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Posts tagged: Farms

A Small Business Dream Built on a Farmers Market

My mom raised five kids, taught high school chemistry for 15 years and then retired back to the family farm in 1986. Her new life on the farm depended on the Salisbury, MD farmers market where she sold daylilies.  The farmers market, just one of 8,000 or more markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, gave her the opportunity she needed to start her own business.

Each Saturday she loaded up her station wagon with plants and drove into town, displaying the lilies by color.  When she wanted to expand her plant offerings, my brother built her a small greenhouse.  She became known as the farmers market’s Flower Lady. Read more »

Renewable Energy on Farms Study Released – First to Look at Role of State-Level Policies

USDA has published a study examining states’ adoption rates of distributed generation for solar and wind energy on U.S. farms. The results show that states with higher energy prices, more organic acres per farm, and more Internet connectivity adopt renewable electricity at higher rates.  For solar systems, full-farm ownership and solar resources were also significant factors.  Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets were found to increase state level renewable electricity adoption at the distributed-generation scale while electric cooperative prevalence in the state was found to have a negative relationship to renewable electricity adoption share. Read more »

Digitizing Our Agricultural History; 77 Years of Annual Statistics Now Online

<em>Agricultural Statistics</em> has a long history of publication and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming.

Agricultural Statistics has a long history of publication and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Did you know that more than 11 million Americans worked on farms in 1930, of which 8.3 million were family workers? Compare that to the fewer than 1.5 million workers employed in agriculture during the peak harvest months of 2011.

Every year, the Department of Agriculture releases a reference book of major agricultural statistics for the United States and countries around the world. It is a one-stop location for annual production, consumption, trade, and price data for all sorts of crops and livestock, as well as spending for government programs, farm economics, and lots of other statistics important to our country’s agricultural system. Agricultural Statistics has a long history of publication, and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming. Read more »

Windham County, Vermont Tropical Storm Irene Farm Recovery Tour with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Last week, we welcomed Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to Vermont as she toured farms to see recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Irene.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan speaking with farmers at the Robb Family Farm near Brattleboro, VT.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan speaking with farmers at the Robb Family Farm near Brattleboro, VT.

Our first stop was the Wheeler Farm, a 100 acre 50-cow grass based farm just north of Wilmington, one of the hardest hit communities in the state.  Visible water marks were higher than the historic flood of 1927 and hurricane of 1938.  The group welcomed Deputy Secretary Merrigan on the porch of the historic farmhouse, which had just escaped the flood waters by a few inches.  As we pulled onto the farm’s access road, a large grader and dump truck continued work to repair washed away segments. Read more »

Understanding Farms in the United States

A family stands in a plot of tall grass plantings on a farm in central Iowa. NRCS photo.

A family stands in a plot of tall grass plantings on a farm in central Iowa. NRCS photo.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

What are U.S. farms like?  Are they largely family businesses, or corporate operations?  Describing farms is challenging because they vary in size and other characteristics, ranging from very small retirement and residential farms to businesses with sales in the millions of dollars.  Descriptions based on U.S. averages hide much of the variation. Read more »

Farm-to-school project opens up new markets for small family farms

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Jennifer Sowerwine, University of California – BerkeleyMy mouth begins to water just thinking about all the delicious fruits and vegetables I will enjoy this coming weekend celebrating the Fourth of July. And we’re lucky here in Northern California to have a wealth of fresh produce grown locally.

Many stores, restaurants and even schools aren’t taking advantage of this local supply. This past spring, with support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and in coordination with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service, I started a project to open up new markets for local growers by connecting them with new buyers. In particular, we worked with strawberry growers of Southeast Asian descent in the Sacramento and Fresno regions. This is part of a larger program to increase the economic viability of Southeast Asian farms in California’s Central Valley through on-farm research and training in crop production, pest management, food safety and marketing.

Most of the 95 strawberry farm stands in the Sacramento region are owned by Hmong and Mien refugees from Laos, who turned to farming when they immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War. They sell most of their product at farm stands, but during peak season demand can’t keep up with production. With limited language skills, most farmers can’t access new markets and leave the fruit to rot in the field.

In partnership with local produce distributor, Produce Express, and several nonprofits including the Community Alliance with Family Farms, the Alchemist Community Development Corporation and Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, we now bring fresh, local strawberries into children’s school lunches, restaurants and low-income neighborhoods. Some farmers deliver direct to the schools, allowing children to consume berries picked just hours before.

We also want to reduce “food miles” or the distance food must travel from farm to fork. We created a Google map to help residents find their closest farm stand. Sacramento-area residents are able to enjoy fresh strawberries from farms located less than 10 miles from their residences.

This year, twelve local strawberry farmers sold an additional 4,600 cases of berries beyond their own farm stands, earning a combined $58,000. These additional revenues are a welcome relief for these small farmers, who on average gross $15,000 in a good year. These partnerships are a win-win solution for both small farmers and residents, especially low income residents and school children, who have greater access to fresh, nutritious, local food.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.