Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.
Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them. We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need. Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.
During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production. Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub. The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA. I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (center), GSA Regional Administrator Julia Hudson (left) and AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer (right) officially open the VegUcation tent at the USDA Farmers Market opening. This new feature at the market will help visitors learn how to pick, prepare and store seasonal fruits and vegetables they find at the Farmers Market. USDA photo by Ken Melton.
We celebrated a few “firsts” today when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market located outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The Secretary announced the first-ever partnership between USDA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to better support agencies and Federal employees who want to incorporate gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) into the Federal workplace.
OPM provides Government-wide guidance on health and wellness policies for Federal employees and GSA manages Federal property and offices. By working together, we can more effectively exchange ideas about how to engage thousands of employees and improve employee health and wellness in the workplace. Read more »
USDA Farmers Market poster (Click to enlarge)
Get excited—we sure are! Friday, May 6, is the opening of the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C. This means USDA employees and others who work nearby, residents of the city’s Ward 2, and tourists visiting the National Mall can once again shop at the USDA Farmers Market at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., starting next Friday, May 6, at 9 a.m.
We’re thrilled to have more farmers and growers participating than ever before. Farmers and growers participating for the first time include Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm and Spiral Path Farm, both of which are certified organic farms that offer community supported agriculture (CSA) pick up; EcoFriendly Foods, which has packaged and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products from animals raised without steroids, antibiotics, and hormones; King Mushrooms, which offers fresh varieties of oyster, button, and other mushrooms; and Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, which has small-batch, handmade cheeses and farmhouse foods. Read more »
Produce on display at farmers’ market in Washington DC. Economic Research Service’s Amber Waves magazine reports that farmers who market goods directly to consumers are more likely to remain in business. USDA photo
Opportunities to buy food directly from farmers, in urban and rural areas, have increased considerably in recent years. The number of farms that sold food at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own farms, onfarm stores, and community-supported agricultural arrangements increased 24 percent between 2002 and 2012. Economists at the Economic Research Service (ERS) have found that farmers who market goods directly to consumers are more likely to remain in business than those who market only through traditional channels.
Farmers face many business risks, including fluctuations in prices and yields. ERS looked at Census of Agriculture data showing that 61 percent of farms with direct-to-consumer (DTC) sales in 2007 were in business under the same operator in 2012, compared with 55 percent of farms without DTC sales. In a comparison of farms across four size categories (defined by annual sales in 2007), farmers with DTC sales had a higher survival rate in each category. The difference in survival rates ranged from 10 percentage points among the smallest farms to about 6 percentage points among the largest. Read more »
The Philly Food Bucks program encourages SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase fresh, local ingredients at participating farmers markets throughout the city.
March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.
Make no mistake: Hunger is a health issue. There are clear associations between food insecurity and poor health outcomes, and health providers across the country know that good health doesn’t depend solely on medical care. And this is where USDA comes in.
I frequently interact with community health organizations in the Mid-Atlantic region. Through conversations and the observations of physicians, community clinics and hospitals, we understand that USDA’s nutrition assistance programs are a natural partner to patient care. And so, in my region we created a platform for sharing ideas on how to target our nutrition programs at the places and with the people who directly provide health services in our communities. Read more »
Timber Pizza’s success at USDA Farmers Market helped fuel its expansion. (USDA photo by Richard Tyner)
The USDA Farmers Market, next to the Department’s headquarters and steps from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for identifying and testing strategies to help support local and regional food systems.
To mark the 20th anniversary of the market, my colleagues and I at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which manages the weekly Friday market, tried a few new approaches during the 2015 season. Our goals were to make the market more successful for vendors and more enticing to visitors.
For example, we opened the market a month early–in May instead of in June. We also redesigned the layout of the market, allowing us to more than double the number of vendors from 14 to 32. Read more »