Local food and the USDA

by Tamara Scully

There isn’t a set definition of a local or regional food system within the USDA. But that doesn’t mean that local food isn’t a priority. In fact, local food systems are definitely on the USDA’s radar, and all initiatives focusing on local food are coordinated via the prominent Know Your Farmer/Know Your Food program.

Elanor Starmer, USDA’s National Coordinator and Advisor for Local and Regional Food Systems, outlined the characteristics of a local food system to a national audience, via a live webinar, “The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development,” held earlier this fall. Local food systems have all phases of the lifecycle of the food take place within a defined region, Starmer said. And, the benefits of such a food system impact the immediate community. These benefits include social, economic, environmental and nutritional improvements. Additionally, products in a local food system are identified as “local,” and “a lot of other values are conveyed with that product,” she said. [Read more…]

Grazing 260 days in Upstate New York is Possible

CEW-MR-3-Grazing days3DEANSBORO, NY — Fifty hearty farmers from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York braved downpours and cold temperatures to learn, discuss and verify that forward grazing planning does meet the realities of extending pasture resources into the winter season.

The goal for the day at the Bishopp Family Farm was to show others that it’s possible to increase grazing days, reduce wintering costs and maintain animal performance by using holistic planned grazing management principles and decisions to implement a stockpiled grazing program. [Read more…]

Sixth-generation dairy survives mammoth storm

CW-MR-2-Breezyhill Dairy1298by Sally Colby

Like many generational dairy farms, Breezyhill has faced its share of challenges. The most recent was dealing with the sudden onslaught of snow that plagued a good portion of upstate New York. Brad Almeter, who is back on the farm after studying Animal Science and Ag Business at Cornell University, talks about how his family’s Sheldon, NY, dairy farm has progressed over the years.

“My grandfather Charlie took over the farm in the 1970s,” said Almeter, adding that the farm included 60 cows at the time. “He put up some freestall barns and Harvestore silos. He died in a tragic tractor accident three years later and my dad Roger took over the farm. I grew up on the farm and came back in 2002 after college.” [Read more…]

Saving Small Dairy Farms

CN-MR-1-small dairy01by Tamara Scully

Dairy farms are getting bigger. As the number of dairy farms decreases, along with the number of cows being milked nationwide, the total amount of milk being produced, increases. Not only are cows producing more milk each day, they are doing so on larger and larger farms.

According to the article “Milk Production Continues Shifting to Large-Scale Farms,” by James MacDonald and Doris Newton, published in the December 2014 issue of Amber Waves, the USDA’s Economic Research Service’s magazine focusing on ERS research, analysis and policy issues related to agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America, dairy farming consolidation has been pronounced since 1992. In an industry where the number of dairy farms has decreased by 60 percent in the past two decades, this market reduction makes the possibility of starting small and mid-sized farming operations more difficult. [Read more…]