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Farms

Family Farm Co-op in Missouri Shows Commitment to Food Safety

For more than four generations, Amish farmers in the Kansas City area have abided by a simple tenet:  farm sustainably and care for the earth to preserve their way of life for future generations.  Good Natured Family Farms (GNFF), a cooperative of 18 Amish family farms in Missouri, is using GroupGAP, a new USDA audit program, to help them safeguard their future by building strong markets for the high-quality, local foods they produce. In August, the group made USDA history as the first to receive an official USDA Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification through our new GroupGAP program.

Since 2002, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has provided the traditional USDA GAP audit program to the fruit and vegetable industry. GAP is a voluntary program that verifies its participants follow U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines and industry best practices to minimize risks of food safety hazards when producing, handling, and storing fruits, vegetables, and other specialty crops. In 2016, AMS conducted nearly 4,000 traditional GAP audits.

America's Diverse Family Farms

Describing the structure of the U.S. farm sector is challenging because farms vary widely in size and other characteristics.  Are they largely family businesses, or corporate operations?  U.S. farms range from very small retirement and residential holdings to businesses with sales in the millions of dollars.

To better understand U.S. agriculture, USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) recently released America’s Diverse Family Farms.  The report categorizes farms into homogenous groupings based on the annual revenue of the farm, primary occupation of the principal operator, and family/nonfamily ownership of the farm.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Jennie London

As we look towards the Holiday season, here at USDA, we would like to give thanks to all of our farmers and ranchers, men and women alike, who provide us with a safe and affordable food supply. Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading our industry and helping other women succeed along the way. Last month, a man by the name of D.H. Strongheart commented on the USDA blog asking if he could share his wife’s story. Below you will find Jennie’s story, as written by her husband, on how her passion for food and agriculture has evolved and why she is inspiring other women in agriculture to pursue their dreams.

Jennie's farming career has been an inspiring example of how agriculture can be combined with education, career development training, equity and empowerment. She has worked at a diversity of farms from New York, Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon, usually in a small to mid-scale setting (3-30 acres) and has become a leader of her generation, a generation in which smaller scale organic agriculture has become a dignified and ever-more popular career choice. Anyone who has ever worked with her knows that she is a real embodiment of leadership, hard work and inclusiveness. 

South Carolina Agriculture – Nothing Could Be Finer

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Agriculture in South Carolina is a long and proud tradition. As the 2012 Census of Agriculture showed us, even today, nearly 5 million acres of our state’s land is dedicated to farming, that’s almost a quarter of all land in South Carolina.

The latest agriculture census also showed that the number of farms in South Carolina has remained steady for the past 15 years at roughly 25,000. The Palmetto State farmers sold more than $3 billion worth of agricultural products. That’s a whopping 29.2 percent increase in sales in just five years. Of these sales, $1.5 billion – nearly half of the total agricultural product sales in South Carolina – came from poultry and egg sales.

Maryland: America in Miniature

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out, and it is clear that here in Maryland, we have a little bit of everything. Although our state is small, the geography is diverse, providing suitable environments for a variety of agricultural commodities. From the Atlantic shore, to mountainous terrain, and from a diversity of livestock to an array of crops, Maryland truly is America in miniature.

In the Free State, about 69 percent of land in farms is cropland. We have 435,646 acres of corn for grain, 1,936 acres of oats for grain, 475,615 acres of soybeans for beans, and 210,354 acres of wheat for grain. In fact, 31.5 percent of the total market value of agriculture products sold comes from grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas. We also have almost every fruit and vegetable in the Census. The sandy environment near the shoreline is conducive to growing watermelons, of which we have 3,278 acres; and, the higher altitudes provide opportunities for producing grapes and peaches, of which we have 681 acres and 999 acres respectively.

COMET-Farm™: Conservation Calculation

USDA’s new online carbon-capture calculator, COMET-Farm™, has nothing to do with comets. This tool is all about farms and their potential to help planet Earth. Since its recent release more than 4,200 visitors have already explored the new online COMET-Farm™ tool to learn how they can become part of the climate change solution.

Record-breaking concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are accelerating climate change. Agriculture has the unique opportunity to help contribute to a solution, as demonstrated by COMET-Farm™.

“When farmers use conservation practices, they improve soil health,” NRCS air quality scientist Dr. Adam Chambers says. “Healthy soil captures and stores carbon, effectively removing it from the atmosphere.”

A Small Business Dream Built on a Farmers Market

My mom raised five kids, taught high school chemistry for 15 years and then retired back to the family farm in 1986. Her new life on the farm depended on the Salisbury, MD farmers market where she sold daylilies.  The farmers market, just one of 8,000 or more markets listed in USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, gave her the opportunity she needed to start her own business.

Each Saturday she loaded up her station wagon with plants and drove into town, displaying the lilies by color.  When she wanted to expand her plant offerings, my brother built her a small greenhouse.  She became known as the farmers market’s Flower Lady.

Renewable Energy on Farms Study Released - First to Look at Role of State-Level Policies

USDA has published a study examining states’ adoption rates of distributed generation for solar and wind energy on U.S. farms. The results show that states with higher energy prices, more organic acres per farm, and more Internet connectivity adopt renewable electricity at higher rates.  For solar systems, full-farm ownership and solar resources were also significant factors.  Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) targets were found to increase state level renewable electricity adoption at the distributed-generation scale while electric cooperative prevalence in the state was found to have a negative relationship to renewable electricity adoption share.

Digitizing Our Agricultural History; 77 Years of Annual Statistics Now Online

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Did you know that more than 11 million Americans worked on farms in 1930, of which 8.3 million were family workers? Compare that to the fewer than 1.5 million workers employed in agriculture during the peak harvest months of 2011.

Every year, the Department of Agriculture releases a reference book of major agricultural statistics for the United States and countries around the world. It is a one-stop location for annual production, consumption, trade, and price data for all sorts of crops and livestock, as well as spending for government programs, farm economics, and lots of other statistics important to our country’s agricultural system. Agricultural Statistics has a long history of publication, and is an important archive for researchers to study the history of U.S. farming.

Windham County, Vermont Tropical Storm Irene Farm Recovery Tour with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Last week, we welcomed Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan to Vermont as she toured farms to see recovery efforts after Tropical Storm Irene.

Our first stop was the Wheeler Farm, a 100 acre 50-cow grass based farm just north of Wilmington, one of the hardest hit communities in the state.  Visible water marks were higher than the historic flood of 1927 and hurricane of 1938.  The group welcomed Deputy Secretary Merrigan on the porch of the historic farmhouse, which had just escaped the flood waters by a few inches.  As we pulled onto the farm’s access road, a large grader and dump truck continued work to repair washed away segments.