Four-thousand and counting! 4,024 to be exact. That is the number of participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge at the end of April, 2015.
These participants– businesses, schools and organizations from across the country— are working to reduce food loss and waste in their operations. And, they have taken the time to join the U.S. Food Waste Challenge by sharing their activities on the USDA Food Waste Challenge website or working with EPA experts to measure their food waste reductions through the Food Recovery Challenge. Read more »
Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.
Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers. USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.
I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »
Kizable LLC’s Brian Shroeder (far left) and Michael Busby (third from left) take a moment during the Southeast Asia ATM to introduce Under Secretary Michael Scuse to one of the company’s one-on-one business meeting counterparts in the Philippines.
Southeast Asia is a rapidly growing market for U.S. farm and food products, and exporters like Florida-based Kizable Kandy are eager to meet the demand.
But Brian Schroeder, Kizable’s director, noticed his company had a gap when it came to Southeast Asia. Kizable currently ships its candy, which comes in fun, designer tins, to more than 30 countries around the world – but it didn’t have a solid customer base in Southeast Asia, despite the region’s strong economic growth and increasing demand for high-value products. Read more »
Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.
The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.
About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties. They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.
Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »
Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions. He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.
Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm. But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess? Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it? Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.
Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost. The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer. Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest. City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982. The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money. Read more »
The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.
Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.
Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »