Skip to main content


Using Open Data in Creative Ways to Solve Problems

Want to make better use of forest, park and trail datasets? Try a hackathon. A hackthon is an event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development and hardware development, including graphic designers, interface designers and project managers, collaborate intensively on software projects. Hackathons typically last between a day and a week. Some hackathons are intended simply for educational or social purposes, although in many cases the goal is to create usable software. This popular forum for collaborative innovation has become an important method for developing modern solutions for government interactions.  This particular hackathon occurred on April 11-12 in Washington, D.C., and involved the USDA and the Department of Interior (DOI) for the myAmerica Developers Summit. The summit is an initiative supporting the National Travel and Tourism Strategy by improving access to information about federal lands and waters so it’s easier for people to discover and experience America’s natural and national treasures.

Ag Census Data Tools Coming Your Way

The Census of Agriculture is conducted every five years and USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) spends that time planning, preparing, and executing the Census. But that’s only a part of the Census process. Once we gather and process the data, we have to make sure the results are easily accessible and understood by the public.

Traditionally, we’ve published PDF files to the Internet, but as most of us know, it is not the optimal format for online data dissemination. If you want to analyze and mine data, you don’t want to retype them into a spreadsheet. And if you have hundreds or thousands of data points to analyze, as is the case with the Census, you need a more accessible data tool to ensure accuracy and efficiency in data sharing.

Dive Deeper Into USDA Data with New APIs

Data consumers can now more easily leverage several of the most popular offerings from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)!

To meet the needs of a growing community of data users, including application developers and researchers, ERS has just released seven new APIs (Application Programming Interface), enriched with shared services provided by other Federal agencies.  The APIs offer dynamic access to ERS’s atlases, traditional data sets, and indicators in machine-readable formats.  ERS has developed rigorous standards for data products; users will note the extensive metadata and full documentation and transparency provided for each of the data sets via APIs.

Experienced users may want to dive into the thorough documentation available on ERS’s Developer page; while those seeking a simpler path can leverage pre-built widgets and starter-code snippets available in jQuery, Python, and Ruby.  The geospatial APIs provide access to map layers via ESRI (or other mapping services, such as Mapbox and Google Maps).  The newly released APIs supplement the following data sets:

From Data to Decisions: Using Data to Improve Public Access and Knowledge

There are many companies that are currently using USDA data. Mercaris is a new company filling in the gap in offerings with reliable market data and an online trading tool tailored to the organic and non-GMO production, processing, and retail industries. Their reports present current and archived market condition information to assist in pricing decisions. FarmLogs provides comprehensive farm management software-as-a-service to farmers managing farms ranging from small-scale to over 30k acres. Their platform supports a hybrid of government and farmer-generated data that is analyzed and incorporated into their decisionmaking tools.

USDA wants to continue to encourage additional innovations and solutions by providing the data and statistics necessary that will offer improved agricultural production, global food security, poverty, nutrition and human health, natural resources and environmental issues, rural development, local and regional food systems, and many other issues.

"Meet Me at the Market" - The Evolution of a Farmers Market

What better time than National Farmers Market Week to explore the history of farmers markets in the United States?  Farmers markets are a critical ingredient to our nation’s food system, and date back to 1730 in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the United States.

"Meet me at the Market" has for decades been a phrase commonly heard by Lancaster citizens.  In 1730, when city planners designed the city they designated a 120 square foot lot in the center of town as a public market place giving birth to the Lancaster Central Market.  Over the years the size of the market and the number of vendors has changed, but there’s evidence that the farmers market may have had 400 vendors at one point in time.

Taking Hack-tion for Food, Farmers and America

This past weekend, civic hackers across the country took action—or hack-tion—when they gathered together to use their coding, designing and tech-making powers for good.  Armed with a passion for data and working under a framework that focused their energies on solving civic problems, over 11,000 individuals set out to make a difference at 95 different events in 83 cities and communities across the nation.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, we serve many communities in a variety of ways.  From our support of farmers markets and food hubs to our work with industry stakeholders, we focus on supporting the business and marketing side of American agriculture.  So, when we first heard about the National Day of Civic Hacking, we knew immediately that we wanted to participate.

USDA, ERS Moving Down the Track to Open Data

Each day, the Charts of Note series from the Economic Research Service (ERS) delivers an innovative, visual display of research findings. Wouldn’t it be great if these charts could be easily grabbed for use on your own website or blog? Well, now they can.

The new Federal Open Data Policy asks agencies to use machine-readable formats when they build and disseminate information. At ERS, we are already traveling down that track...for Charts of Note and more. Our goal is to improve the reach, accessibility, and utility of important research findings.

USDA Meets Digital Government Strategy Milestone with Mobile and Open Data Solutions

As part of USDA’s 12-month Digital Government Strategy deliverables we are sharing several new mobile and open data projects that help us deliver 21st century service to you, our customers and stakeholders. These new tools and open data efforts will enable USDA customers, to more easily access critical programs and services anywhere, any time and on any device, in addition to stimulating further innovations:

New API Helps Satisfy the Nation's App-etite for Farmers Markets

America is developing quite an app-etite. The number of U.S. smartphone owners is approaching 130 million, resulting in more and more demand for mobile access to our information. Combine that with the increase in consumers wanting access to fresh, local products, and it’s obvious why there’s such a high demand for the data in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory.

Full Speed Ahead for Open Ag Data

Cross posted from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy blog:

Last week, hundreds of innovators gathered at the World Bank IFC Center to brainstorm about how Open Data can be harnessed to help meet the challenge of sustainably feeding nine billion people by 2050.  The group included delegates from the G-8 group of nations, US Government officials, private sector partners, Open Data advocates, technology experts, and nonprofit leaders – all participants in the first-of-its-kind G-8 International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture.