Drought damage on the Fresno Harlen Ranch in Fresno, CA. USDA photo by Cynthia Mendoza
All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.
At a recent meeting in Kennewick, WA, panelists representing agricultural industries in the Pacific Northwest addressed the need for climate change adaptation and mitigation. A wheat farmer representative said that farmers are flexible and can change how and when they plant as changes in weather occur. An irrigation association representative indicated that after several years of long dry seasons and low snowpack, members were interested in re-thinking how water rights are administered. The grape growers were worried about the changing climate and thinking about new strategies—mostly planting more heat-tolerant varieties. The shellfish representative seemed astounded that anyone would question climate change. He indicated that shellfish growers were already sending their “crops” to Hawaii where the water is less acidic, and were planning new strategies for raising shellfish. The lesson here is what affects people directly gets their attention. Read more »
James McCuen and Shawna Kalama discuss business opportunities available for beginning ranchers. USDA-RMA photo by Jo Lynne Seufer.
Shawna Kalama is a proud member of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. She’s also a beginning rancher, pursuing her dream the past few years near the Cascade Mountains on the Yakama Indian Reservation in Washington State. Kalama has successfully leveraged several USDA programs to simultaneously support both her entrepreneurial education goals and her growing livestock operation.
She began earning her business degree at Heritage University, and recently participated in a risk management education program, sponsored by the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA). This week, the agency announced that $8.7 million in cooperative agreement funding is available for the risk management education program for fiscal year 2016. The program introduces the agency’s risk management tools, crop and livestock insurance programs and educational partnerships to new and beginning, and traditionally underserved farmers and ranchers. The curriculum includes an overview of RMA’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis tool, which identifies potential problems, and finds solutions and resources to help beginning farmers and ranchers manage risks. Nearly 90,000 producers participated in risk management education events in 2015. Read more »
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 »
Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. Forest Service photo
Quietly waiting for you in our national forests and grasslands are what remains of long past civilizations and cultures. Some of these sites still have direct spiritual or cultural meaning to folks today while others are a complete mystery of what once was of a vanished people. Yet, in both cases, the adventurer is reminded of the centuries-old relationship between people and the land.
It’s this relationship between land and people that gives the U.S. Forest Service such pride in knowing that we protect these irreplaceable symbols that ancient peoples left to us. These near mystical treasures can be found from the Olympic National Forest in Washington State to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands of North Dakota to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest of Virginia. Read more »
The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.
The Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) works every day to ensure that products with the USDA organic seal meet consistent, uniform standards. In addition to its rigorous certification process and oversight to protect the integrity of the organic seal, the program also connects organic farmers and businesses with resources to help them understand and comply with the standards.
In recent years, increasing numbers of Spanish speaking farmers and businesses have entered the organic sector. For example, among all operations located outside of the United States that are certified under the USDA organic regulations, 42 percent are in Spanish speaking countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Meanwhile, within the United States, the number of Hispanic producers, many of whom speak Spanish as their primary language, increased 21 percent between 2007 and 2012. Read more »