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Posts tagged: Fresno

Golden Smokey Award Honors 50 Years of Partnership

On Mary 27, Vaibhavi Patankar of Woodland Hills, Calif., was named the top winner in the 2011 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest.

On May 27, Vaibhavi Patankar of Woodland Hills, Calif., was named the top winner in the 2011 Smokey Bear & Woodsy Owl Poster Contest.

What better way to celebrate wildfire prevention education than saluting a 9-year-old girl and an organization that has roots dating back to 1891. Read more »

Meet Your Future USDA Employees

Fresno State University students, from left, Caitlin Guest, Aki Dionisopoulos and Amanda Jo Bettencourt received scholarship assistance from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) on May 5 in Fresno, California.

“Since 2005 we have been proud to work with Fresno State to create a program that establishes a pipeline for future employees,” said Rayne Pegg, AMS Administrator. “In addition, we would like to see the program substantially increase the overall diversity of our agency’s programs.” Read more »

Farm-to-school project opens up new markets for small family farms

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.By Jennifer Sowerwine, University of California – BerkeleyMy mouth begins to water just thinking about all the delicious fruits and vegetables I will enjoy this coming weekend celebrating the Fourth of July. And we’re lucky here in Northern California to have a wealth of fresh produce grown locally.

Many stores, restaurants and even schools aren’t taking advantage of this local supply. This past spring, with support from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and in coordination with the University of California Cooperative Extension Service, I started a project to open up new markets for local growers by connecting them with new buyers. In particular, we worked with strawberry growers of Southeast Asian descent in the Sacramento and Fresno regions. This is part of a larger program to increase the economic viability of Southeast Asian farms in California’s Central Valley through on-farm research and training in crop production, pest management, food safety and marketing.

Most of the 95 strawberry farm stands in the Sacramento region are owned by Hmong and Mien refugees from Laos, who turned to farming when they immigrated to the United States after the Vietnam War. They sell most of their product at farm stands, but during peak season demand can’t keep up with production. With limited language skills, most farmers can’t access new markets and leave the fruit to rot in the field.

In partnership with local produce distributor, Produce Express, and several nonprofits including the Community Alliance with Family Farms, the Alchemist Community Development Corporation and Soil Born Farms Urban Agriculture and Education Project, we now bring fresh, local strawberries into children’s school lunches, restaurants and low-income neighborhoods. Some farmers deliver direct to the schools, allowing children to consume berries picked just hours before.

We also want to reduce “food miles” or the distance food must travel from farm to fork. We created a Google map to help residents find their closest farm stand. Sacramento-area residents are able to enjoy fresh strawberries from farms located less than 10 miles from their residences.

This year, twelve local strawberry farmers sold an additional 4,600 cases of berries beyond their own farm stands, earning a combined $58,000. These additional revenues are a welcome relief for these small farmers, who on average gross $15,000 in a good year. These partnerships are a win-win solution for both small farmers and residents, especially low income residents and school children, who have greater access to fresh, nutritious, local food.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

Fresh, local strawberries are now available to more than 60,000 school children through a partnership between local growers, the Sacramento School District and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

Southeast Asian Farmers and NRCS Building Capacity Together in California’s Central Valley

By Lisa A. Hokholt, NRCS California State Outreach Coordinator

California’s Central Valley has long lured farmers to its fertile soil and generous growing season. It’s no surprise that Southeast Asian farmers are settling there too, bringing their farming and culinary cultures with them.

 

 

Arriving in the United States as refugees following the 1975 communist takeover of Vietnam and Laos, many Hmong immigrants soon started farming but met many challenges in their new land.

Conservation of soil, water and air might have been way down their priority list if not for assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). For years now, NRCS has strived to insure that Hmong farmers have the same level of access to its technical services and programs as other clients. Two recent events helped NRCS build its service delivery capacity while also strengthening the conservation capacity of the Hmong farming community.

The Second Annual Hmong American Farmers (NHAF) National Conference, held in Fresno, California in May, showcased successes and provided a forum to discuss challenges facing Hmong farmers. The Clean Air Farming Workshop, held in June at a Hmong-owned farm in Del Rey, California presented technical information — in the Southeast Asian languages of Hmong, Lao, and Khmer (as well as Spanish and English) — about farming practices that reduce harmful air pollutants. Both events were designed to bolster awareness, enhance technical skills, exchange information, identify needs, build and strengthen effective partnerships, provide leadership, and offer fellowship.

Farmers at the NHAF Conference expressed to USDA agency reps that processes required by some federal programs are currently too complicated. On the other hand, NRCS and its sister agencies had opportunities to explain how specific programs work and to help identify and match programs to farmers’ needs. This exchange of information will help NRCS modify assistance and processes accordingly, and local farmers gained a better understanding of how to participate in Farm Bill programs.

The Clean Air Farming Workshop, organized and sponsored by NRCS and several partners, showcased specialized equipment suitable for small farm applications and information about on-farm conservation practices that reduce harmful air pollution sources such as volatile pesticides, soil erosion by wind, and diesel exhaust emissions. Five stations with different learning topics were set up among the farm’s Asian vegetable crops and participants were divided into different language groups. As the language groups went from topic to topic, so did translators who facilitated the learning process. The small groups enabled presenters to focus on farmers’ specific interests and needs.

California NRCS’ strategy to assist Hmong farmers has included hiring native Hmong speakers as technical field staff, supporting field workshops and demonstration projects, producing Hmong-language informational materials, supporting Hmong radio programming, and working with partners such as local University of California Farm Advisors who share a similar commitment to working with new client groups.

 

Hmong farmers participate in the Clean Air Farming Workshop at Cherta Farms owned by Txexa Lee (center, in white hat) in Del Rey, California, where air quality concerns impact human health and choice of farming practices.
Hmong farmers participate in the Clean Air Farming Workshop at Cherta Farms owned by Txexa Lee (center, in white hat) in Del Rey, California, where air quality concerns impact human health and choice of farming practices.

Clean Air Farming Workshop Participants were able to sign up for continuing education credits - a requirement to maintain pest control advisor and other certifications.
Clean Air Farming Workshop Participants were able to sign up for continuing education credits – a requirement to maintain pest control advisor and other certifications.

NRCS Soil Conservationist (center) describes the benefits of reducing soil compaction, in this case accomplished by use of a low impact cultivator.
NRCS Soil Conservationist (center) describes the benefits of reducing soil compaction, in this case accomplished by use of a low impact cultivator.