A grower and an internal auditor look over records during a Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) audit. The grower is in the GroupGAP Program, which allows grower groups to pool their resources to establish food safety best practices, lead food safety trainings, develop quality management systems, and pay for certification costs. Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.
Are you preparing to meet the new Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Produce Safety rule standards? Have you heard about Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs)? Maybe you’ve heard that they can get buyers to notice your products and improve your access to the market place – but you need more information to know if it can work for you.
USDA is hard at work connecting growers with training and resources to support GAP certification and expand their food safety know how. We’ve made big investments in food safety education for growers in recent years, supporting projects through AMS grant programs—the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, Federal-State Market Improvement Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program, and Local Food Promotion Program. Read more »
Celebrate fall with these delicious and easy pumpkin recipes from MyPlate. (Click to view a larger version)
Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween! These versatile vegetables are an excellent source of vitamin A and dietary fiber. To demonstrate different ways you can incorporate this seasonal superstar, MyPlate is showcasing five easy recipes with pumpkin as the main ingredient.
MyPlate encourages you to make half your plate fruits and vegetables. People who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide nutrients vital for the health and maintenance of your body. Pumpkins are full of color and are a great way to eat your veggies! Read more »
MPS Jr. Iron Chef Competition with Chef Ann Kim and a True Food Chef Council member
It’s that time of year – books, backpacks and a BBQ! That’s right – Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is preparing for its annual Farm to School Community BBQ, a much anticipated back-to-school event that kicks off the school year. The following guest blog features inspiring initiatives MPS has implemented to serve local foods to its 35,000 students in the district.
Since 2011, MPS has sourced fresh produce, meats, baked goods and other products from local farmers and manufacturers. Purchasing local foods supports Minnesota farms and small businesses and provides opportunities for students to learn how their food is grown by extending farm to school efforts beyond the cafeteria and into the classroom with visits from farmers and taste-tests.
Farm to school also helps to support another USDA initiative designed to enhance school meals – the What’s Shaking? Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium initiative. Using local foods means that school nutrition programs are preparing more meals from scratch, allowing them to control the amount of sodium. Farm to school gets students engaged and excited about school meals – and with the community BBQ, both kids and their families get a sneak peek at what’s going to be on the lunch menu for the new school year.
By Kate Seybold, Farm to School Coordinator, Minneapolis Public Schools
What better way to ring in the new school year than by celebrating the bounties of local produce that farmers harvest during the back-to-school season? Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) is hosting its Fifth Annual Farm to School Community BBQ – a community event built around fresh food, families and fun! The event brings together MPS students and their families, school staff, local farmers and vendors, True Food Chef Council members and other community partners in celebration of Minnesota Farm to School Month and our farm to school program. Read more »
Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA. Photo credit: Franklin Egan, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Director of Educational Programs, a USDA partner
The Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) sponsored a field day on June 2 to talk about growing vegetables in a changing climate. The discussion focused on climate change, its impacts on the farming system, and strategies to effectively adapt through increasing biodiversity on the farm.
PASA’s Director of Educational Programs, Franklin Egan, provided an overview of climate change trends and projections. Dave King and others who farm 160 acres of vegetables and small fruit all sold within 25 miles of the farm, talked about their challenges and sustainable farming practices. Among them, high tunnel beds have more aphids and pill bugs in the winter, downy mildew appears earlier in the summer, weeds are not any easier to manage especially without degrading soil health, irrigation costs are rising, and deer pressure rises during droughts. Practices being continuously adapted to respond to changing conditions include a highly diversified crop production system, use of beneficial insects, crop rotations, cover cropping, and rye straw mulch. Read more »
The “California Wrap” was served at many districts across Contra Costa County, a strategy that allows them to purchase collectively on California Thursdays.
June is National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month! To celebrate this, we’re showcasing the important work of California Thursdays, a collaboration between the Center for Ecoliteracy and a network of public school districts to serve healthy, freshly prepared school meals made from California-grown food. The following guest blog also highlights the inspiring work of the Center for Ecoliteracy, a partner with USDA’s national sodium reduction in schools-initiative, What’s Shaking? Creative Ways to Boost Flavor with Less Sodium.
By Jennifer Gerard, R.D., Center for Ecoliteracy, California Food for California Kids Program Director
What’s your favorite day of the week? For many students in California — it’s Thursday.
On Thursdays, over 1.7 million students in schools that participate in the California Thursdays program know they’ll be offered a lunch freshly prepared from California ingredients. California Thursdays is a celebration of local food, the people who produce and prepare it, and the significant connections that exist between children, food, and their environment. Read more »
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service helps protect growers, like the romaine lettuce producer pictured above, by representing American interests at meetings of the Dispute Resolution Corporation (DRC).
Now that it’s June, many of us are enjoying a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables that will be available throughout the summer. During the rest of the year, some of these same fresh fruits and vegetables are available to American consumers thanks to trade agreements with Canada and Mexico.
In the last five years, the value and volume of fresh fruits and vegetables from Canada and Mexico to the United States has grown. In 2015, the U.S. imported more than 2.8 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables from Canada, valued at $1.4 billion. From Mexico, the U.S. imported 17.4 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables for $9.1 billion. U.S. fruit and vegetable growers also have benefited. In 2015, the U.S. exported nearly 7.1 billion pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables to Canada and Mexico, worth $4.2 billion. Read more »