“The ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ program that Kathleen is spearheading is an effort to help rebuild urban food sheds and sustainable local and regional food systems and I have been in this city for nine years and you can see the change happening,” said former Senator and New School University President, Bob Kerrey as he introduced Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan was at the New School for a presentation to local leaders and students interested in food and agricultural policy last Thursday evening. Despite a severe snowstorm, attendees filled the auditorium to capacity and spilled into the hallways to hear about what USDA is doing to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers. The presentation in New York City emphasized the importance of urban areas in the ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ program and the future of agriculture policy with discussions on food deserts, Farm to School programs, and food distribution hubs in the Hudson River valley.
President Kerrey, who served on the Senate Agriculture committee during his time in the Senate, spoke about the progress he saw at USDA:
“There’s a lot at stake here, it’s not just about what Deputy Secretary Merrigan is proposing to do with Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, it’s the nature of our government, the relationship with our government – it is dramatically changing. Much more oriented to food, much more oriented to the individual farmer and much more oriented to the individual consumer and much more oriented, as a consequence, to the changes that people want to see happen.”
Deputy Secretary Merrigan addressed those changes by highlighting the unprecedented coordination and collaboration at USDA to help promote locally and regionally produced food. And the changes that President Kerrey spoke of are a part of the culture at USDA as we work to bring about “the changes that people want to see happen.” For those of us at USDA, it is just part of being an ‘Every Day, in Every Way’ department.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited with the students, faculty and administrators at the University of New Hampshire as part of USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ college tour.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan had the opportunity to learn about current research efforts from staff at UNH’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture including research on strawberry genomics conducted by Thomas M. Davis, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences.
The strawberry genomics research program at UNH is engaged in basic and applied research aimed at understanding the structure, evolution, and expression of the strawberry genome, and at the development of novel strawberry germplasm. Their goal is to provide the knowledge and tools needed to serve the coming era of marker-assisted breeding of strawberry and other specialty crops. Marker assisted breeding is a technology that relies upon DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify plants with superior genetic constitutions, yet involves no “genetic modification” of the plant itself except that achievable via the conventional breeding techniques of cross pollination and variety selection.
Over the past year, an international consortium of researchers has self-assembled around the goal of generating the first strawberry genome sequence. The effort is formally led by the laboratories of Vladimir Shulaev (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute) and Kevin Folta (University of Florida), but involves intensive efforts by many laboratories both within and outside the U.S, including the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station.
The subject of this sequencing effort is the yellow-fruited variety, ‘Hawaii 4’, of the Alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca f. semperflorens. ‘Hawaii 4’ differs from the commonly cultivated strawberry in two important ways. One is its distinctive yellow fruit.
By Aaron Lavallee, USDA Communications Coordinator
The ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ College Tour continued this week with a visit to Iowa State University, where I had the opportunity to speak with students, faculty, and members of the community about USDA’s efforts to promote local and regional food systems. Read more »