A Government Tweet-Up
Transparency is the name of the game for the USDA this year.
Do you know your farmer? Well, you should.
This is the message the USDA is sending out, backed by a campaign called “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food." Their most recent addition, a virtual compass for U.S. citizens to locate their closest USDA-supported farmers, intends to make eating local easier.
A week after its debut, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan led a discussion via live webcast at the White House, taking questions from audience members, as well as Tweeters, about the purpose of the compass, and how to make use of this new, jazzy tool. Even celebrity musician Jason Mraz piped in, tweeting “I’m stoked about USDA’s commitment to local food. What can I do to help?”
Highlighting the 4,500 hoop houses they funded to extend farmers' growing seasons, as well as numerous grants they’ve awarded nationally, the USDA hopes to emphasize their support for the growing movement towards local food, and their dedication to small farm America.
“Local is evolutionary… some places can do more because they have infrastructure. Some places, it’s not happening yet,” said Merrigan.
Why does local matter?
“Keeping farming in business is really important to our environment,” she expressed, also attributing it to the creation of jobs and the importance of healthy food knowledge and access.
Yet perhaps the youngest in the audience said it best. “It’s pretty delicious,” claimed 15 year-old Orren Fox, beekeeper, chicken farmer and creator of Happy Chickens. He went on to discuss his own success and how he created a farm club at his school to encourage others to follow suit. The Twitterverse roared with “Go Orren!” as they heard his story, and cheered a young face many hope exemplifies the future.
White House chef, Sam Kass, joined in praising Orren, adding “I joke with the Secret Service that the next thing that’s coming is some chickens down there.” His work with Michelle Obama on the “Let’s Move” campaign to combat child obesity, as well as daily use of the White House’s own edible garden (via Alice Waters) earned him a seat at the table, and he took the time to congratulate their victories. “This is happening all over the country…it’s great.”
It seems the government’s focus on local has been widely applauded, and their new tool is meant to be a valuable resource for farmers. Yet even though Merrigan labels the new compass a “hallmark of transparency," others worry it’s distracting from the big issues of Big Ag. To quote @GrowOrganicCorn:
”White House is jazzed about all the #farm tweets today. Let’s do this for #GMO issues too?”
The big question: will they dare?
To watch the tweet-up from the White House, check it out on You Tube here.
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