In recent weeks the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been much maligned for allowing “pink slime” to be served to school children and for greenlighting a GMO corn touted as “drought resistant,” the first fields of which will soon planted in test trials across the Western Great Plains. That’s a lot of bad press for a department celebrating its 150th year.
|Screenshot of the Compass cover|
On Leap Day, in the midst of all this controversy, the USDA released the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass. It should have been a shining moment.The Compasses showcases the work of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, which was launched in 2009 to coordinate the work of USDA’s 17 agencies and many staff offices that invest in local and regional food systems. The Compass is an online multi-media narrative with case studies, photos, facts, videos, and an interactive map documenting USDA supported local and regional food activities in all 50 states.
Farmers markets are a highly visible component of Know Your Farmer (KYF). The Compass states, “The number of farmers markets nationwide increases by 54% between 2008 and 2011, providing 7,000 venues for farmers to interact directly with consumers.” If you take the time to flip through the pages of the Compass pdf, however, you will soon realize that there is much more to the KYF story. KYF provided funds for a vast array of programs, projects, and purchases including: mobile meat processing units allowing small farmers to process their meat on site; high tunnels to extend the growing season; preservation of farm land; support for young farmers; and farm to school programs.
Grants were not confined to rural areas. Try out the interactive map for grants to urban centers. Click on New Haven and you will find three grants.
I can attest from personal experience that this government money has made a positive impact in my city. I would imagine that citizens across the country would say the same. Let’s all take a moment to recognize KYF and the many other good things the USDA has done during its 150 years.
I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”