Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.
So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).
With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »
La Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico quiere animar a más mercados de agricultores como el Santurce Marketplace. Este mercado está situado solamente 20 minutos en autobús del Viejo San Juan. Es conocido como uno de los mercados más antiguos donde agricultores traen lo que producen diario y es la primera opción de los residentes. Crédito de la fotografía: cogito ergo imago
El estado libre asociado de Puerto Rico tiene solamente 100 millas de largo por 35 millas de ancho. La pequeña isla está llena de maravillas naturales, rica en cultura y abundante en agricultura. Aun así pocos se dan cuenta que gran parte de los alimentos consumidos por los residentes y visitantes provienen de otros lugares. A principios de este mes, la Dr. Myrna Comas Pagán, Secretaria de Agricultura de Puerto Rico, hizo una visita al Departamento de Agricultura de los Estados Unidos (USDA, por sus siglas en inglés). Ella llego para explorar maneras en cual mi agencia, el Servicio de Comercialización Agrícola (AMS, por sus siglas en inglés), y otras agencias en el departamento pueden ayudar a mejorar el sistema alimenticio local de la isla.
Aunque el valor de la producción agrícola de Puerto Rico ha llegado a $919 millones, un incremento de 14 por ciento en los últimos dos años, falta un sistema de distribución de productos locales en la isla. El sector local de agricultura apoya 6,500 trabajos pero aun ay mucho por hacer. Puerto Rico importa alimentos de 52 países diferentes que pueden dejar el sistema alimenticio vulnerable. Recientemente hubo un evento en cual un barco de carga con destino a Puerto Rico se extravió durante una tormenta de huracán, costándole las vidas a la tripulación, pero también dando por resultado la pérdida de 70 contenedores de alimentos. Read more »
Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary wants to encourage more farmers markets like the Santurce Marketplace. This market is located in a twenty-minute bus ride away from Old San Juan. One of the oldest markets, it is known for its farmers who bring in fresh produce every day, which is the first choice of residents. Photo credit: cogito ergo Imago
The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. The small island is full of natural wonders, rich culture and bountiful agriculture. Yet few realize that much of the food eaten by residents and visitors alike comes from other places. Earlier this month, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Dr. Myrna Comas Pagan made a visit to the USDA. She came to explore ways that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and other agencies in the department can help improve the island’s local food system.
Although the value of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production has reached $919 million, a 14 percent increase over the last two years, there is a lack of a distribution system for local produce on the island. The local agriculture sector is growing, supporting 6,500 jobs, but more still needs to happen. Puerto Rico imports food from 52 different countries which can leave the food system vulnerable. A recent event highlighted this point when a Puerto-Rico bound cargo ship was lost in a hurricane, costing the lives of the crew, but also resulting in the loss of 70 containers of food. Read more »
Across the nation there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. Photo: Auburn University College of Agriculture.
Thanks to a recent grant from USDA, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is now in better position to help get locally grown potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, and cheese onto school lunch plates. In Wisconsin, and across the nation, there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. USDA is helping create economic opportunities for producers by supporting projects that increase access to fresh, healthy food for students and consumers, and connect rural and urban communities.
Today Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $35 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies around the country. These grant programs play an important role in American agriculture and in communities by supporting local and regional food systems and giving farmers and ranchers the chance to explore new market opportunities. Read more »
Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.
Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers. USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.
I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »
Spring is now upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. Farmers across the country are making local foods available to their communities. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood, AMS.
Spring is upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. The fresh air has more people talking about and buying local foods. In fact, data from the USDA Economic Research Service suggests that farmers across the country sold an estimated $6.1 billion in locally marketed foods in 2012. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a role in increasing these numbers by creating marketing opportunities for American farmers and local food businesses through the combination of applied research, technical services, and grant support.
As the demand for local food increases, food hubs are one way farmers can deliver more fresh food to retailers, schools, hospitals and restaurants. That’s why expanding local food efforts have focused on creating more food hubs. A food hub is an enterprise that helps farmers collect and gather local and regional agricultural products for distribution and marketing to wholesale, retail, and institutional customers. Read more »