Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies. On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.
As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food.
The FMPP and LFPP grants combine local food, creative ideas and new partnerships with an emphasis on improving food access and economic growth in communities around the country. It’s inspiring to see such a diverse group of projects embrace innovative ideas to increase the production and distribution of locally grown food. AMS is funding 374 projects this year alone. That’s 374 creative, solution- and results-oriented projects across the country!
For example, Promotores Unidas para Educacion Nacional de Tecnologias Sostenibles (PUENTES) in Stockton, California, will build equity through sustainable technology in order to foster social entrepreneurship, education, and motivation in at-risk communities. They will use their $62,277 grant to add a farm stand and fund an advertising campaign that will expand the appeal and capacity of the Stockton Harvest Community Supported Agriculture program.
In Jackson, Mississippi, Soul City Hospitality will use its $100,000 grant to open a new regional food hub in a former produce distribution facility. After developing a pilot program to aggregate, store and deliver locally grown food, the group will measure the program’s impact on small‐ and medium‐sized farmers.
In Sumter, South Carolina, SCF-Organics Farms, Ltd. grows more than 25 varieties of organic fruits and vegetables that are distributed to dozens of farmers markets, natural grocers, farm-to-table chefs, and wholesalers. They will use their $85,600 grant to operate a new mobile farmers market to reach areas where fresh foods aren’t readily available, offering SNAP/EBT redemption and nutrition education demos.
These investments from AMS – along with 371 other projects made possible by the 2014 Farm Bill – provide farmers and ranchers with greater market opportunities, give consumers more choices and create much-needed jobs in both rural and urban communities.
These grants are part of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2), which coordinates USDA’s support for local and regional food systems. USDA and AMS investments in local and regional food systems can be found on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.