Lilian Salerno, Administrator, Rural Development Rural Business-Cooperative Services (third from right), met with the Sacramento County of Governments and other partners to discuss food hubs in the greater Sacramento area. Rural Development’s new report Running a Food Hub: Lessons Learned From the Field, is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to food hub development and other local food enterprises.
Since 2009, USDA has invested in 29,100 local food opportunities, including food hubs, small scale processing and farmers markets across all 50 states and the US territories. These investments include over 12,000 loans and micro-loans to small-scale producers who often sell products locally and over 13,000 high tunnels (low-cost covered structures that extend the growing season and make locally-grown products available later in the year).
However, as with any investment, the success of a business depends not just on an infusion of capital, but also on good planning. Technical assistance services such as feasibility studies, business planning, financing strategies, supply chain logistics, marketing, and guidance with the policy and regulatory environment are equally important. Read more »
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (center, in brown suit) breaks ground for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribal leaders and local residents.
The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market. I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.
As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community. Read more »
In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.
Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:
At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.
Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »
As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. USDA Market News now captures data on over 85 farmers markets in the U.S. Pictured here is the Des Moines Farmers Market, which draws an average of 20,000 visitors a weekend. Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa Farmers Market.
Farmers markets are an important part of local and regional food systems. Nationwide, 150,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers to meet the growing demand for local food. Many sell their products at farmers markets, which can be a catalyst for future growth.
According to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are over 8,400 farmers markets across the country serving as community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to their communities. As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. Read more »
Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).
One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.
The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need. The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »
Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.
“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”
So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »