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 »
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 Farm to School grants help get healthy, local foods into schools and teach children where their food comes from. (Photo Credit: Kelly Campbell)
I just spent the morning calling people who had applied to receive a USDA Farm to School grant. They were fun calls to make as I was letting this year’s awardees know their project had been selected for funding.
Today USDA announced awards for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support USDA’s efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School program.
USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. Selected projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45 percent of whom live in rural communities. Projects are diverse: Read more »
The People's Garden Harvest Festival poster. Click to enlarge for larger version.
You’re invited to the USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, November 22 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Come celebrate the end of the growing season in the People’s Garden and at the USDA Farmers Market. Take advantage of the last opportunity of the year to shop the outdoor USDA Farmers Market located along 12th Street, SW in between Jefferson Drive and Independence Avenue in Washington, DC.
The day will be filled with fun activities and educational demonstrations that are free and fun for the whole family. Here’s a list of the planned events: 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 »
One very important reason for Congress to expedite work toward a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill is to continue today’s rapid growth in local and regional marketing opportunities for American agriculture.
From local farmers markets to regional food hubs, these new opportunities benefit a wide range of Americans from all walks of life.
They benefit farmers and ranchers who are looking to start selling locally or scale up to regional sales. Farmers markets and regional food hubs have a particularly positive impact for small and limited-resource producers. Sales of local foods are growing rapidly, creating a multibillion-dollar market opportunity for producers. Read more »