building stronger local economies and creating additional opportunities for the communities they serve.

There are currently more than 200 food banks in the country, with more than 63,000 affiliated agencies like (food pantries and shelters). This network distributes more than 2.5 billion pounds of food to needy Americans each year.

Strategic integration of local foods into a food bank’s operation is one way to create economic opportunities for farmers and provide fresh food to families and children. This is especially important in rural areas, which have rich agricultural assets but tend to experience higher poverty rates than metropolitan areas. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Local Markets, Local Growth

Many consumers want to “buy local” and support their local economy with their purchases. When local food marketing opportunities exist for rural producers, they cause ripple effects throughout the rural economy.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results indicate that nearly 150,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are selling their products directly to consumers, and 50,000 are selling to local retailers. Today, local food is a more than $7 billion industry and growing, according to industry estimates. The excitement around this market is drawing young people back to rural communities, generating jobs, and improving quality of life. Read more »