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 »
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce at the Baltimore farmers market in Baltimore, MD. By supporting farmers markets and other businesses, Farmers Market Promotion Program funds have helped open new doors for farmers and ranchers all across the country.
Young toddlers and children crowded the tents, shuffling and giggling, as they waited for their parents to purchase produce for the family. The Arlington Farmers’ Market was filled with customers who participate in the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC) and farmers who were excited to cater to the enormous turn out. Well over 200 families came out in the mid-morning heat of Texas to receive their Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) vouchers.
Through the FMNP, WIC participants are able to access locally grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs that promote the well being and health of themselves and/or their children. Just last year in 2011, 1.9 million WIC participants received FMNP benefits, which, when redeemed, surpassed 16.4 million dollars in total revenue for participating farmers and farmer’s markets.
On hand this day were Ann Salyer-Caldwell, Tarrant County WIC Director, Sam Varela, the FMNP State Director of Texas Department of Agriculture, Kay Dillard, the Director of the Tarrant Area Food Bank, Dorothy “Toni” Savage-Oakford, a community health worker with the Tarrant County Health Department, and Samantha Swain, the local FMNP Coordinator. Read more »