On Wednesday, February 29 USDA released its Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) report and introduced the Compass, an expansive new resource for the KYF2 initiative. The initiative was launched in 2009 to enhance coordination and efficiency among the various USDA agencies and programs that work to build local and regional farm and food systems.
Local food is a small but growing sector of American agriculture. A new study by the Congressional Research Service notes that the “farm-level value of local food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008, or about 1.6 percent of the U.S. market for agricultural products. An estimated total of 107,000 farms are engaged in local food systems, or about 5 percent of all U.S. farms.”
The KYF2 Compass documents the multitude of benefits to be reaped by local food systems, from job creation to expanded access to fresh foods. The new, web-based resource was introduced personally by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan via a live web stream, with a heavy emphasis on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media activity.
USDA coverage of the release of the Compass suggests that it will be a tool for everyone from farmers to consumers so they can, in USDA’s words:
- Learn about USDA resources to develop local and regional food enterprises – from seasonal high tunnels that extend the growing season, to technical assistance for beginning and experienced producers, to support for marketing, processing, distribution and retail infrastructure.
- See case studies and photos of successful producers and projects from around the country.
- Navigate the interactive KYF Compass Map, which shows the location and focus of many USDA-supported local and regional food projects.
- Watch videos documenting how others are building strong local and regional food businesses, expanding local food production on their farms and ranches, and making change in their communities.
- Join the national conversation. If you’re a customer, meet a farmer. If you’re a farmer, talk to your customers. Continue the conversation in your neighborhood, town and community about what local foods mean to you.
The KYF2 Compass creates a record of the impact of several successful programs from the 2008 Farm Bill that need renewal in 2012, including the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), and Value-Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG).