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 »
Ann Johnson grows wine grapes in El Dorado County, Calif., where she carefully uses each drop of water. Water is imperative to her operation, and using it wisely and keeping it clean are important to private landowners like her.
Conservation practices, like a drip irrigation system, help her care for this natural resource. A public television series, “This American Land,” will showcase Johnson and other California farmers and ranchers who are working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to put conservation on the ground.
The segment, “Precious Sierra Water,” is included in the season’s sixth episode, being released this month to public TV stations across the country. Read more »
Within a week after the government opened from a 16-day shutdown in October, Farm Service Agency employees were able to quickly issue payments to more than 1 million farmers and ranchers.
Secretary Vilsack said that he was “proud of the commitment by USDA employees” to ensure these conservation and safety net funds reached America’s farmers and ranchers. “USDA assures rural America that it remains a priority, and these actions by FSA staff serve as yet another reminder that America needs passage of a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible to continue support of producers.” Read more »
Larry Romanelli, with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema (left) and NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee (right) pose with artist Shirley M. Brauker, the winner of the agency’s Native American Heritage Month poster contest. NRCS photo.
When the Anishinaabe people migrated from the Atlantic Ocean coast to Michigan centuries ago, they were in search of a place where “food grows on the water,” according to their tribe’s legend. Their quest ended when they found wild rice, thriving in shallow waters in the Great Lakes region.
The wild rice, or manoomin, served as a staple of the Anishinaabe diet is still culturally and spiritually important to them. And, today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping keep this tradition alive.
NRCS has worked with two Anishinaabe tribes to increase the number of wild rice beds using financial assistance from Farm Bill conservation programs. The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the first tribe to use NRCS assistance for planting rice. Tribal members planted about 12 acres of wild rice at six locations in 2006. Read more »
An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.
Food is a great equalizer. Whether sharing it with loved ones around our holiday table or worrying about how we’re going to fit lunch in to our busy work days–food is something we all have in common. But we don’t always think about the path it takes to get to our plates or even the store shelves. And while there are many different ways it gets to us, we’re seeing food hubs play an increasingly important role for everyone along the way–farmer to corner store, chef to school lunch.
Food hubs are innovative business models emerging more and more across the country. They bring farmers and suppliers together, with 81 percent of food hubs focusing on increasing opportunities for local farms and allowing smaller producers to pool their products and fulfill larger contracts. Ninety-one percent of food hubs are near cities, connecting rural farmers to larger suburban and urban communities. Oftentimes, farmers who work with food hubs offer a wider variety of products and are able to continue selling their goods later into the growing season. That translated into an average of over $3.7 million in sales in the last year. And USDA’s efforts have helped expand the number of regional food hubs operating around the country. There are over 230, a 65 percent increase since 2009. Read more »
USDA stands ready to aid and assist America’s farmers and ranchers who want to participate in this growing sector. We’ve been coordinating our work via the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. However, our ability to continue supporting the local and regional food marketplace is at stake without the passage of a Food, Farms and Job Bill. Read more »