Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)
One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.
Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure. Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »
The City of Anniston will use their 2014 AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funds to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Photo courtesy of Anniston Downtown Farmers Market.
June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work. Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.
Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities. My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance. Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. Read more »
The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is always looking for ways to do things better — whether it is how to conserve more soil on a farming operation or how to streamline internal business processes.
Recently, NRCS made vast improvements to its grants and agreements process making it easier, more timely and efficient for partners to work with us on locally-led conservation projects. Read more »
A 2011 FSMIP grant awarded Michigan State University matching funds to develop a pilot project to explore ways to improve local and regional beef production and marketing systems. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.
It is amazing to see such an array of meats available in today’s grocery stores. Traveling across the country in my role at USDA, I hear from so many folks that want to know where their beef comes from, what the animal was fed or how was it raised. I also know farmers have a real commitment to their crops and animals and are happy to share their stories with customers.
Farmers markets are one way for small producers to tell consumers directly where their products were grown or raised. However, mid-sized farms face unique challenges as they are too large to dedicate the time and resources to participate in farmers markets, but too small to compete effectively in large commercial markets. New technology could make connecting consumers to mid-sized farmers easier no matter where meat is purchased. Read more »
Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”
No, it’s really not. Read more »
The Dairy Education and Training Consortium (USDETC), supported with a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant, provides hand-on training to college students with backgrounds in dairy science, animal science, and other ag-related concentrations.
USDA’s mission includes working with land grant universities, including minority serving institutions, to ensure continued education in agricultural is available to help fill anticipated demand for knowledgeable employees. Earlier this week, the Secretary signed an agreement continuing USDA’s support for Historically Black 1890’s Land-Grant Universities. Today we look at one of the ways USDA partners with Hispanic Serving Institutions.
The business of producing milk shows no signs of slowing down, and a USDA grant is ensuring the pipeline of future industry professionals doesn’t slow to a trickle.
In August 2014, farmers in 23 states produced more than 16.2 billion pounds of milk, up 2.6 percent from 2013. During that same period, the number of cows increased 8.58 million head, up 60,000. Read more »