Field Goods staff with the Ironwood Farm team, a women-owned farm in Columbia County.
Consumers expect a lot from local food. They want it to be fresh, healthy and raised responsibly. They want it to be affordable and convenient. And, they want their purchase to support local farmers. At first glance these goals seem at odds with each other. How can local food improve farmers’ bottom lines without being expensive? Is it possible to efficiently deliver local food to (mostly) urban consumers while still supporting (mostly) rural farm economies?
The answer may look something like Field Goods, an innovative food hub and social enterprise based in eastern New York State. Like other food hubs, Field Goods helps facilitate the connection between producer and consumer. By providing distribution and aggregation services, Field Goods helps reduce producers’ costs. And, for consumers, Field Goods delivers fresh, affordable and local products directly to workplaces – making it easier to support local producers. Read more »
Chefs Dan Blumenthal and Nick Wallace of the Up in Farms Food Hub ownership team standing on the dock of the food hub in Jackson, MS. Photo courtesy, Soul City Hospitality
“Not today,” said Mr. Leonard Keyes as he and Dr. John Stanley surveyed the plot of land on Keyes’ farm in Mize, Mississippi. “Too dry.” Stanley stood beside him holding a tray of squash transplants and nodding his head in agreement.
Earlier that morning, Stanley, sourcing manager for Up in Farms Food Hub, had visited the farm of Mr. James Gregory about 30 miles down the road in Florence. He’d brought Gregory some of the same transplants—some nice-looking seedlings from Standing Pine Nursery in Byram. John had stood beside Gregory, too, and surveyed that plot of land. “Not today,” said Gregory. “Too wet!” Read more »
USDA Rural Development New Mexico State Director Terry Brunner (center) presents a certificate of obligation to the Ten Southern Pueblo Council Governors and representatives during ceremonies to celebrate the successful application of funds creating the first ever Native American Food Hub in the nation. (USDA Photo)
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 »
AMS interns at the USDA Internship Meeting at USDA Headquarters. During their internship, they met with senior USDA officials, including AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row in the center with black coat and white dress).
Without farmers and the agricultural businesses that support them, no one can eat. This is a simple concept, but it implies that people will continue to choose careers in agriculture. Here at USDA, one of the ways that we encourage younger generations to choose these careers is offering grants to institutions that offer agricultural curriculums.
Last month, I joined Secretary Vilsack in announcing National Small Business Week on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Louisiana. In support of rural small businesses, USDA announced several funding opportunities across the country for business owners to increase their capacity to hire new workers and expand their businesses. Small Businesses are the lifeblood of every community, but in a rural town one small business can mean the difference between a thriving main street and empty windows. This is why the work that USDA does on behalf of rural America is so important.
The state office for Rural Development is located in Central Louisiana where I met State Director Clarence Hawkins and his staff before we headed out to visit local businesses. The first stop was Consolidated Energy Holdings in Pollock. A variety of waste sources is produced by the company. Later, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cenla Small Business Appreciation Luncheon at the Central Louisiana Business Incubator in Alexandria. I was so inspired by the business incubator, which the city started as a workforce training facility for those with the desire to grow and expand their businesses. The incubator provides business owners with growth strategies, financing options, resources, and administrative support to name a few. There is an industrial kitchen available to use for food based business opportunities and specialty food producers. This incubator is the epitome of what small communities across rural America should be doing, making investments in their own citizens to foster job growth. Read more »