July 19, 2018

#KYF2 Tweetup Huge Success

Yesterday’s #KYF2 Twitter meeting, sponsored by the USDA, was a huge success. Thousands joined in on the conversation about the government’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” compass, an online tool designed to coordinate resources within the USDA and map out local and regional food projects.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan was in charge of the conversation, which touched on everything from encouraging children to get involved in farming to food safety.

Merrigan said, “No one gets a pass on food safety, in my mind, I don’t care if you’re the biggest farm in the world or the smallest. … But there are different ways of getting there. One of the things that we funded through the Risk Management Agency was working with FamilyFarmed.org … they developed a food safety planning tool.”

White House Chef Sam Kass was part of the conversation too. He said, “You can’t raise healthy kids that eat healthy food if there is no healthy food around.” Part of the discussion focused on making a connection between schools and farms. Many agreed that Farm-to-School initiatives should be a part of the USDA’s efforts.

Merrigan also stated, “The biggest challenge in American agriculture today is getting more people in farming.” The government is reaching out to organizations such as 4H and Future Farmers of America to make sure kids who are interested in farming stay interested. The Farm Bureau tweeted that four out of five young farmer awardees are selling local. Veterans may be another group to include in future farmers. More information may be found at Start 2 Farm.

And here’s something many people don’t know: WIC (Women Infants and Children) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits are accepted at most farmer’s markets. That’s a great way to increase fresh food consumption, especially in “food deserts” (areas of the country where supermarkets and fresh food sources are scarce). Merrigan said that 40% of farmers are now located in metro areas.

Merrigan said that there has been a 400% increase in SNAP redemption at farmers’ markets in 2011, with more than $11 million in SNAP benefits redeemed. SNAP data may be added to the KYF2 compass soon.

In fact, WIC has a WIC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, founded by Congress in 1992 to “provide fresh, unprepared, locally grown fruits and vegetables to WIC participants.”

There were two human interest points in the discussion: Michael Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College in Dallas, Texas tore up a football field on his campus to create an organic farm. And Orren Fox, a 15-year-old who raises chickens, was the star of the event. Orren also raises bees, and he and Sam Kass may hold a “honey taste-off”.

If you want to read more about the event, go to Twitter (join if you don’t have an account) and enter #KYF2 to see all of the tweets.

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