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Posts tagged: AMS

Celebrating Small Cities Month

Anniston Downtown Farmers Market sign

The City of Anniston will use their 2014 AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funds to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Photo courtesy of Anniston Downtown Farmers Market.

June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work.  Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.

Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance.  Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. Read more »

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 »

Let the Good Times Flow for National Dairy Month!

A man and pregnant woman have a snack and a glass of milk

June is Dairy Month! USDA Photo.

June is an eventful and versatile month—the start of warm summer days, school vacations, and holidays like Father’s Day and Flag Day.  We also celebrate many unusual observances in June such as Heimlich Maneuver Day, National Yo-Yo Day, and National Donut Day. But who can enjoy a donut without a nice, cold glass of milk?  June is the perfect month to combine the two as USDA joins the rest of the country in celebrating National Dairy Month.

For more than 75 years, we have celebrated dairy and all of its goodness during June.  What started out as National Milk Month in 1937 to promote milk consumption and stabilize the dairy demand has turned into a month-long celebration and tradition that acknowledges the dairy industry’s contributions to the United States and around the world.

Dairy has played an important role in America’s history since before the Revolutionary War, but it was not until Read more »

USDA Goes All in for Produce Safety Outreach

Small grower Warren Ford in a field

The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.

For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.

One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA).  We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »

USDA Creates On-site Application Acceptance Program to Recruit Highly Talented and Diverse Candidates

Marcus Peebles, a Procurement Technician with the Agricultural Marketing Service

Marcus Peebles, a Procurement Technician with the Agricultural Marketing Service, joined the agency through its Pathways program. AMS photo.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is driven to recruit and hire new and diverse talent into our workforce. Recently, our agency participated in USDA’s innovative on-site application acceptance events targeting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), 1994 Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities and veterans as part of USDA’s overall recruitment strategy in which all were welcome to apply. USDA’s on-site application acceptance events use the federal Pathways Programs, which offer students and recent graduates a path to federal careers.

We kicked off these events early this year during the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, Ga., the world’s largest annual poultry, meat and feed industry tradeshow. IPPE drew hundreds of students for its career fair from about 30 colleges and universities from around the country, including numerous HBCUs and HSIs. Many students came to AMS’ on-site application acceptance event at the nearby Sam Nunn Federal Building, where we received dozens of applications from a highly diverse and talented group of students. Among the applicants that AMS hired at that event was Marcus Peebles, who is now a Procurement Technician with our Commodity Procurement Program. We also learned from this experience and made several process improvements for our next on-site application acceptance event, which occurred at the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) student conference in Albuquerque, N.M. 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 »