Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)
The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.
According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »
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 »
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 »
Breonna Walker from Englehard Elementary School in Louisville, KY enjoys a nutritious and delicious school lunch. Photo courtesy Jefferson County Public Schools
The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases. USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.
By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky
The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.
Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment. Read more »
Here at AMS, one of the many benefits of creating marketing opportunities for ag businesses is seeing first-hand how the industry supports 1 in 12 jobs all over the country.
For many years, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), through its Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program, has been actively involved in the Intercollegiate Meat Judging Program. The program serves as a tool to recruit and train future leaders in the meat and livestock industry. Judging is a competitive event for youth through college students and it has a rich history in the U.S. meat industry – and here at AMS.
The program originally started in 1926 at the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago, and was sponsored by the National Live Stock and Meat Board. Contests have been held every year since 1926, with the exception of the war years. Read more »
The USDA Farmers Market also lets AMS observe the impact farmers markets have in local food systems.
Our own USDA Farmers Market, brought to you by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), celebrated 20 years of offering Washington, DC access to farm-fresh products this year.
USDA is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed and experiment with ways that might help them expand. So this season we added evening hours on the third Friday of every month to the USDA Farmers Market. Local news outlets like The Washington Post and blogs like BYT DC shared our excitement for the first ever USDA Farmers Market at Night. Read more »