Under Secretary Edward Avalos and John Lyman III, owner of Lyman Orchards, tour the orchard’s Apple Barrel Market in Middlefield, CT. A Farm Bill is crucial to the long-term stability of family-owned farms and orchards.
A life of farming—whether you grow up in it or are called to it later in life—takes a special kind of commitment and sense of responsibility. The reward is just as unique and appeals only to a handful of people who are willing to literally roll up their sleeves and work hard at a physically- and mentally-challenging job every day of the year. To me, there’s just something special about a profession where the fruits of your labor provide one of life’s most essential elements–food.
But that’s not where their contributions stop. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers strengthen our economy, with nearly one out of 12 jobs in the U.S. coming from agriculture.
Over the last year, I had the opportunity to visit and speak to farmers and ranchers across the country. During these visits, I get a chance to see first-hand how connected they are to their communities and the differences they make for the folks that live and work with them. And I also get to answer their questions directly, to hear the challenges they face and the help they could use. Inevitably, conversation turns to the Food, Farm, and Jobs Bill and what that legislation would mean to each of the farmers, ranchers, businesses and schools that depend on it. Read more »
Under Secretary Avalos with fresh apples from the USDA Farmers Market. Share your favorite local ingredients by mentioning @AMS_USDA and using the #LocalisCool hashtag.
No one would ever accuse me of being a trend-setter—especially my kids. But I’m proud to say that I’ve been part of the local food movement my whole life. I grew up on a family farm in New Mexico. For us, local food wasn’t really a trend or a movement. It was how we made our living. By growing, raising and selling our food throughout the year, we connected to other farmers, ranchers and our neighbors.
More American families are making a conscious decision to eat healthier and buy local foods. Many farmers and producers are combining their hard work with innovative practices like hoop houses and new marketing opportunities like food hubs. These are two examples of modern approaches that are helping extend growing and selling seasons and bringing farmers and suppliers together to meet the increasing demand for local foods. Read more »
What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities. And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.
There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »
This week, the U.S. Senate acted in bipartisan spirit to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – a balanced, comprehensive bill that will drive continued growth in rural America. The House of Representatives now has another important opportunity to stand with rural America and pass their version of a bill.
People often call this the Farm Bill – but it’s much more than that. This is a conservation bill. It’s a trade promotion bill. It’s an innovation bill. It’s a jobs bill.
And it’s a bill that will help continue a tremendous increase in markets for locally-grown foods. This includes creating more farmers markets, building additional regional food hubs and strengthening farm-to-institution programs. Read more »
A group finishes putting the outer skin on a hoop house in Michigan. The hoop house has helped local farmers lengthen the short Michigan growing season by two full months, giving them additional crops to sell at winter markets. Photo courtesy Brittain Family Farms.
This is one of my favorite times of the year. New and old traditions bring friends and family together to celebrate, cheer for their favorite football teams or just to share a hearty meal and some spirited conversations. As the weather gets cooler, my family gravitates toward comfort foods and traditional family favorites, picking up fresh ingredients from our local winter farmers market. And, based on the growth in winter market listings this year, we’re not the only ones who have made this a part of our fall and winter traditions. Read more »
Three years ago this fall, Secretary Vilsack and I launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF2). Since then, we’ve seen interest and participation in local and regional food systems grow beyond anything we expected: whether I’m meeting with buffalo ranchers from the Great Plains or with members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, I hear about efforts to connect producers and consumers locally and interest in how USDA can help.
In meetings of the White House Rural Council, which has representatives from across the federal government, regional food systems have been a key part of discussions. Read more »