This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »
USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.
Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies. On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.
As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »
A research boat operated by Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory, takes a group of Michigan farmers to the research facility on Gibraltar Island on Lake Erie. NRCS photo.
Michigan farmers heard firsthand from experts about the water quality issues facing Lake Erie as well as the importance of conservation work to cleaning water.
A group of 40 farmers from southeast Michigan visited Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island in Lake Erie. The tour was held in late summer, not long after 500,000 people in the Toledo area were forced to spend days without public drinking water. Read more »
The Gruhlkey brothers – Brittan, 24, Braden 25, and Cameron 20 – worked with NRCS through the Ogallala Aquifer Initiative to adopt better equipment and techniques to manage their water use. USDA photo.
James Pike has tackled an important and thorny issue in Laramie County, Wyoming – water conservation. More specifically, this district conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has diligently worked to encourage farmers and ranchers in the region that is fed by the Ogallala Aquifer to use water wisely.
Stretching from western Texas to South Dakota, the Ogallala Aquifer supports nearly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cotton and cattle produced in the United States. Underlying about 225,000 square miles of the Great Plains, water from the aquifer is vital to agricultural, cities and industry, making up 30 percent of all groundwater used for irrigation in America. Read more »
A district conservationist with NRCS (right) works with a Maryland farmer to discuss conservation options for his farm that include improving water quality in the Chesapeake watershed. NRCS photo.
You don’t have to dig too deep to understand the connection of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For nearly 80 years, conservationists with this USDA agency have built a stellar reputation of helping producers save their soil and improve water quality nationwide with the use of technical expertise and financial assistance.
Conservationists have used this expertise to help farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed achieve similar goals. Wise land management is one significant way to prevent the erosion and nutrient runoff that threatens the Bay. Read more »
The new Farm Bill has created many new tools and resources for beginning farmers and ranchers – and questions about which programs are right for their operations.
That is why I took to Google+ this month to talk about how the new Farm Bill can help new and beginning farmers and ranchers.
For the hangout, I was joined by Farm and Foreign Agriculture Service Deputy Under Secretary Karis Gutter, Agriculture Marketing Service Administrator Anne Alonzo and Natural Resources Conservation Service Assistant Chief Kirk Hanlin. Together, we shared with new and beginning farmers information about the programs and services offered by USDA through the new Farm Bill – including support for beginning farmers and ranchers by increasing funding for beginning farmer development, facilitating farmland transition to the next generation of farmers, and improving outreach and communication to military veterans about farming and ranching opportunities. Read more »