Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.
“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead. “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers. “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”
What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good. However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different. “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »
The Harmonized GAPs Food Safety audit provided by AMS has helped small grower Warren Ford expand his business from selling a couple hundred bushels of peas a summer to selling more than 3,000 cases a summer to Walmart. Photo courtesy Warren and Rosha Ford.
For the produce industry, the summer and fall of 2015 is more than a chance to share a new season of crops with customers. It’s when several of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) laws will become final. FSMA will make significant changes to the country’s food safety laws, including the first-ever regulation of fresh produce and a more proactive approach to preventing foodborne illnesses. My colleagues at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) have been working hard with our partners to expand our outreach efforts about food safety to help the produce industry prepare for compliance.
One of the ways that we help the industry prepare for compliance is through a successful partnership with Cornell University and the FDA via the Produce Safety Alliance (PSA). We recently renewed this partnership through a Cooperative Agreement that enables the three entities to devote funds for training and outreach events. Since 2010, AMS has enjoyed working with our colleagues to engage with produce growers, industry members, regulators, and extension educators through working committees, public meetings, focus groups, and webinars. Read more »
Along with growing and selling commercial hay to supplement his income, Ken Sills also spends his time raising and racing pigeons. Sills shares a photo of himself as a kid alongside his dad. NRCS photo.
Ken Sills has had difficulties getting water to his hayfields for years, impacting his ability to use his Grand Junction, Colorado land efficiently.
“I just couldn’t get irrigation to the back of my place,” Sills said. “I tried a ditch and siphon tubes, but there were areas that were not getting water, so that’s when I went to the NRCS.”
In his quest for help, he found USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and staff there helped him install an efficient irrigation system. The system included an above-ground conveyance system, gated piping and a small concrete distribution structure that now provides irrigation water to about five acres of grass hay. Read more »
USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah meets with Keith Gabbard, General Manager of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Ky., on March 3, 2015. Gabbard described the company’s successful “fiber-to-the-premise” broadband project, which was funded in part with loan and grant funds from USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. As a result of the project, PRTC was awarded with a Smart Rural Community designation from the National Telephone Cooperative Association.
During my trip to Kentucky, I was truly gratified to see Rural Development’s footprint throughout small towns spread across all regions of the Commonwealth. From water lines, broadband networks, wastewater treatment plants, single and multi-family housing, electric lines, senior centers, hospitals and small businesses, Rural Development helps build communities from the ground up working in partnership with local groups.
Last year, 73 Kentucky counties enduring some of the state’s toughest economic challenges were designated to receive targeted USDA support through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Soon thereafter, President Obama designated a region of eight counties in the state’s southeast corner as one of the country’s first five Promise Zones. Under these designations, USDA works with local partners to leverage federal resources to address the area’s chronic poverty challenges and improve the overall quality of life in the region. Read more »
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Ann Bartuska (center) tours the Mandela Foods Cooperative run in West Oakland by Mandela Marketplace Inc., a non-profit organization that has used USDA funding to help develop the community-owned grocery store, as well as community farm stands and a food distribution program. Mandela MarketPlace's projects have brought 500,000 pounds of fresh produce into low-income West Oakland.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
In recognizing February as Black History Month, President Obama called officials to “…reflect on our progress…” and “recommit to advancing what has been left undone.” At USDA, this topical charge is simply how we do business all year. We can’t adequately expand economic opportunity through innovation, promote sustainable agricultural production, or protect our natural resources without recognizing our past and tackling the challenges of today. Our Research, Education and Economics (REE) mission area’s engagement with the African-American community is not confined to a calendrical month; it is a thread in the institutional tapestry of broader dedication to service through agricultural research and education. Read more »
Introducing the USDA Specialty Crops Inspection Division which highlights the various services that AMS provides the produce industry.
Ensuring that its food meets the demands of its retailers and the consumers who eat it is essential to the success of any produce business. This builds consumer trust and helps retailers confidently supply the food we all eat. To help out on this front, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offers audits through the USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) & Good Handling Practices (GHPs) Audit Verification Program.
A voluntary service provided by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), GAPs audits verify that fruits and vegetables are grown, packed, handled, and stored safely. The audits certify that operations are following guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and industry-recognized food safety practices that can minimize the risks of food-borne illnesses. AMS Specialty Crops Inspection (SCI) Division employees accomplish this through activities like evaluating food safety plans, walking the farm looking for food safety risks and performing unannounced visits to farms and facilities. The audits focus on waste management, such as animal manure; water quality; wildlife; and worker health and hygiene. Read more »