Bill Smittcamp (center), pictured here with his son, Blake, and grandson is president of Wawona Frozen Foods. “USDA has always been very supportive and open to working with small business and the fruit and vegetable industry as a whole,” said Smittcamp, “They listen to our concerns and work with us. The ability to have a conversation with an organization like USDA gives us confidence in our ability to grow our business.”
USDA’s purchase programs were created to support our nation’s farmers through the purchase of domestic products and to increase Americans’ access to nutritious food. Many businesses who sell to USDA find that the programs also create other opportunities for growth.
Companies like Wawona Frozen Foods have used the Commodity Purchase Program, administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), as a reliable outlet for their products. The consistent opportunities offered through government contracting allowed them to eventually expand into commercial foodservice and retail markets. For nearly 20 years, Wawona competitively bid for contracts and provided quality, nutritious foods to USDA programs. As a dependable USDA vendor, they supply more than 50 million frozen fruit cups to the National School Lunch Program each year. Read more »
We couldn’t have asked for better weather for the 19th season opening of the USDA Farmers Market. Our celebration of U.S. military service members, past and present, and American agriculture brought together special guests, partners, farmers and the community. USDA photo by Peter Wood.
Red, white, and blue balloons soared high above the bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers and vendors at the opening of the 19th season of the USDA Farmers Market. With echoes of the Star Spangled Banner played by the “President’s Own” Marine Band, we celebrated the service of our men and women in uniform, reaffirming USDA’s commitment to supporting veterans and active-duty service members. We also celebrated several points of intersection between American agriculture and the military community.
From our partners and stakeholders who joined us for the event, we saw amazing generosity and dedication to improving the lives of military families. Burpee Seed Company handed out thousands of Welcome Home Garden Project seed packets, bringing the healing gift of gardening to thousands of heroes. With over 165,000 families participating and over 1.8 million seed packets distributed over the last two years, their efforts to provide healing, comfort and homegrown foods are truly inspiring. Read more »
With support from a USDA Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan, the Cellars at Jasper Hill in rural Greensboro, Vermont was able to expand its facility, grow its business and reach new markets.
Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced a historic level of funding available for local and regional food: $78 million, including $48 million through USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program and $30 million through the newly-expanded Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. The 2014 Farm Bill gave USDA these and other tools and resources, expanding our ability to connect rural and urban communities, increase access to healthy foods, and support rural economies through local food systems.
What does this mean for rural economies? Consider Cellars of Jasper Hill in Greensboro, Vermont. The Kehler brothers took their passion for dairy and founded a cheese making operation 10 years ago. Partnering with Vermont’s Community National Bank, USDA’s Business and Industry Loan Guarantee Program helped the company construct a 22,000-square-foot facility and expand its on-farm value-added cheese production. The project helped save 20 existing jobs and created 14 new ones in a town with fewer than 1,000 residents. Read more »
A beautiful day is forecasted for the 19th year, the USDA Farmers Market opening. The market is a another example of USDA’s commitment to supporting local and regional food systems. We hope that you will join us on Friday, June 6, at 9:30 a.m. for our opening.
I love farmers markets. The vibrant colors, enticing smells, and vivacious people make me feel so very alive and happy. Local markets also work to bring communities together. I have been to a number of farmers markets across the U.S., but my favorite one is located right here in Washington, DC—in fact, it’s right here at USDA.
My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service, is proud to host the USDA Farmers Market each week, building connections to the vendors, customers, and surrounding community. Tomorrow, June 6, the USDA Farmers Market opens a new season with a salute to our military, veterans and American agriculture. We will not only celebrate the bounty of the market, but will also thank our military for serving with valor, courage, and distinction. Read more »
Cantaloupes are a refreshing treat that is always a hit during the summer. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Most cantaloupes will need to be kept in the refrigerator before eating. USDA Photo courtesy of Scott Bauer.
We all have our own methods and traditions for selecting fresh produce, especially as the weather gets warmer and our stores and markets are full of fresh seasonal offerings. Whether it’s smelling the rind or checking the firmness of the skin, these age-old practices are all designed to help pick the winning ingredients for snacks and meals. Last spring, we provided tips for buying artichokes, apricots, broccoli, cherries, and strawberries. This time around, we will focus on some other seasonal favorites.
Whether it is part of a fruit salad or eaten by itself, cantaloupe is always a hit during the summer months. When purchasing a cantaloupe, make sure that its rind is light green or turning yellow. Ripe cantaloupes should yield to light pressure and have a sweet aroma. Most cantaloupes need to be kept in the refrigerator for 2-4 days before eating. Some may prefer to eat their cantaloupes at room temperature, while others like theirs after leaving it in the refrigerator for a few hours. Read more »
An infographic exploring water conservation efforts across American commodity production. AMS product. (Click to enlarge).
Farmers have always been particularly attuned to the forces of nature – it’s in the job description, after all. When the regularity of growing seasons collides with the irregularity of extreme conditions like droughts, floods, windstorms, the American farming community is motivated to innovate and conserve.
For years, farmers have been leveraging the collective power of research and promotion programs to invest in research that improves on-farm practices through both innovation and conservation. Their efforts, with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has resulted in significant water and soil conservation, safeguarding our land for future generations.
Critical among these practices is smart irrigation. Almond growers in California have funded 71 irrigation projects over a 32-year period. Through these projects, growers have learned that micro-drip irrigation not only uses much less water than older methods, but also generates more vigorous plant growth. With the targeted distribution and uniformity, this increases crop production. Read more »