Spring is now upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. Farmers across the country are making local foods available to their communities. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood, AMS.
Spring is upon us and many local farmers markets are opening with displays of brilliant and vibrant colors. The fresh air has more people talking about and buying local foods. In fact, data from the USDA Economic Research Service suggests that farmers across the country sold an estimated $6.1 billion in locally marketed foods in 2012. My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a role in increasing these numbers by creating marketing opportunities for American farmers and local food businesses through the combination of applied research, technical services, and grant support.
As the demand for local food increases, food hubs are one way farmers can deliver more fresh food to retailers, schools, hospitals and restaurants. That’s why expanding local food efforts have focused on creating more food hubs. A food hub is an enterprise that helps farmers collect and gather local and regional agricultural products for distribution and marketing to wholesale, retail, and institutional customers. Read more »
A classic example of a pellet group in the Pennsylvania spring woods - evidence that white-tailed deer overwintered in this area. The shed antler was a bonus find on this particular plot. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
It’s a cool 37 degrees Fahrenheit as Alex Royo and I step out of the Forest Service truck and on to the muddy forest road. With the meteorologist calling for sun and a high of 66 degrees by lunchtime, I am already faced with the day’s toughest decision – do I keep my warm jacket on or leave it in the truck? Either way, half of my 3.5-mile hike is going to be uncomfortable. A quick glance at Alex reveals that he has opted to leave his jacket behind. As we walk into the forest, I can’t help but notice the contrast of colorful spring beauties and trout lilies against the dull brown forest floor. And already, there is the object of my hike — deer pellets. To find pellets so early in the day one has to wonder, just how many deer are out here?
That’s the question that vexes hunters, scientists, and land managers throughout Pennsylvania and beyond. Each and every spring, a small army of individuals from the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, the Allegheny National Forest, multiple private land managing partners, and volunteers hike hundreds of miles of Pennsylvania’s forests to help determine how many deer the forest holds by counting the most visible part of a deer – deer pellets, which is the nicest term for deer waste. Read more »
Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.
Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have! Read more »
Schools are successfully serving more nutritious meals to America’s students, and healthier meals mean healthier kids. USDA is constantly working to do everything we can to support school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of up to $5.5 million in Team Nutrition training grants for states for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms – an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria – as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions. To apply for the grants, state agencies should visit www.grants.gov.
Here are some examples of how Team Nutrition grants have helped schools in the past: Read more »
Children from USDA Rural Development Multi-Family Housing community, Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA receive free summer meals from their local FNS Summer Food Service Program.
In 2014, 21.6 million American children depended on free or reduced-price school lunches. When school lets out for the summer, many of these children do not get enough to eat and become at risk of all the health issues associated with hunger. Poverty and the lack of food for children are persistent problems in rural America.
As Administrator of USDA’s Rural Housing Service (RHS), I know our agency helps hungry children. Working with the owners and managers of USDA-financed affordable rental housing last summer, I learned we can do even more. Together, we partnered with our sister agency – the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) – to feed children when school is out for the summer. Read more »
The Common Market team, led by founders Haile Johnston (far left in red shirt) and Tatiana Garcia-Granados (far right in orange sweater), brings food into Philly communities by connecting Mid-Atlantic farmers with wholesale customers. Photo courtesy Common Market.
It all started with one truck—one truck and the idea that bringing fresh, healthy foods into Philly communities was just a question of coordination. For Haile Johnston and his wife, Tatiana Garcia-Granados, founding Common Market was the logical solution to solve the food access issues they saw in the communities around them.
“The core of Common Market is selling to schools and hospitals,” said Johnston. “Historically, they have been the hardest institutions to reach. They serve the most vulnerable population. That’s why we focus on partnering with schools and hospitals.”
Their food hub business model connects local farmers in the rural Mid-Atlantic region with wholesale customers in urban areas. In their first year, Common Market worked with only a dozen farmers and had 22 customers, but they kept growing—adding trucks and building relationships with local family farms and institutional buyers in urban communities. Read more »