U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS) Deputy Under Secretary Alexis Taylor speaking with local growers.
There’s nothing better than talking about food over a delicious meal of fresh, locally produced ingredients. I had the chance to do that recently, when I visited Central Foods, a Spokane, Washington, restaurant that sources from local farmers and ranchers. There, I met with stakeholders and producers who are taking advantage of new economic opportunities created by the growing consumer demand for local food. We had a great conversation about how USDA supports local food systems and how we can continue to do so in the future.
In communities across America, entrepreneurs like Beth Robinette and Joel Williamson from Spokane’s LINC Foods and Teri McKenzie from Inland NW Food Network are invigorating rural economies by connecting local farmers and consumers. They are opening up new markets for farmers, drawing young people back to farming, and increasing access to fresh foods for consumers. That’s why USDA has identified strong local and regional food systems as one of four pillars for rural economic development, and we’ve stepped up our support for this important sector of agriculture. Read more »
Beth Robinette, a rancher and leader in the local food and regional food movement in Spokane, Washington.
Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from Beth Robinette, a rancher and leader in the local food and regional food movement in Spokane, Washington. She runs her family’s fourth-generation grass fed beef operation the Lazy R Ranch, and is one of the co-founders of LINC Foods, a worker and farmer owned cooperative food hub based in Spokane. She studied sustainable agriculture and business and marketing at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University, and earned her MBA in Sustainable Systems at Pinchot University with an emphasis on Local Living Economies and Sustainable Food and Agriculture.
How did you first become interested in the local and regional food movement?
Local food was really the norm in my household growing up. We raised a lot of our own food, or we would trade beef for things we didn’t raise ourselves. My grandpa was a prolific gardener and I can vividly remember the joy of eating a perfectly ripe tomato, warm from the sun, out of his garden. My dad had a part-time job working for a sustainable agriculture non-profit called the Washington State Food and Farming Network when I was in middle school and high school. He was the Eastern Washington coordinator and his job put him in contact with many movers and shakers in the local/regional food movement, which was really my first exposure to the idea. It wasn’t until I left for college, however, that I began to realize how privileged I had been to grow up on a ranch, and that most of my fellow students had a totally different relationship to food and agriculture than I did. I read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma for a class my freshman year, and I was pretty much hooked on local food from then on. Read more »
FarmAnswers.org is a clearinghouse of information to help farmers and ranchers better manage their operations. Photo courtesy of Jeff Reisdorfer
The following guest blog from a web communications coordinator at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Farm Financial Management highlights the FarmAnswers.org information clearinghouse for new and beginning farmers and ranchers. Farm Answers is a vital element of the USDA-wide effort to make it easier for people to find USDA programs and services.
By Jeff Reisdorfer, University of Minnesota
(The U.S. Department of Agriculture on April 11 opened a new information clearinghouse for new agriculture producers, FarmAnswers.org.)
Farmers and ranchers, like owners of other start-up companies, face serious challenges, including the need for easy to access, reliable information and technical assistance for getting their businesses started.
FarmAnswers.org is a website clearinghouse where farmers and ranchers can find online courses, videos, presentations, apps, and other materials – more than 3,175 at this time – to answer farming and ranching questions. FarmAnswers is supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) through its Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP). Read more »
Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.
More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.
Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »
Compliance and enforcement activities are key to maintaining organic integrity, and the NOP continues to strengthen enforcement efforts to ensure a fair market for all organic products.
The mission of the National Organic Program (NOP) – part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service – is to protect the integrity of the USDA organic seal. Consumers look for and trust the organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents. In addition to setting robust, meaningful standards that organic businesses are required to follow, the NOP also defends the organic seal by taking appropriate enforcement actions if there are violations of the USDA organic standards.
The NOP reviews all complaints alleging violations of the USDA organic regulations and takes enforcement actions, as needed, to bring businesses into compliance. Anyone can file a complaint by following the process at How to File a Complaint about Violations of the Organic Standards. In addition to investigating alleged violations by uncertified operations, the NOP works with certifiers and international organic trade partners to investigate alleged violations by certified operations. Read more »
USDA has proposed changes to ensure consumer confidence in the growing organic market by promoting consistency across the organic industry, supporting the continued growth of the organic livestock and poultry sector. Click to enlarge.
The mission of the National Organic Program, part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is to protect the integrity of USDA organic products in our country and throughout the world. This means clearly defining what it means to be organic and enforcing those rules. Consumers look for and trust the organic seal because they know that USDA stands behind the standards that it represents.
Today, USDA is taking action by announcing that we will soon publish and invite public comment on a proposed rule regarding organic livestock and poultry practices. It’s an important step that will strengthen consumer confidence in the label and ensure that organic agriculture continues to provide economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and businesses around the country. Read more »