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Posts tagged: local food

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night

USDA Farmers Market at Night, County Fair Time poster

It’s County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night. Join us on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

August is prime time for city, county and state agricultural fairs! These fun summertime events bring communities together.  Farmers markets also are an increasingly popular community gathering spot.

So, what would happen if the fair theme was combined with a farmers market?  You would get County Fair Time at the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, August 21, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall!

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has managed the weekly daytime USDA Farmers Market, at 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W., in Washington, D.C. for 20 years.  The daytime market is open on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., May through October. Read more »

Vermont’s Farm to Ballet Project Shines the Spotlight on Conservation

Ballerina Megan Stearns dancing the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project

Ballerina Megan Stearns dances the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project.

Vermont’s agricultural history will soon be enriched as a new Farm to Ballet project aims to celebrate the state’s farming culture and expose a new audience to the beauty of classical ballet. The endeavor is the brainchild of former professional dancer and Vermont native Chatch Pregger. His farm-based ballet tells the story of a Vermont farming operation from spring to fall.

The fertile soils of Vermont’s pastoral farmland will provide the ‘stage’ for the dancers. “Now that I’ve seen the dancers, in a farm environment, I realize this is how I’ve always wanted to see ballet–in this setting.  In its grittiness, its reality–on nature’s perfect stage,” he explained.  Farm to Ballet will be presented seven times throughout August at a variety of farming operations. The performances are not financially supported by USDA, so the Farm to Ballet project initiated a fund raising campaign to cover the cost of costumes, props and sets, and many of the shows serve as fundraisers to support and honor the work of Vermont’s farmers and the local food movement. Read more »

Listening and Learning From Local Food Stakeholders in New Mexico

AMS Local Food Research & Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper

AMS Local Food Research and Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper picked from the fields at Danny Farrar’s (far left) Rancho La Jolla in Velarde, NM. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood.

As part of National Farmers Market Week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and I traveled to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. The bustling Santa Fe Farmers Market was the perfect place to kick off the week! While there, we also traveled to the beautiful countryside and met with key local food stakeholders during a special session and visits to local farms.  

The round table forum and farm visits allowed farmers, ranchers, and local food organizations to share their experiences. We heard from Danny Farrar, who owns Rancho La Jolla in Velarde and is also a member of the Farm to School Board of Directors. He told us that many of the northern New Mexico farmers who sell at farmers markets are growing fruits and vegetables on small family farms of just 3 to 5 acres and on land passed down through generations. He told us that keeping his land as a working farm is as important to his culture and heritage as it is to its profitability. Read more »

On the Road in Santa Fe – Saluting Farmers Markets All the Way

The Santa Fe Farmers Market

Farmers markets like the Santa Fe Farmers Market are at the heart of many towns and cities, attracting foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores, bringing together rural and urban Americans, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Greetings from New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment!  I’m here at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, where local farmers and ranchers have come together to sell their goods to the community for more than 50 years.  This popular farmers market started with just a handful of growers and now has more than 100 vendors, more than any other in the state.  It’s the perfect place to celebrate all that farmers markets do for rural and urban communities around the country by kicking off the 16th annual National Farmers Market Week.

Audio story from USDA Radio available on the USDA website.

The growth in Santa Fe’s market mirrors what is happening across the country – Americans want to get to know their farmers and learn where their food comes from.  Farmers markets like this one are at the heart of many towns and cities, attracting foot traffic and customers to brick and mortar stores, bringing together rural and urban Americans, and creating jobs and opportunities for local farmers and ranchers.  That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is always looking for innovative ways to help farmers markets succeed. Read more »

The Price is Right: Local Beef Reporting in Vermont

Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont

This report is pioneering the way beef is marketed by providing local price information for farmers, increasing transparency in the marketplace, and enabling institutions to properly assess the value of a small or mid-sized farm, which sells its commodities locally. Pictured here is Market News reporter Alex Wright with cattle in Vermont.

There’s no doubt about it – gears are turning in the world of local food production.  From rural communities to large food retailers, local and regional food is a growing business across the country.  In the USDA’s Market News division, developing market reports to keep up with the growing need for local food data is a priority for us.

Following Secretary Tom Vilsack’s lead to ramp up local and regional food efforts, USDA Market News – part of the Agricultural Marketing Service – issues a local beef report for the state of Vermont each month.  Two Market News reporters from Pennsylvania ventured to the Green Mountain State to meet with existing customers and recruit new ones.  Trekking all throughout the state, they visited a total of 10 farms, talked to numerous people about grass-fed beef, and learned about how Market News can better serve this sector of the industry. Read more »