Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food – Tools and Resources | USDA
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Tools and Resources

Tools and Resources

In addition to programs that support local and regional food systems, USDA and our federal partners offer a wide range of tools that can help farmers, ranchers, other businesses, communities, and individuals looking to build or take advantage of local and regional food systems.

The list below is a selection of these resources. If you have one that we missed, let us know.

Ask the USDA Expert Online - find answers to your questions

USDA Service Center Locator - find your local office for Farm Service, Natural Resources Conservation, and Rural Development agencies

Learning Guides:

Tools for Small and Midsized Livestock and Poultry (PDF, 2MB) | Text-only (accessible) version

Statistics and Mapping Tools:

Farmers Markets, Gardens and Local Food Marketing:

Local Foods, Local Places Community Action Plans:

Local Foods, Local Places helps people create walkable, healthy, economically vibrant neighborhoods through the development of local food systems. The program is sponsored by USDA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA), with support from the White House Rural Council. Local Foods, Local Places aims to boost economic opportunities for local farmers and businesses, improve access to healthy local food, and promote childhood wellness.

Local Foods, Local Places Community Action Plans

Farm to School:

  • Healthy habits are taking root! The USDA Farm to School Census provides information about how many school districts are purchasing locally produced food for school meal programs or conducting other farm to school activities.
  • The USDA Farm to School Grant Program assists eligible entities in implementing farm to school programs that improve access to local foods in eligible schools. On an annual basis, USDA awards competitive grants for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs. USDA supports farm to school efforts through other grant programs too; this chart (PDF, 230KB) shows you your options.
  • The Farm to School Planning Toolkit guides you through questions to consider and helpful resources to reference when starting or growing a farm to school program. It is designed for use by schools, school districts, and community partners. The toolkit is filled with tips and examples, insights from others, and lists of resources for further research.
  • Hungry for more? The Farm to School Program website has more resources for schools, farmers, and communities.

Farming Systems Tools:

Cooperative Programs:

Starting a Farm/Financing a Farm:

  • USDA New Farmers - A one stop shop for USDA resources that can support new and beginning farmers and ranchers.

Local Meat and Poultry:

Economic Research Tools:

Nutrition Information:

  • ChooseMyPlate - Tools to help you and your family make healthier food choices.

Tools from Other Federal Partners:

  • Appalachian Regional Commission: Assessing the Landscape of Local Food in Appalachia. This May 2012 report examines the breadth and depth of the local food movement in the 13 states and 420 counties of the Appalachian Region, describes best practices and available resources, and analyzes gaps and opportunities for expanding this growing sector of the economy.

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Healthier Foods in CommunitiesThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. page, from the Making Health Easier.orgThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. website. Post and share resources, learn about community strategies like farmers markets and gardens, and participate in discussions with other communities engaged in this work.

  • Department of the Treasury: Financing Healthy Food Options Resource Bank. Training curricula and webinars for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) on financing for local food systems, lending to food producers, and supporting other sources of healthy food in communities.

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): Urban Agriculture and Improving Local, Sustainable Food Systems website. Contains tools and resources for people pursuing agriculture projects as a part of brownfield redevelopment and reuse.

  • EPA, Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Transportation: Partnership for Sustainable Communities Urban Farm Business Plan Handbook (PDF, 1.5MB). A tool for urban communities interested in turning abandoned properties into community gardens and farms. The handbook provides guidance for developing a business plan for the startup and operation of an urban farm.

  • Farm Credit Administration: Providing Credit to Farmers and Ranchers Operating in Local/Regional Food Systems (DOCX, 52KB). A guidance document or "bookletter" to institutions in the Farm Credit System about meeting the credit and services needs of local food farmers and certain farm-related businesses, such as food hubs, under existing statutes and regulations.

  • Farm Credit Council: The Emergence of Retail Agriculture - Its Outlook, Capital Needs and Role in Supporting Young, Beginning and Small FarmersThis is an external link or third-party site outside of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) website. (PDF, 4.6MB). Disseminated by FCC to its 88 Farm Credit System lending associations, this report explains challenges and opportunities for farmers and ranchers selling locally to help lenders better understand their needs.

  • National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Local Catch (PDF, 256KB). A list of resources and examples of local fisheries projects funded through NOAA's Sea Grant program, including community-supported fisheries and local seafood brand development.