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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Iniciativa Orgánica Sound and Sensible: Recursos en Español

People learning about organic production

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

El Programa Nacional Orgánico (NOP, por sus siglas en inglés) del Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés) trabaja todos los días para asegurar que los productos con el sello USDA Organic cumplan con estándares consistentes y uniformes. Además de su riguroso proceso de certificación y vigilancia para proteger la integridad del sello orgánico, el programa también se conecta a los agricultores y las empresas orgánicas con recursos para ayudarles a entender y cumplir con las normas.

En los últimos años, el número de agricultores y negocios de habla hispana en el sector orgánico ha crecido. Por ejemplo, entre todas las operaciones ubicadas fuera de los Estados Unidos que están certificadas bajo las normas orgánicas del USDA, un 42 por ciento están en países de habla hispana en América Latina y el Caribe. Mientras tanto, dentro de los Estados Unidos, el número de productores hispanos, muchos de los cuales hablan español como su idioma principal, aumentó un 21 por ciento entre el año 2007 y 2012. Read more »

Local Food Systems at Work in the Driftless Area

Acting Administrator Elanor Starmer at Dubuque Food Co-op

Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.

So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »

The Life of a USDA Market News Reporter

USDA Market News reporter Alexandra Wright

Market News reports reach millions of stakeholders every day to ensure that everyone in the ag supply chain have the information they need. Pictured here is Market News reporter Alexandra Wright.

As I walked up to my new USDA office, distracted by the animal noises, I dodged horse-drawn buggies while tiptoeing around cow pies.  Originally from the suburbs of Atlanta, my exposure to livestock was limited.  As a market reporter with USDA Market News, I found that my exposure would significantly increase and fast.

The entire agricultural supply chain turn to USDA Market News – administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – for reliable data that serves as the information lifeline for America’s agricultural economy.  Our reports, with data gathered and distributed by reporters like me, reach millions of stakeholders every day to ensure that everyone in the ag supply chain have the information they need. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Expanding Organic Education through Others

A group of people in front of high tunnels

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) is continuing to launch new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are launching resources that help those who help others – guides and resources that help organizations reach out to and educate potential organic farmers. These resources were produced by our partners in the organic community, all of whom have on-the-ground experience teaching producers about the organic option. Read more »

Lessons from USDA’s Farmers Market Help Local Food Businesses

A Timber Pizza employee working

Timber Pizza’s success at USDA Farmers Market helped fuel its expansion. (USDA photo by Richard Tyner)

The USDA Farmers Market, next to the Department’s headquarters and steps from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for identifying and testing strategies to help support local and regional food systems.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the market, my colleagues and I at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which manages the weekly Friday market, tried a few new approaches during the 2015 season.  Our goals were to make the market more successful for vendors and more enticing to visitors.

For example, we opened the market a month early–in May instead of in June.  We also redesigned the layout of the market, allowing us to more than double the number of vendors from 14 to 32. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Understanding Rules, Certification, and Inspections

A tractor on a farm

Farmers and producers debunk common myths around organic certification in a new Sound & Sensible video resource.

Last month, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) announced new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are introducing more guides, videos, and other tools – all produced by our partners in the organic community. These resources help farms and businesses understand the USDA organic standards, certification process, and inspections in more depth. Read more »