Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.
Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers. USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.
I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »
Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.
It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.
“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”
That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables. The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state. Read more »
Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.
USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.
Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle. Read more »
Jaclyn Moyer’s got grit.
Somewhere between the 12 hour days Jaclyn spends on her 10 acre farm in Northern California plus her off-farm baking job, she somehow found time to pen a great piece in Salon about her experiences as a new farmer. She describes how she and her partner are struggling to balance their love of the land and passion for farming with the financial challenges of starting a new business. ”Surely many farmers enjoy what they do, as I often find pleasure in my daily tasks, but ultimately farming is work, an occupation, a means of making a living that must fulfill the basic function of a job: to provide an income,” she writes.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. Read more »
The first step in running a successful farm or ranch business is identifying a product to create and connecting that product to potential customers. For some new and beginning farmers, it can be a challenge to connect to the right market opportunities and to build a business that fits.
At USDA, we are working to make sure that there is access to markets at all levels – so that whether a new or beginning farmer wants to sell locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, they have access to tools that support their business and business development. Read more »
It’s not hard to list our accomplishments here at USDA: After all, our progress on the much anticipated 2014 Farm Bill has been lauded as “the most successful Farm Bill implementation.” We also launched a website for New Farmers and started a conversation with women in agriculture that will continue to grow for many years to come.
What is sometimes less obvious is the people whose lives these programs and initiatives impact. So, to wrap up the year, I wanted to share a few of my most cherished memories from my first year as Deputy Secretary. Read more »