Are you a farmer, rancher or food business entrepreneur interested in local and regionally-produced food?
Are you a community leader wondering how local and regional food systems can help your local economy?
Are you a consumer interested in learning more about where your food comes from?
Now you can learn more about USDA’s support of local and regional food through the new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. The Compass is an online multi-media narrative with stories, pictures and video about USDA’s support for local and regional food systems and an interactive map of USDA-supported local and regional food activities in all 50 states. With the Compass, you can navigate USDA resources for local and regional food; meet farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities in your state that are participating in local food chains; and learn about local and regional food projects across the country.
Released today, the Compass showcases USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative. The Initiative was launched in 2009 to coordinate the work of USDA’s 17 agencies and many staff offices that invest in local and regional food systems. Since then, USDA has supported nearly 4,500 seasonal high tunnels (or “hoop houses”) to help farmers extend their growing seasons. We’ve also seen the number of number of farm to school programs jump from 400 in 2004 to over 2,300 in 2011 and the number of operating farmers markets blossom from 4,685 in 2008 to over 7,100 in 2011.
But we at the USDA know that local food is about so much more. It’s about places like Idaho’s Bounty Food Coop in Ketchum, Idaho which received a USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant to expand delivery of local food from warehouse to retail. It’s about Ohio State University in Cleveland Ohio which used a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program grant to expand BEAN’s (Beginning Entrepreneurs in Agricultural Networks) ability to train new farmers and to develop 3,300 city acres into food enterprises. It’s about the Diamond B Farm in New Durham, New Hampshire where farmer Meghan Bickford secured funding from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to create a rotational grazing plan for her herd of Belted Galloway and Angus cattle, build a ground gutter and grassed waterway to treat barnyard runoff, and implement a forest stand improvement plan.
The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a valuable resource documenting the innovation, entrepreneurship and impact of local food systems across the country. It is driving job growth, keeping farmers and on the land, and keeping wealth in rural communities. We invite you to dive deep into this new tool, and be inspired by the stories it tells and the ideas it can spur for you and your community.
You can also join us for a “virtual conversation” on Twitter about local and regional food on Monday, March 5 from 2:30-4:00 pm. Follow hashtag #KYF2 and tune in at 2:30pm ET.