Sunday, March 11, 2012

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Small and mid-sized farms create more jobs than large scale farms. The USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative has been re-tailored this year to stress this point, with hopes to make it into the Farm Bill again. The initiative got it's start in 2008, and was met with oposition, as it has been associated with giving federal funding to niche farms that don't feed a large percentage of the population.

But every million dollars spent on food from local and regional sources, goes to support 13 jobs. That's in significant contrast to the three jobs supported by every million dollars spent on foods from farms without a regional focus.

The USDA is working to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers. They're not just doing the obvious, providing funding for smaller, regionally-funded projects. They've provided an interactive map that shows the local projects they've helped along since 2008, which could potentially connect a consumer to a farmer in his or her region. Consumers and farmers alike have also been invited to take part in the discussion on local agriculture and job creation, using social media. On March 5, they held a forum on the key themes of the Know Your Farmer Compass:  local food infrastructure, stewardship and local food, local meat and poultry, farm to institution, healthy food access, careers in agriculture,  and local food knowledge. Hundreds of people used the Twitter hashtag #KYF2 to join the discussion, and asked questions of the Agriculture Deputy Secretary, Kathleen Merrigan, and 60-some others - experts on food policy and local food practioners. All of this is aimed at getting people connected with their food, the producers, the consumers and the policy-makers together.

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