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Posts tagged: Specialty Crop Block Grant Program

Talking Local Food: Measuring Progress and Creating Opportunities

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko, Bee Thorp, Susan Hill with USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.

Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them.  We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need.  Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.

During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production.  Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub.  The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA.  I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »

Gardens Bring Learning to Life in North Dakota Tribal Community

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

What we teach our children about food can shape how they eat, learn, grow and live. While I was on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, I saw firsthand how a community garden can bring learning to life.

Planting a garden near their school, elementary students in Cannon Ball created a hands-on, outdoor classroom where they are taught how to grow their own food, a skill that will last a lifetime. The garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it improved the students’ behavior and performance at school and developed their appreciation for the environment. 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 »

Behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Matt Russell

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.

“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”

So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »

Planting Seeds for New Careers for our Veterans

Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke taking AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm

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 »

Grant it, Food Hubs Mean More Local Food for You

Mix of bright vegetables

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 »