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USDA’s Urban Agriculture Toolkit – Its Free (see below)

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Touch the Soil News #372 While most federal spending on agriculture is to the industrial sector, the USDA’s focus on urban and local food (though much smaller) has become well established. Below are links to a USDA Websites with lots of information including the free Urban Agriculture Toolkit. The Urban Agriculture Toolkit is a PDF (19) pages that covers these key areas: Business Planning Land Access Soil Quality Water Access and Use Capital and Financing Infrastructure Market Development Federal support of local and urban food has even migrated into postal stamps. USDA National Farmers Market Directory: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets   USDA Local Food Directories: https://www.ams.usda.gov/services/local-regional/food-directories   USDA Farmers Markets and Direct to…

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The Current State of Organics (and local food) in the USA

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Touch the Soil News #361 The USDA just announced that the number of domestic certified organic farms increased by 12 percent between 2014 and 2015. According to the announcement, the United States has 21,781 certified organic operations or 70 percent of the world’s 31,160 organic farms. The USDA began keeping track of organic farms in 2002. With the growth last year, the number of organic farms have increased 300 percent since 2002. Global organic food sales now top $75 billion out of which $39 billion (52 percent) takes place in the United States. Because of the cost of getting certified organic, large food companies like Costco are getting involved in…

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News Roundup

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Touch the Soil News #214 Beer Breweries Illustrate Public Demand for Diversity The demand for a more diverse supply of agricultural products is not just in food, but drink as well. The Brewers Association recently announced that the U.S. now has over 4,000 breweries. That last time this was so was in 1873. California Leads in Curtailing Antibiotics in Farm Animals According to Reuters, California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill that sets the strictest government standards in the United States for the use of antibiotics in livestock production. The bill, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, will restrict the regular use of antibiotics for disease prevention…

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The Innate Potato – A GMO Creature Working to Come Out of the Test Tube

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Touch the Soil News #171 Last Friday, August 28, 2015, the USDA gave the green light for the Innate potato (a genetically modified potato) by giving it a “no regulated status.” In essence, J.R. Simplot Company – the creator of the Innate potato – is free to move forward to the next regulatory steps at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The Innate potato technology supposedly makes the potato less likely to black spot bruising and resists late blight. Late blight is a potato disease that infects plants during the growing season – causing the plant to prematurely die. Haven Baker, Vice President of plant sciences at Simplot said that…

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What Are Food Hubs? Can They Help You Become A Successful Local Farmer? (Part 1 of 2)

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Touch the Soil News # 140 A few years back while visiting La Montanita Food Cooperative in Albuquerque, New Mexico, we learned about local food hubs. The Co-op had asked its 8,000 members about where the Co-op should source its food. The message came back loud and clear – source food locally and regionally. The Co-op was interested in not only fresh and local, but protecting and developing the areas food shed. A food shed strives to enhance the production, processing, delivery and consumption of food within a regional geographic area. A food shed normally incorporates enough area (and customers) to support diverse food production and processing. To fulfill their…

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National Farmers Market Week – And the Nation’s top 10 Farmers Markets

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Touch the Soil News # 136 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has declared August 2 through August 8, 2015 as National Farmers Market Week. This year marks the 16th annual National Farmers Market Week. On Saturday, August 1st, Anne Alonzo, the administrator of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, will kick of ceremonies at the Santa Fe Farmers Market – one of the top 10 markets in the nation. The growth of farmers markets in America has been nothing short of stellar. Interesting to note is that despite economic problems in the nation, the number of farmers markets has nearly doubled from 2008 to 2014. Some of that success also comes…

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News Roundup – Food-Chain News You Might Have Missed

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Touch the Soil News # 134 Kraft-Heinz Merger, Now a Reality The much publicized merger between Kraft Foods and Heinz is now completed according to a recent company press release. Together, the two companies form the third largest food and beverage company in North America and the fifth largest in the world. The Company’s immediate focus will be on integrating the two businesses, establishing a new organizational structure and delivering its 2015 financial objectives. Unfortunately for the employees, stockholders have high expectations, some of which will be funded by eliminating jobs. Estimated are 7,000 job cuts at Heinz and as yet an undetermined number at Kraft. Following is a short…

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When it Comes to Food, what Does the Label “Natural” Mean? (Part 2 of 2)

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In part 2 of this news story we will explore the difference between ‘natural’ and organic. Food manufactures have honed in on the public’s misunderstanding about natural. In fact, a number of brands that have historically been organic have switched to ‘natural.’  It is all about money. Food manufacturers have found many people equate ‘natural’ with organic. To exploit this confusion, product’s labeled natural have been on the increase. In some cases, ‘natural’ products are priced higher than organic ones. The food manufacturers cash in as they now can increase their margins by selling inferior ‘natural’ products that consumers confuse with organics without the cost of organic ingredients. But not…

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When it Comes to Food, what Does the Label “Natural” Mean? (Part 1 of 2)

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When we think of the term “natural,” we often associate it with food that is good for us and clean of the things that shouldn’t be in food. The “natural” label on food can often have strength because it seems like we are getting quality food without having to pay for the cost of “organic” food. But in the real world, where competition for dollars never ceases, anything that can be shoved into the “natural” category – an arena where folks are willing to pay more – will be shoved in. To protect ourselves from competition over dollars, we have come to expect the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to…

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Experiment – What Happens to You When Everything You Eat is Organic

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Swedish grocery chain Coop has been working since the 1980s to educate consumers on the benefits of eating organic and challenging politicians to do more for organic food production. We all know the story, we can read all the technical studies on the pesticide levels in our bodies, but few people change to organic – often because of the cost. Putting technical reports aside, the Coop decided to do an experiment on what happens to people when they switch to 100 percent organic diets. The company enlisted the Palmbergs (see photo), a typical Swedish family, to participate in a three-week experiment switching from conventional food to organic. In the first…

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