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 »
The Chicago Public Schools System has incorporated locally-grown produce into school menus, providing students with fresh, healthy food. (Administrator Anne Alonzo, 4th from right) USDA Photo Courtesy of Peter Wood.
March is National Nutrition Month, and local food plays an important role in providing Americans with fresh, healthy fuel for their bodies. From farmers to financiers to schools and hospitals, there is a lot of passion for sharing good food by supporting strong local and regional food systems. I experienced this firsthand during my trip to Chicago, Ill., where I spoke at last week’s Good Food Festival & Conference.
The trip came on the heels of a recent announcement that USDA is making $97 million available to expand access to healthy food and support rural economies. Grants from my agency — the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – make up over $90 million of that funding. AMS was a sponsor and exhibitor at the trade show, where we shared information with stakeholders about the many resources we have to support local and regional food systems. Through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (comprised of the Farmers Market Promotion Program and the Local Food Promotion Program), AMS supports producers, local food entrepreneurs, and rural and urban communities across the country. Read more »
The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.
It all started with one truck—one truck and the idea that bringing fresh, healthy foods into Philly communities was just a question of coordination. For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market was the logical solution to solve the food access issues they saw in the communities around them.
“The core of Common Market is selling to schools and hospitals,” said Johnston. “Historically, they have been the hardest institutions to reach. They serve the most vulnerable population. That’s why we focus on partnering with schools and hospitals.”
Their food hub business model connects local farmers in the rural Mid-Atlantic region with wholesale customers in urban areas. In their first year, Common Market worked with only a dozen farmers and had 22 customers, but they kept growing—adding trucks and building relationships with local family farms and institutional buyers in urban communities. Read more »
Last year, AMS awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program. The AMSTA Project will help potential grant applicants understand how to develop and submit solid grant applications for the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program. Photo courtesy of Danie Becknell.
A year ago, President Obama signed the Agricultural Act of 2014 (Farm Bill) into law. Equipped with resources from the Bill, USDA continues to support the growth of farmers markets and local and regional food systems. In fact, last year the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing opportunities through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program.
In addition to financial investments into our communities, we also invest our time and expertise to help farmers, ranchers and others strengthen the local and regional food sector and the communities it supports. That’s why we’re excited to begin a series of grant writing workshops with our sister agency, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »
Local residents and town visitors enjoy fresh produce, meats and baked goods each Saturday at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market. Having extra exposure by being listed in the National Farmers Market Directory helps markets like this one in Middleburg, VA connect with more customers. Photo courtesy Cindy Pearson.
Located in Virginia’s horse country, just an hour outside of Washington, DC, is the historic town of Middleburg. Deeply embedded in the town’s roots is a vibrant agricultural sector that is the driving force behind this small community’s success. Each Saturday morning from the spring through the fall, you can find a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and baked goods at the Middleburg Community Farmers Market (MCFM). Raising the market’s visibility is vital to its continued success, so the MCFM recently updated its information in the USDA’s 2014 National Farmers Market Directory – connecting customers to fresh, quality items produced by its local farmers.
The directory, maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, is designed to provide consumers with convenient access to information about your farmers market listing including: market locations, directions, operating times, product offerings, accepted forms of payment, and more. Thousands of farmers market managers around the country are taking a few minutes to update their market listing. Read more »
Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT. A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.
A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.
But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.
Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it. Read more »