June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work. Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.
Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA's commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities. My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance. Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities.
Cities like Anniston, Ala., are focusing on farmers markets as key tools to revitalize their economies. As part of a larger strategic plan to create economic development, the City of Anniston decided to boost its farmers market by creating a permanent community gathering place where local food producers could build successful businesses and bring fresh, local food to market.
In 2014, city leaders received a grant from the AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program, which supports farmers markets and other direct producer-to-consumer activities. The City of Anniston will use the grant to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Helping bring people into town, the market will also incorporate numerous events and activities throughout the summer, from live music to health screenings to chef demonstrations from local restaurants.
Anniston is just one example of city leaders using USDA grants and resources to strengthen their local food economy. Many cities, large and small, are working with USDA to benefit farmers, ranchers and other local food producers.
USDA also partners with stakeholders and communities to leverage resources for greater impact. Recently, we met with National League of Cities CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony and members of his staff. The NLC is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities by serving as a resource to and an advocate for the more than 19,000 cities, villages, and towns it represents. Together, AMS and NLC will highlight the success stories of cities using USDA tools and resources to build stronger economies and communities.
These investments and partnerships are part of USDA's commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems through projects that recruit and train farmers, expand economic opportunities, and increase access to healthy foods. USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative (KYF2) coordinates USDA's wide-ranging support for local and regional food systems.