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Connecting with Local Farmers, One Savory Dish at a Time

There’s nothing better than talking about food over a delicious meal of fresh, locally produced ingredients.  I had the chance to do that recently, when I visited Central Foods, a Spokane, Washington, restaurant that sources from local farmers and ranchers.  There, I met with stakeholders and producers who are taking advantage of new economic opportunities created by the growing consumer demand for local food. We had a great conversation about how USDA supports local food systems and how we can continue to do so in the future.

In communities across America, entrepreneurs like Beth Robinette and Joel Williamson from Spokane's and Teri McKenzie from are invigorating rural economies by connecting local farmers and consumers. They are opening up new markets for farmers, drawing young people back to farming, and increasing access to fresh foods for consumers. That’s why USDA has identified strong local and regional food systems as one of four pillars for rural economic development, and we’ve stepped up our support for this important sector of agriculture.

Washington Woman Inspired to Grow Out on Her Own

For Elsa Torres, farming is more than just a job or a livelihood. It’s an inspiration.

Ever since she was a young girl, Elsa can remember working in orchard fields with her father, Jose Torres. It was something she loved and cherished. “My father is the person I admire the most,” said Elsa. “He came from Mexico with nothing and for 25 years he worked on an orchard that he now owns. He didn’t start out with a formal education.  But now he’s a business owner.  He’s an example of the American dream and how someone who works hard can become a success.”

Secretary's Column: The Farm Bill at Work in Your State

Last week, USDA marked the six-month anniversary of the signing of the 2014 Farm Bill. I am proud to say that we’ve made important progress on every title of the Farm Bill, including issuing disaster assistance payments, updating risk management tools, modifying farm loan programs, announcing new support for agricultural research, establishing new conservation programs, and much more.

My team and I at USDA have gathered together some top statistics that show how the Farm Bill is at work in your state—and the record results we’ve achieved this time around. For example:

Microloan Helps Navajo Couple Continue Farming Tradition

This post is part of a feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

Marilyn Simpson grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Torreon, N.M., where she learned all about farming from her parents who raised sheep and cows.

The youngest of eight children, Marilyn left the reservation, and her parents, to go to college in Arizona. That’s also where she met her husband Erik. After graduating, she and Erik moved back to Torreon to help Marilyn’s parents.

Microloan Helps South Dakota Man Transition from Desk to Farm

This post is part of a feature series on the USDA blog.  Check back every Tuesday and Thursday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.

For David Hoff, farming was in his blood.  It had been 14 years since he worked on his family’s South Dakota farm.  He went off to college, earned a degree in business, landed a position in sales and, over the next 10 years, held leadership positions in sales for several companies.  But he had been thinking long and hard about returning to the 2,000 acre farm and rejoining the family operation.

Then in 2012, Hoff received the sad news of his uncle’s death.  His uncle had farmed with Hoff’s father in Hutchinson County, S.D. for years.  That’s when Hoff decided to return and help his father with the farm.

“This was a big change for us. I was used to bringing home a paycheck every two weeks and now that was going to change in a big way,” said Hoff. “There are no guarantees in farming and you can’t write down what you are going to make each year. My wife likes to have a clear plan and that was a challenge for her to overcome.”

Roots Planted for the Farm Service Agency

Six.

That’s the total number of name changes the has seen since its birth in 1933. With each change came new responsibilities, new programs and new incentives for farmers and ranchers to produce affordable food and fiber for U.S. consumers.

The 1929 stock market crash combined with the dust bowl of the 1930s merged into the Great Depression, which created high levels of unemployment and a long list of farm failures. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected, promising Americans a New Deal. FDR stated in a speech that “A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.”

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