Across the nation there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. Photo: Auburn University College of Agriculture.
Thanks to a recent grant from USDA, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection is now in better position to help get locally grown potatoes, carrots, apples, broccoli, and cheese onto school lunch plates. In Wisconsin, and across the nation, there is a strong interest to supply healthy, local foods to schools while supporting regional farmers and the local economy. USDA is helping create economic opportunities for producers by supporting projects that increase access to fresh, healthy food for students and consumers, and connect rural and urban communities.
Today Secretary Tom Vilsack announced more than $35 million in grants to help ensure the livelihoods of our nation’s farmers and ranchers while strengthening rural economies around the country. These grant programs play an important role in American agriculture and in communities by supporting local and regional food systems and giving farmers and ranchers the chance to explore new market opportunities. Read more »
An elementary school student in West New York, New Jersey, enjoys a farm fresh bite of yellow tomato, delivered to the school that morning.
Happy National Farm to School Month! Every October, the USDA Farm to School team is overwhelmed with stories of how farm to school programs are affecting kids, producers, and communities. Having now made 221 grants to school districts and other entities across the country to pursue projects that bring more local foods into schools and teach kids about where their foods comes from, we experience a steady stream of encouraging stories throughout the year. Stories about local farmers proudly supplying grains for a district’s whole grain baked goods; stories about school food service staff dressing up like fruits and vegetables to encourage healthy eating; stories about kids growing beets in the school garden and then devouring them when they show up in the cafeteria. During Farm to School Month, these anecdotes proliferate–on social media, on blogs, and via news stories. They inspire us, amuse us, and sometimes even make us tear up, but they don’t unequivocally prove that these programs work. For that, we rely on studies and surveys, on journal articles and evaluation results. Read more »
Greg and Karon Nettekoven manage an 800-acre vegetable farm in the Fox River watershed in Wisconsin where they use a variety of conservation practices. Photo: Tivoli Gough.
Some people are born to farm. Others grow to love it. Greg Nettekoven was born into a farm family, and he and his wife, Karon, have grown to love farming.
Greg is a second-generation farmer, and when he took the reins of the family farm in 1988, he changed the livestock operation into a vegetable farm – growing peas, sweet corn and beans. Read more »
NRCS works with private landowners to develop conservation plans that benefit the environment and farm productivity.
For 80 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked with agricultural producers to make conservation improvements to their farms, ranches and forests. These improvements help clean and conserve water, boost soil quality and restore habitat, and also make their agricultural operations more resilient.
Born amid the Dust Bowl, when persistent drought and dust storms swept through the nation, NRCS worked with stewardship-minded producers to heal the land. That work continues today, as producers voluntarily step forward to conserve natural resources, having tremendous positive impacts across the country. Read more »
Standing in a disturbed patch of forest, Menominee forester Jeff Grignon looks around and explains, “My role is to regenerate the forest, maintain the forest, create diversity, and look toward the future.” This task is becoming increasingly challenging as growing forest health issues intersect with additional stressors brought about by climate change in the forests of the Menominee Nation and elsewhere.
As a leader in forestry and natural resource conservation, USDA has a long history of working with tribes to address their management issues and concerns. Climate change is an active part of that discussion, and has been increasing through development of the new USDA Regional Climate Hubs. The network of Hubs deliver science-based knowledge, practical information, and program support to help natural resource managers, producers, and landowners make climate-informed decisions and then implement those decisions. Read more »
USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »