Children sample local fare on Taste of Washington Day.
Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.
Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »
Dr. Hue Karreman demonstrates how to put your arm inside a cow’s mouth. Photo by Lisa McCrory
Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA) Field Days at Stonewall Farm in Keene, New Hampshire. The field days combine many activities for attending farmers, giving them the opportunity to learn from each other, speak with experts in the organic field, catch up with old friends and make some new friends too.
As Deputy Administrator for USDA’s National Organic Program, part of the Agricultural Marketing Service, I participated in a panel discussion on the future of organic certification with Dr. Jean Richardson, Chair of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), and Henry Perkins, President of the Maine Organic Milk Producers. I also had the opportunity to present information about the National Organic Program, including USDA’s programs that support organic agriculture, sound and sensible certification, the National Organic Standards Board and the revised sunset process. Read more »
Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.
What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest. We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race. Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!
Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »
Larry E. King worked with NRCS to build a seasonal high tunnel on his farm in Whitley County.
Larry E. King was raised in a family with farming roots. The very land he now farms in McCreary County, Kentucky was purchased by his mother during World War II. He remembers his mother telling him, “If we didn’t raise it, we didn’t have it.”
In his late teens, King raised strawberries on the farm. His life moved away from farming at 17 when he followed in his two brothers’ footsteps and joined the Air Force.
For six years, King was stationed out of Little Rock, Arkansas where he worked with the mobile support systems out of the Military Airlift Command. After his military assignment, he finished college and worked for the U.S. Forest Service Civilian Conservation Corps. After a long career with the Forest Service, Larry retired a few years ago, bringing him home to the 34-acre family farm. Read more »
Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty
A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year. The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.
This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS. The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety. Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories.
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This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.
An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »