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Farms that Sell Directly to Consumers May Stay in Business Longer

Produce on display at farmers’ market in Washington DC

Produce on display at farmers’ market in Washington DC. Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves magazine reports that farmers who market goods directly to consumers are more likely to remain in business. USDA photo

Opportunities to buy food directly from farmers, in urban and rural areas, have increased considerably in recent years. The number of farms that sold food at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, onfarm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements increased 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. Economists at the Economic Research Service (ERS) have found that farmers who market goods directly to consumers are more likely to remain in business than those who market only through traditional channels.

Farmers face many business risks, including fluctuations in prices and yields.  ERS looked at Census of Agriculture data showing that 61 percent of farms with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in 2007 were in business under the same operator in 2012, compared with 55 percent of farms without DTC sales. In a comparison of farms across four size categories (defined by annual sales in 2007), farmers with DTC sales had a higher survival rate in each category. The difference in survival rates ranged from 10 percentage points among the smallest farms to about 6 percentage points among the largest. Read more »

How College Catapults Students to Ag Careers

Gracie Valdez explains how traveling around the world helped her to want to pursue a career in international agricultural development and trade.

Growing up, the question of the day often started with “why” or “how” because I loved discovering things. Though my specific interests morphed from archaeology to geology to biology, I knew I wanted to be a scientist since the 5th grade.  In college, I chose to study biology, which exposed me to many different aspects of the field.  College was the springboard that sharpened my focus and led me to becoming the ecosystem ecologist I am today.  Recognizing National College Signing Day, I hope that today’s inbound students consider studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to help meet our future agricultural challenges. Read more »

Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Find One-Stop Shop in Farm Answers

Dairy farm with red barn in autumn

FarmAnswers.org is a clearinghouse of information to help farmers and ranchers better manage their operations. Photo courtesy of Jeff Reisdorfer

The following guest blog from a web communications coordinator at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management highlights the FarmAnswers.org information clearinghouse for new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Farm Answers is a vital element of the USDA-wide effort to make it easier for people to find USDA programs and services.

By Jeff Reisdorfer, University of Minnesota

(The U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 11 opened a new information clearinghouse for new agriculture producers, FarmAnswers.org.)

Farmers and ranchers, like owners of other start-up companies, face serious challenges, including the need for easy to access, reliable information and technical assistance for getting their businesses started.

FarmAnswers.org is a website clearinghouse where farmers and ranchers can find online courses, videos, presentations, apps, and other materials – more than 3,175 at this time – to answer farming and ranching questions.  FarmAnswers is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Read more »

Growing and Building the Billion Ton Bioeconomy

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy page cover

The USDA and other federal agencies recently released the Federal Activities Report on the Bioeconomy (FARB) documenting federal agency activities aimed at helping to develop and support the “bioeconomy” – an emerging part of the overall U.S. economy.  Emphasis is specifically placed on the production and use of biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower.  USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics (REE), Dr. Catherine Woteki, stresses these fuels, power, and products are produced using biomass–agricultural residues, grasses, energy crops, forestry trimmings, algae, and other sources–instead of fossil fuels.

The report also delves into the Billion Ton Bioeconomy Vision, an effort coordinated through the Biomass Research and Development (R&D) Board.  Comprised of industry experts from the Departments of Energy (DOE), Agriculture (USDA), Interior (DOI), Transportation (DOT), Defense (DoD), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), the Board is committed to collaboration among federal agencies on bioeconomy conceptions working to triple the size of today’s bioeconomy by 2030—to more than a billion tons of biomass. Read more »

Our Students Have a Voice in School Meals

4-H Delegates learning about Team Nutrition resources

4-H Delegates learn about Team Nutrition resources as nutrition education tools to take back to their schools and communities.

One key strategy in helping schools serve nutritious and appealing meals that students will eat is to simply ask, “What do you need?”

On April 9, USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) asked this simple yet compelling question to nearly 40 4-H delegates at the 2016 National 4-H Conference in Chevy Chase, Md. USDA FNS hosted the roundtable session, “Healthy Eating in Schools:  A Dialogue with USDA Food & Nutrition Service,” in an effort to give eager student leaders a chance to share their views on school meals and healthy eating. Participants came from all across the U.S. states and territories, from Nebraska to North Carolina, and as far away as Puerto Rico and a U.S. Air Force base in Japan. Read more »

U.S. National Arboretum Bald Eaglets Are Named

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveiling results of the newly named bald eaglets

Chavonda Jacobs-Young, ARS Administrator, unveils results of the newly named bald eaglets—Freedom and Liberty—at the U.S. National Arboretum.

Say “hello” to Freedom and Liberty, the newly named bald eaglets at the U.S. National Arboretum! Those names were chosen by you through a poll hosted by the Friends of the National Arboretum (FONA) that was compiled from thousands of suggestions submitted to our partners: the American Eagle Foundation (AEF) and the District of Columbia Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE). The formal announcement was made today, April 26, during a ceremony at the National Arboretum.

Last October the bonded bald eagle pair, dubbed “Mr. President” and “The First Lady,” returned to the their nest at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) U.S. National Arboretum, where they raised an eaglet last spring. They are the first mated pair of bald eagles to nest at the National Arboretum since 1947. Read more »