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Posts tagged: Farms

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.

Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm and NRCS Conservation Assistance

Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS Georgia State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr., and others including Alice Rolls, the Executive Director of Georgia Organics toured Whippoorwill Hollow Farm with certified organic farmer Andy Byrd.  The group discussed the new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative successes and opportunities for improvement.

Andy Byrd owns and operates Whippoorwill Hollow Farm in Walton County Georgia, a Certified Organic farm that produces fruits, berries, vegetables, and free-range eggs for sale on-farm and at the Morningside and Decatur Farmers’ Markets. Mr. Byrd is a cooperator with the Walton County Soil and Water District and worked with NRCS for several years to plan and implement various conservation practices. He is also Georgia’s first agri-ability participant.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Mr. Byrd has received financial assistance to implement management type practices such as Cover Crop, Irrigation Water Management, and Pest Management.

A major natural resource concern of Whippoorwill Hollow Farm is the limited amount of available water for irrigation and livestock watering. The farm is located in a region of the State that does not have an ample amount of ground water for these purposes.

Mr. Byrd worked closely with NRCS to plan and design an irrigation system which included micro-irrigation, irrigation reservoirs, and livestock watering facilities to make his system highly efficient and gives him the ability to use every drop of water as affectively as possible without putting any undue stress on the ground water system. He was also able to obtain funding for these structural practices through Georgia’s EQIP Outreach program which emphasizes the traditionally underserved groups such as Beginning Farmers, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Limited Resource Farmers and Small Scale Farmers.

Andy Byrd, Whippoorwhill Hollow Organic Farms, Walton Country, Georgia gives federal and state USDA officials a tour of his farm.
Andy Byrd, Whippoorwhill Hollow Organic Farms, Walton Country, Georgia gives federal and state USDA officials a tour of his farm.

The True Spirit of the Holiday – A USDA Story from Kentucky

There is no better demonstration of the holiday spirit than when people give their time and resources to help those in need.

USDA employees are a shining example of how a small gesture can go a long way toward helping others. In rural communities across the Commonwealth, many of them worked diligently this holiday season to collect food donations and personal items for agencies that help those less fortunate.

In Grayson County, Kentucky, staff members from Rural Development, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency partnered with the local conservation district to collect 2,800 pounds of non-perishable food items for Community Food Pantry as part of the annual “Harvest of the Heart” food drive.

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Photo of Grayson County - Harvest of the Heart

Donna Wilson, director of the Community Food Pantry, was overwhelmed at the outpouring of support and food.

He told me that the USDA drive is one of the food drives that they look forward to and depend on every year. He said “Our county is such a poor county, and our numbers have increased dramatically this year. We are feeding 1,000 families a month – more than 2,000 individuals. This drive was huge. They collected 2,800 pounds of food. Without their assistance, I don’t know where this food panty would be.”

Harvest of the Heart drive also worked with more than 20 churches across Grayson County, as well as CoreMark International, which supplied the collections bins used in the food drive.

All of the donated food collected by the USDA Service Center employees was given to Community Food Pantry. The food drive is held each year to help replenish the shelves at the food pantry, which needs donations year round to meet the growing demands of those needing assistance.

Rural Development employees in the Morehead, Kentucky, Area Office, also collected food as well as personal items to help those less fortunate this holiday season.

It has become an annual tradition for the small staff to collect food and other items for non-profit agencies that assist victims of domestic violence or those who are homeless.

This year, the staff collected food and personal items such as shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste for the Gateway Homeless Shelter in Morehead.

Morehead Area Office photo

Morehead Area Office photo

Area Assistant Brian Glover said each year during the holidays the staff chooses to collect money, personal items and food for people in need rather than exchange gifts among themselves.Those of us who work for Rural Development recognize how fortunate we are to work for an agency that has such a positive impact on rural communities. Each day, we see first-hand the ways in which our programs and services improve the quality of life for those who need them the most.

It’s heartwarming to see so many RD employees continue this support through community service — long after the workday ends.

Submitted by Katherine Belcher, Public Information Coordinator, Kentucky

Arizona Jobs Roundtable, December 21, 2009 – Somerton, Arizona

Oscar Wilde once said, “The only thing to do with good advice is to pass it on. It is never of any use to oneself.”

It was within that frame of mind that the Obama Administration brought its ‘Jobs Roundtable’ series to Somerton, Arizona.  The goal of the roundtable was to reach out to local leaders for their thoughts and ideas on how to create jobs, move the economy forward, and create rural wealth.

The roundtable, hosted by USDA Rural Development and Farm Service Agency, was comprised of a diverse group of community and employment advocates and leaders all looking to provide solution on how the Administration could stimulate job creation in their region.

Job forum roundtable Somerton, ArizonaIt wasn’t long before the 35 participants had a constructive dialogue going on how our Federal agencies could best promote job growth in rural Yuma County, the state’s hardest hit region of job loss. Paul Newman, Arizona Corporation Commissioner, spoke of the potential for green technologies. It turns out that the Yuma area has the largest area in the world of contiguous solar potential. State Senator Amanda Aguirre and State Representative Lynne Pancrazi emphasized the drastic cuts the State has taken in trying to mitigate a projected $2 billion deficient, noting that federal assistance in job creation is very important.

The discussion ranged from tapping into the green energy potential, taking a more regional approach to projects and jobs creation, and making changes to the Workforce Investment Act to add more flexibility and system building.

Among the other participants were bankers, city and county officials, representatives of the local community college and school districts, hospitals, food banks, and housing groups.

Somerton in heeding the advice of Oscar Wilde passed on some great advice and without a doubt, it will be of use to their community and to the nation.

USDA Communications Coordinator, Aaron Lavallee

Michigan Jobs Forum – Roundtable on Job Creation and Economic Growth

U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner and Farm Service Agency Director Christine White held a roundtable on job creation and economic growth on Thursday, December 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lansing Community College’s West Campus. Read more »