Reed Fitton has enhanced honey bee habitat on the pastures he manages near Gays Mills, Wisconsin.
Reed Fitton grazes cattle on the same hilltop farm where the late conservationist Ben Logan grew up and later featured in his memoir, “The Land Remembers.” Fitton carefully manages the farm near Gays Mills, Wisconsin with a broad conservation ethic, preventing soil erosion and protecting waterways. He has also transformed the Ben Logan’s “Seldom Seen Farm” into an oasis for honey bees and other pollinators.
When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a new coordinated effort to improve honey bee habitat in 2014, Fitton was one of the first to participate. He works closely with NRCS to make improvements to the land that provide better forage for his cattle, improve existing hayfields and convert former corn fields into healthy pasture. Read more »
Members of the Agua Gorda Cooperative are growing organic produce for the Minneapolis market. Photo courtesy Latino Economic Development Center.
October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. Jaime Villalaz, a business development specialist with the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis, Minn., provided us with a glimpse into how USDA funds are being used to promote agriculture and cooperative development in the Latino community in Minnesota.
In 2011, staff from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis met with about 30 residents of Long Prairie, Minn., to discuss starting a farmer cooperative that would improve their income and promote economic development. After meetings throughout that winter, the cooperative became a legal entity in April 2012. The eight original members each contributed $250 to start the Agua Gorda Cooperative. Read more »
Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.
Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.
A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »
Through What's Growing On? taste tests students get to vote on the local produce option.
Rural communities are looking for innovative ways to sustain quality of life and build viable food systems that support the health and economic needs of their people. Working Landscapes is a Warrenton, N.C. nonprofit that creates sustainable food hubs by bridging the gap between local farmers and area consumers. As a 2015 USDA Farm to School grantee, Working Landscapes uses its food hub resources to link local farmers and northeastern North Carolina school districts, demonstrating that working together can make a difference in the quality of life for rural communities.
By Tim Williams, Program Manager, Working Landscapes
The lights are on and the machines whirring on a recent June morning in downtown Warrenton, N.C. From the outside, the former cotton gin warehouse doesn’t look like much, but what you find behind the historic facade is an innovative farm to school venture that is bringing locally grown, fresh-cut vegetables to students across the northeastern part of the state. Read more »
These tomatoes, inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham, will be distributed through the co-op’s weekly community-supported agriculture deliveries.
October is National Cooperative Month, and all this month we will be shining a spotlight on several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. One fine example is Great River Organics in Ohio. Kimberly Rous and Hannah Scott work for our partner, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center in Piketon, Ohio and provided us some insight on a successful cooperative venture that is producing organic produce throughout central and north-central Ohio.
Great River Organics formed as a farmer-owned cooperative in December of 2014. Comprised of seven certified-organic farmers in central Ohio, the cooperative aggregates, markets, and distributes the organic produce grown by the farmer-owners through programs like the Great River Market Bag, a community-supported agriculture program that includes about 300 subscribers across central Ohio. They’re also actively involved in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, which promotes the development of food hubs in the region. 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 »