Tag Archive: United States Department of Agriculture


Although agriculture is Georgia’s largest economic sector, ironically 80 percent of the food that the state buys is from out-of-state. 

The Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Consortium wants to bring local food back to Georgia.  Within in the next five years,  the state wants to create  two food hubs to shift agriculture back to local markets by making it easier for farmers to sell their produce locally  or regionally.

Food hubs, a new concept, allow smaller-scale producers to directly sell produce and meats to consumers.  “This is something that can affect all of our farmers,” said Julia Gaskin, coordinator of UGA Cooperative Extension programming in sustainable agriculture.

Frank Riley, a farmer who grows corn and pumpkins, would like to develop a farmers market in Hiawassee, Ga.  “Food hubs are good for the community. They are good for everyone,” Riley said.

Food hubs are locally managed, have the potential to generate jobs, improve rural economies and increase the capability of mid-scale farms. However, the creation and implementation of food hubs can be difficult.

Additional Consortium goals include:

  1. Form a working network structure that will facilitate interaction between key institutions and stakeholders;
  2. Quantify barriers and infrastructure needed for local/regional food hub development;
  3. Conduct life cycle analysis of vegetable and grazing systems;
  4. Begin research on multi-species grazing systems; and
  5. Increase research and extension on small to mid-scale vegetable production systems.

The Consortium was formed by the University of Georgia College and Agricultural and Environmental SciencesFort Valley State University College of Agriculture, Family Sciences and Technology, and the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Other key partners are in this effort are: Georgia OrganicsGeorgia Farm Bureau, Community Health WorksUSDA Agricultural Research ServiceGeorgia Fruit & Vegetable Growers Association andGeorgia USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.

As of the 2002 Census, the average age of all U.S. farmers was approximately 55. More distressing, though, is that from 1982 to 2002 the number of young principal farmers under 35 years old has declined from 16% to 9%.

To support the rise of a new generation of young farmers and ranchers, the USDA is stepping into the fray. It recently awarded 36 grants totaling $18 million for organizations to provide assistance and training to enable beginning farmers and ranchers to receive the training and assistance necessary to operate and grow successful, sustainable farms, USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan announced September 30.

“Beginning farmers and ranchers face unique challenges, and these grants will provide needed training to help these producers become profitable and sustainable,” Merrigan said. “American agriculture supports 1 in 12 jobs in America, a critical contribution to the strength and prosperity of the country.”

Merrigan continued: “The sheer productivity of our farmers has given Americans access to a cheap, wholesome food supply and provides us with more discretionary income than much of the rest of the world. But our farmers are aging, and more of our young people are looking outside of farming for their careers. It’s time to reverse these trends, keep farmers on the farm and help beginning farmers and ranchers thrive in their careers.”

The grants will flow through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) “Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program” (BFRDP).  Established in the 2008 Farm Bill, NIFA makes these grants to organizations carrying out education, training, technical assistance and outreach programs that help beginning farmers and ranchers with 10 years’ experience or less.

Awards were made to organizations in Arizona, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, the US Virgin Islands, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Select awardees include:

  • A project in New York to provide workshops, conferences, apprenticeships, online resources and mentoring services for more than 1,200 beginning farmers by 2014
  • A project in Montana will offer financial, credit and marketing training to beginning American Indian farmers
  • A project in Mississippi will develop and disseminate training materials and decision-making tools to high school and college students who plan to enter farming and ranching

 More information is available at: http://www.nifa.usda.gov/newsroom/news/2011news/beginning_farmer_awards.html.