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Ken Meter's Posts

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In a Minnesota project, free-range chickens spell broad-based economic development

Ecomomic splendor in the grass. I just completed a profile of one of the most exciting food production ideas I have seen in a long time.  Hillside Farmers Co-op. in Northfield, Minnesota, initiated by Latino immigrants, raises free-range chickens on scattered small, one-quarter acre sites.  This makes it a great model for urban farmers as well as rural. By staying small, co-op leader, Regi Haslett-Marroquin told me, Latino farmers will be able to start a farm even though they have very little capital to work with.  In just a few weeks, each farm can sell about a thousand chickens.  That …

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Minnesota food system study — building trust is good business

Minnesota food system study -- building trust is good business   I just published a new study of the Minnesota food system.  The main take-home message is that building trust is good for business.  Close relationships with suppliers and customers are exactly what allow food firms to respond to changing conditions.   The report, "Mapping the Minnesota Food Industry," was commissioned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota's Center for Prevention, which has launched a Healthy Eating Minnesota initiative.  The full study is available for free download at http://www.crcworks.org/mnfood.pdf.   My favorite part of the work was interviewing food …

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USDA to unveil “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative

Vast potential: a farm grows in Brooklyn. Photo: Added ValueAs I prepare for five days of announcements next week, when USDA plans to unveil its new "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" initiative, the buzz across my desk is about the potential for urban agriculture. EPA reminds that brownfield moneys can be used to convert polluted land into working farms in inner-city areas. I saw the excellent film "The Garden," documenting the destruction of the largest community farm in the U.S. (South Central LA) in 2006. Will and Erika Allen are coming to Minnesota again. Over breakfast, friends asked about …

Read more: Cities, Food, Living

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Tell USDA to add urban farming to the Ag Census! Deadline is Friday.

If you care about eating healthy food, you are probably already hard at work to build a better food supply for yourself.  You already know that raising food in our cities will be increasingly important.  Yet getting political support for this requires making a convincing case, and this means having compelling numbers.  The federal Census of Agriculture mainly covers rural areas.  How can you encourage the government to collect more data that will help the cause? The Census of Agriculture is now looking for input on data they should collect in the next census.  They want your ideas by Friday, …

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Direct and organic farm sales rise rapidly, new census shows

Direct sales from farmers rose 49 percent, and organic farm sales more than tripled from 2002 to 2007, new USDA farm census data show. USDA released the 2007 Agriculture Census data today, giving Americans a far more detailed understanding of agricultural trends -- just as interest in local foods expands dramatically. For me, one of the key indicators of the growth of interest in community-based foods is the rapidly rising sales of food direct from farmers to consumers. Direct food sales rose a whopping 49 percent to $1.2 billion in 2007, up from $812 million in 2002. This includes farmstand, …

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Just as large retailers enter the market

Although a recent Wall Street Journal report properly touts the impressive upward trend of organic-food sales, data cited in the story show that the actual rate of growth in organic sales is falling slightly, just as mega-retailers poise themselves to enter the organics market. The industry rule of thumb is that organic food sales are rising 20% a year. However, the WSJ's data, drawn from the respected Nutrition Business Journal, projects that organic-food sales will grow to $15.5 billion nationally this year -- a 12% rise over 2005. Moreover, the NBJ data shows that organic-food sales grew 16% from 2004 …

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The U.S. needs a food bill more than a farm bill

<img src="http://www2.grist.org/images/home/2006/03/13/farmer-on-tractor_150.jpg&quot; class="alignright" width="150" height="100" America is scheduled to write a new farm bill in 2007. With the World Trade Organization ruling that our farm subsidies distort trade, and public expenses for flood relief and the war effort taxing the treasury, this could be a time of interesting shifts in how we view farm policy. Moreover, both farmer and consumer groups say subsidies are harming Americans and developing nations (see Tom Philpott's fine story "I'm Hatin' It"). On the other hand, there are also signs that the same coalition of grain traders and producer groups will persuade Congress to extend …

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Food imports may force new food policies

A little over a year ago The Wall Street Journal (31 Jan 2005) reported that the U.S. would become a net food importer on a more or less permanent basis by the end of 2005. To me, this is an immense challenge to our food security, but also marks a great opportunity for the U.S. to rebuild its food markets. I'm interested in how others see it. Trade data for December have not been released yet. When they are, we'll know if the Journal's prediction is true. Still, one look at USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) numbers shows the trend …

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