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Posts tagged: local food

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

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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USDA Teams Up with Vermont Beef Producers to Provide Local Market Data

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

Our new local and regional Market News reports are just one way USDA is ensuring that farmers and ranchers get access to the resources they need to thrive in the local market sector. Photo courtesy of Cascade Brook Farm.

It wasn’t too long ago that beef was far less traveled, and families often put a side of beef away in the freezer for the winter. Modern day conveniences make beef and the beef buying experience more suitable to a faster pace of life, but old traditions are hard to let go. Across the board, we’re seeing a return to buying local, and—although modern conveniences are still enjoyed—local beef is also more accessible.

USDA Market News, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, recently created a series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products, including beef.  As a part of the 2014 Farm Bill, the reports provide farmers, other agricultural businesses and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets. Read more »

Celebrating Farmers and Communities during National Farmers Market Week

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

USDA Farmers Market offered up fresh fruit as a healthy back to school snacks for kids.

We just wrapped up the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week here at USDA. It has been an AMAZING week filled with celebrations at farmers markets across the country.  Last Friday, at our own USDA Farmers Market, we hosted hundreds of youths to introduce them to healthy back-to-school snacks; and we even had a special guest appearance from our old friend Smokey Bear (who turned 70 years old on Saturday).

Every year, the first full week of August is our opportunity to highlight the country’s thousands of farmers markets, the farmers and ranchers who make them possible, and the communities that host them.  Farmers markets and, more broadly, local and regional food systems, are one of the four key pillars that USDA is focusing on in order to encourage rural economic development and improve the quality of life for rural Americans. Read more »

Local & Regional Data Added to USDA Market News

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

The Baltimore Farmers Market helps meet America's demand for local and regional food. Farmers markets, farmers auctions, and direct to consumer reports are now being produced by USDA Market News. The reports are available for businesses of all size to help level the playing field in the $7 billion a year local and regional food market. USDA Photo Courtesy of Lance Cheung.

America’s hunger for locally and regionally grown food has become a $7 billion-per-year market.  That means more consumers are savoring farm-fresh food, and more farmers—especially small and mid-size farmers—are profiting from new markets for their products.  It also means that a trove of useful pricing and volume data about local and regional food markets is now available, ready to be collected and analyzed.  Thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill, USDA is making that data available to farmers and businesses of all sizes for free and helping to level the playing field.

USDA Market News has created a new series of market reports on locally or regionally produced agricultural products.  The reports—covering products from all commodity areas—are all available on the Local & Regional Food Marketing Information web page, which provides farmers, other agricultural businesses, and consumers with a one-stop-shop for market and pricing information for local and regional food outlets.  Three report categories are now online: Read more »

What Are You Doing For National Farmers Market Week?

National Farmers Market Week August 3-9 is a perfect time to make a trip to your local market.  Share your favorite part of the farmers market experience by tagging your photos with #FarmMktWk @USDA.

National Farmers Market Week August 3-9 is a perfect time to make a trip to your local market. Share your favorite part of the farmers market experience by tagging your photos with #FarmMktWk @USDA.

Every time I explore a farmers market I become a kid again. It brings back memories of snacking on sun-ripened figs from my backyard with dad or squeezing for perfectly ripe tomatoes at the neighborhood farm stand with mom. The existence, uniqueness and vibrancy of farmers markets can be a positive experience full of exploration and deliciousness for any age. It sure is for me.

USDA is committed to helping all of America’s children, families and communities not only have access to healthy affordable food, but form positive associations with these healthy foods. Visiting a farmers market offers a unique learning environment where you can be introduced to fresh, local produce; a variety of sights, tastes and smells; as well as meet neighbors, farmers and vendors. Read more »

Delivering Along the Food Value Chain

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

Food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer - before it is laid on the table - food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. AMS has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain. Photo courtesy of Bart Everson.

A recent trip back home to Louisiana sparked memories of a simpler time when old trucks full of fresh produce rumbled down dusty roads to deliver goods to the local market. The 2012 Census of Agriculture tells us that 50,000 farmers and ranchers nationwide are now selling to local retailers and that 150,000 of them are selling their products directly to consumers. Although these farmers and ranchers are still using this direct approach, the agricultural industry is certainly more dynamic today.  This means that producers need to follow a strategic business model.

The reality is that food can go through a lot of steps to reach the consumer. Before it is served on the table, food travels from the field to the truck to the packing house to the store. My agency, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has many programs that support business entities involved in the food chain, including farmers markets and food hubs. For example, we invest in projects that help farmers and businesses understand emerging trends, create new markets, and stimulate our nation’s rural economies. Read more »