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by Gordon Jenkins

This week, the USDA is unveiling its new “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, which Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan has created to help re-connect American families to American family farmers, as a step towards building vibrant local and regional food systems. Each day this week, the USDA web site is celebrating a theme that underscores the need for local food:

  • Monday was “Rural Revitalization” Day, with information on how government officials, community organizations, businesses, and citizens can develop rural economies by building local food networks;
  • Tuesday is “Farm to Institution” Day, with background on the history of the National School Lunch Program, Farm to School and urban agriculture;
  • Wednesday is “Healthy Eating” Day, and will feature a celebrity chef leading a cooking demonstration for staff at the USDA;
  • Thursday is “Direct Marketing” Day, and is the day that the White House’s new farmers’ market opens in downtown D.C.;
  • Friday is “Ag is Back!” Day, and will feature the launch of a new USDA web site and a live Facebook chat with Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan.

This initiative marks an outstanding new commitment to local food on the part of the USDA, which usually puts its resources towards propping up big, industrial farms. Many attribute the new interest to the Obama Administration, which appointed Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture and directed him to get more local fruits and vegetables into America’s schools and institutions. Vilsack subsequently tapped Merrigan, a longtime local food advocate, as his Deputy. We at Slow Food USA hope that “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” is the start of many more good programs to come.

*Thank you to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s weekly newsletter for providing most of this information.