USDA’s New Tool

Craig McCord

Craig McCord › Craig possesses 23 guitars and cannot play any of them. He likes fresh grilled sardines with a ...


Today, the USDA unveiled the latest piece of their “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” campaign, originally launched in 2009 in an effort to put more emphasis on local food communities.  The “compass” serves as a virtual tool for those hoping to connect with “real food” in their region.  According to the official USDA blog:

The Compass is an online multi-media narrative with stories, pictures and video about USDA’s support for local and regional food systems and an interactive map of USDA-supported local and regional food activities in all 50 states.  With the Compass you can navigate USDA resources for local and regional food; meet farmers, ranchers, businesses and communities in your state that are participating in local food chains; and learn about local and regional food projects across the country.

So far, the USDA claims to have supported the following:

  • Nearly 4,500 seasonal high tunnels (or “hoop houses”) to help farmers extend their growing seasons
  • Number of farm to school programs jump from 400 in 2004 to 2,300 in 2011
  • Number of operating farmers markets blossom from 4,685 in 2008 to over 7,100 in 2011

However, there is no doubt we need more.

Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack is fond of referring to U.S. agriculture as being like “two sons” — one small scale, tending to be more local and the other, industrial and mostly monocrops. He says he loves both equally, which outrages folks on both side of the discussion. Until today, one could say he has showered his industrial son with more love. Today’s announcement of the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass” shows that maybe Secretary Vilsack is acknowledging that the local, small scale son deserves a little love, as well.

Do you think the compass is useful?