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 »
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.