42% of districts surveyed by USDA say they participate in farm to school activities.
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.
We’ve talked quite a bit in the past about the major benefits we’re seeing in schools and districts that have established a farm to school program. Their efforts are giving students a deep understanding and appreciation for where their food comes from and drastically shifting kids’ opinions of fruits and veggies.
The final results of the USDA Farm to School Census 2015 shed light on another huge benefit of farm to school – we’re talking $789 million huge. That’s the total amount schools report investing in their communities in school year 2013 – 2014 by purchasing local food from farmers, ranchers, fisherman, food processors, and manufacturers. This represents a 105 percent increase over school year 2011 – 2012, when the first USDA Farm to School Census was conducted. In addition, nearly half (47 percent) of districts engaged in farm to school report that they plan to purchase more local foods in the coming years. Read more »
Douglas Poole is an evangelist who saved his own soil. Now he wants to help others save theirs. Photo: Jennifer Cole.
“Nothing motivates me quite like being told I can’t do something. They told me no-till doesn’t work here, and you’re not supposed to be able to grow any type of canola. Well, look around. Here we are.”
When Douglas Poole speaks, you can hear the passion in his voice for healthy soil and how it has helped his farm. Poole wasn’t always a soil health proponent; he used to be an accountant. Read more »
90 school administrators, teachers, food service professionals, and community members gather at the Northeast Farm to School Institute kick-off, held in June on Shelburne Farms’ 1,400-acre campus in northern Vermont.
This account was written by VT FEED Project Director, Betsy Rosenbluth and Shelburne Farms Public Relations and Marketing Director, Vera Chang.
As principal of Sharon Elementary School in Sharon, Vt., Barrett Williams helps his teachers integrate farm to school pedagogy into curricula by making sure they have planning time during the school day and a stipend to compensate their efforts. Time and resources are limited for teachers who are under rigorous demands to meet school standards. So Williams must be creative to ensure food, farming, nutrition, and place-based learning are part of students’ education. We’re listening to Williams and his peers talk at a round-table workshop that is part of the pioneering, year-long Northeast Farm to School Institute. Williams is one of 90 school administrators, teachers, food service professionals, and community members at the Institute’s kick-off, held on Shelburne Farms’ 1,400-acre campus in northern Vermont. Read more »
Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA. Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.
Making organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To advance this work, USDA supports a diverse community of organic stakeholders.
Nonprofits, businesses, universities, state governments and other organizations lead a range of technical assistance, training, outreach and certification programs for organic farms and businesses. These organizations provide the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with valuable feedback about how to keep organic certification sound and sensible and how to meet the needs of new and transitioning organic farmers. To support their work, USDA is awarding project contracts to 13 organizations that will advance the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process. Read more »
Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices. If a product meets these requirements, its label may include a statement like, “Made with organic oats and cranberries.” A more generic statement like, “Made with organic ingredients,” is not allowed.
This is the sixteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
Deciphering food labels and marketing claims can be a challenge for the average consumer. Companies use production and handling claims as a way to differentiate their products in the marketplace. Organic is one label that most consumers are familiar with, but understanding what “organic” really means can help consumers make informed choices.
USDA certified organic products have strict production and labeling requirements. The U.S. organic industry is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Certified organic products are produced without excluded methods such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The organic standards are designed to allow natural substances in organic farming while prohibiting synthetic substances. Read more »
Organic inspector Elizabeth Whitlow at an organic vineyard inspection. Every organic operation involved between the farm and market is inspected to verify compliance with the USDA organic regulations. Photo courtesy ccof.org.
This is the fifteenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.
USDA certified organic products are produced and sold around the world, many originating from over 17,700 organic operations right here in the United States. The USDA organic label assures consumers that products have been produced through approved methods and that prohibited substances, like synthetic pesticides, have not been used. I am often asked how the USDA verifies organic claims, and whether organic operations are inspected.
In order to sell, label, or represent products as organic in the United States, operations must be certified. The National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, accredits private, foreign, and State entities called certifying agents to certify and inspect organic operations.
So how does this all work? First, the operation would apply for certification through a certifying agent. The certifier will ask for information including a history of substances applied to land during the previous three years, and an Organic System Plan describing the practices and substances to be used. The certifier reviews applications to verify that practices comply with USDA organic regulations, and then an inspector conducts an on-site inspection. Read more »