More than $9 million in grants will be distributed to projects in 39 states to improve connections between agricultural producers and consumers in effort to improve access to healthy food and strengthen economies.
The funding is part of the Farmer's Market Promotion Program, which is administered through the Agricultural Marketing Service, expands farmers markets and producer –to-consumer marketing. USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced the awards Friday.
The awards have unique approaches to new food systems, including mobile food stores and nutrition programs in hospitals and public institutions.
"This year's Farmers Market Promotion Program awards are diverse and illustrate the many different ways farmers are directly connecting to communities and consumers," said Merrigan. "From starting up mobile markets to helping new farmers and ranchers, these grants will create new economic opportunities and encourage consumers to eat healthier."
Merrigan said the grants will also allow hiring of support staff, promotions via social media and support for infrastructure and education.
Because Congress has not yet passed a new Farm Bill, Merrigan pointed out that funding for the program was derived from the Farm Bill.
"We are keeping our fingers crossed that this program will continue in the future when Congress decides to act and give us a new Farm Bill," she said.
New Projects Awarded Friday:
• More than 40 projects that connect farmers and ranchers to new customers by establishing new markets and other retail outlets, community supported agriculture programs or extend the market season;
• Seventeen projects that will support the use of new delivery approaches such as online and mobile markets, broadening the customer base for several businesses;
• Thirteen projects that reinforce USDA's commitment to new and beginning farmers and ranchers, increasing opportunities, training and support for those just getting started;
• Twelve projects that focus on initiatives that support American Indian and Alaskan Native communities, and new opportunities for Latino, refugee and immigrant farmers;
• Ten projects that will help hospitals and health care organizations improve eating habits in their communities through education and the direct marketing of fresh local produce; and
• Nine projects that support agritourism, bringing visitors and consumers to farms and ranches.
The full list of awards granted for fiscal year 2012 is available at www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/FMPP.
The new grants also tie in with USDA's Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which works to strengthen the connection between farmers and consumers and supports local and regional food systems and lead a national conversation about food and agriculture to strengthen the connection between consumers and farmers.
An interactive view of USDA programs that support local and regional foods, including FMPP, is available at the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass.