What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities. And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.
There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »
If you are a regular USDA blog reader, you’ve heard about the new Farm to School Census, which shows the national farm to school footprint down to the school district level. With farm to school purchases topping $350 million across the country and over 38,000 schools nationwide participating in farm to school activities, local food is making marks in schools.
But who produces all that local food? How does the food make it from the farm to the lunch tray? How are farmers and ranchers getting the support they need to take advantage of this, and other, blossoming local food market opportunities? What role does the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and our federal partners play in the local food system? Read more »
During the North American Indian Days Celebration in Montana, Under Secretary Ed Avalos (foreground), witnessed the pride and commitment of youth as they celebrated their cultural and agricultural roots.
Agricultural producers in rural America represent less than 1% of the U.S. population, yet they produce almost 75% of the food we eat in this country and much of the food eaten throughout the world. Among that 1%, the average age of the American farmer is 57 years old—making it imperative for us to engage and encourage young people to pursue agricultural careers.
Earlier this summer, while visiting Browning, Montana, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Billie Jo Kipp, President of the Blackfeet Community College (BCC) and Mr. Terry Tatsey, Director of Agricultural Programs at the college. Their efforts and commitment to educate local students and keep young people in agriculture is inspiring. Read more »
Over the first week of August, local markets across the country celebrated National Farmers Market Week.
Farmers markets are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector, providing unique benefits to communities across our nation. They give Americans a chance to learn about agriculture by meeting some of the people who grow and raise our food. They provide valuable marketing opportunities for small and beginning farmers – many of whom scale up to larger regional markets and other institutions. And they help expand access to locally-grown foods that are in greater demand than ever before. Read more »
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce at the Baltimore farmers market in Baltimore, MD. By supporting farmers markets and other businesses, Farmers Market Promotion Program funds have helped open new doors for farmers and ranchers all across the country.
Must have a desire to help farmers reach new markets and to help businesses bring healthier options to local communities. Experience & qualifications should include some knowledge of local and direct marketing methods. Must be willing to devote 50-60 hours during the month of July to help score project proposals. See below for more detail.
The Farmers Market Promotion Program is a competitive grant process designed to help expand opportunities for farmers and bring healthy foods into more communities. The grants are administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and aim to help farmers throughout the country. About $10 million is available this year to support direct-marketing projects like farmers markets, community supported agriculture, roadside stands and agritourism. Read more »