Agriculture Deputy Secretary Merrigan Brings USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' College Tour to Maryland
COLLEGE PARK, Md., April 7, 2011 - Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today provided highlights of how Maryland can tap into USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative, which promotes local and regional food systems by stimulating community economic development and ensuring equitable access to affordable fresh and local food. Merrigan discussed the initiative and food systems policy with students, faculty and community leaders at the University of Maryland.
"We have a historic opportunity to help win the future by laying a new foundation for economic growth, creating jobs and building and revitalizing critical infrastructure here in Maryland and in rural communities across America through supporting and establishing local and regional food systems as an economic development strategy to keep wealth in local communities," Merrigan said. "Part of our 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative is to link the agricultural community to urban markets to bring new understanding of the importance of healthy eating and provide enhanced access to fresh foods."
USDA's 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' initiative emphasizes the need for a fundamental and critical reconnection between producers and consumers. The effort builds on the 2008 Farm Bill, which provides for increases and flexibility for USDA programs in an effort to revitalize rural economies by supporting local and regional food systems. 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' is helping to break down barriers that keep local food systems from thriving, create new opportunities for farmers, ranchers, consumers and rural communities, and expand access to healthy food throughout the country. USDA expects consumer demand for locally grown food in the U.S. to rise from an estimated $4 billion in 2002 to as much as $7 billion by 2012.
One example of how farmers can get involved is to participate in local farm to school programs that enable schools to feature healthy, locally-sourced products in their cafeterias. USDA currently is sending teams out to select school districts to work on farm to school issues. Some of these programs also incorporate nutrition-based studies, as well as food-learning opportunities such as farm visits, gardening, cooking, and composting activities.
Providing greater access to fresh, healthy food is a priority of the Obama administration. February marks the one year anniversary of Let's Move!, a comprehensive initiative launched by First Lady Michelle Obama with a goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles. This Obama administration priority is fundamentally changing the conversation about how we eat and stay active, helping to ensure future generations are ready to win the future. Learn more by visiting www.LetsMove.gov.
The 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' website, at www.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer, features social media tools to help focus the public conversation about farming and food, while engaging American agriculture and linking producers to customers.
USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).