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Category: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Farmers Markets: Important Sales Outlets for Organic Farmers

Organic Vegetables sign above vegetables and flowers

If a farmer or vendor at a farmers market uses the word “organic” to describe their products or practices, they must comply with the USDA organic standards and regulations. The organic label indicates that the product has been produced through approved methods that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.

Across the nation, farmers markets continue to be great places for communities to gather, shop for fresh, healthy food, and get to know local farmers and ranchers.  Farmers markets are also important outlets for the sale of organic agricultural products. 

In fact, more than 40 percent of organic operations report direct sales to consumers.  As consumer demand for organic and local food increases, farmers markets offer important opportunities for organic producers to enter new markets and grow their businesses. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

A Dream of Farming Becomes a Reality for this Kentucky Farm Mom

Emily Diamond's daughter on the farm

Emily handles the day-to-day operations on the farm, but everyone in the family does their part, which is what makes Diamond Family Farm such a successful family business. Photo courtesy of Emily Diamond, used with permission.

Emily Diamond is a wife, mother, and farmer. She and her family own and operate the Diamond Family Farm in LaGrange, Kentucky. Emily’s farm supplies meat for her family and to the surrounding community through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Through CSAs, the community commits to buying the farm’s harvest, sharing both the bounty and risk of farming.

As new farmers, the Diamond family had a dream of producing healthy meat for their family on their own farm.

After hard work and saving their earnings, the family purchased land and began farming. “We built it all from scratch,” Emily said, “but looking back, it would have been easier if we would have purchased land with fencing and a barn already in place.” Read more »

Technology Helping us Follow the Food Path

Cattle at a farm

A 2011 FSMIP grant awarded Michigan State University matching funds to develop a pilot project to explore ways to improve local and regional beef production and marketing systems. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

It is amazing to see such an array of meats available in today’s grocery stores. Traveling across the country in my role at USDA, I hear from so many folks that want to know where their beef comes from, what the animal was fed or how was it raised.  I also know farmers have a real commitment to their crops and animals and are happy to share their stories with customers.

Farmers markets are one way for small producers to tell consumers directly where their products were grown or raised.  However, mid-sized farms face unique challenges as they are too large to dedicate the time and resources to participate in farmers markets, but too small to compete effectively in large commercial markets.  New technology could make connecting consumers to mid-sized farmers easier no matter where meat is purchased. Read more »

Organic and Local Food Opportunities in New York

USDA Certified Organic farmer Cathy Stroll of Fresh Meadow

USDA Certified Organic farmer Cathy Stroll of Fresh Meadow Farm will participate in a learning workshop for organic producers in New York’s Hudson Valley on June 2.

On June 2, 2015, USDA will join producers and local stakeholders to discuss opportunities in the Hudson Valley’s organic market.  Nationwide, organic sales reached more than $39 billion last year, and the number of certified operations grew by 5 percent to a total of 19,474 certified operations in the United States.

Many organic wholesalers and retailers report difficulties keeping up with the market demand. This creates an opportunity for local and regional producers, and USDA has numerous programs and services to help them access the organic market. Read more »

Mobile Farms Move into Urban Settings

Thomas Lashmit and Megan Pierce

Urban farmers like Lashmit and Pierce avoid high land prices by storing their unit in a portion of a parking lot they rent in Marlborough County.

In the traditional sense, farming has always involved purchasing or leasing land to plow, plant, fertilize and harvest. As world population and land prices grow however, urban boundaries continue to expand, pushing farms and ranches farther away from the center of growing cities.

At the same time, many consumers are more aware of where their food is produced, preferring to purchase food grown locally in their communities. This trend pulls agriculture back into the heart of the city, with many agriculture enthusiasts stepping up to support the demand. Read more »