On the Vulgamore farm near Scott City, Kan., each combine can harvest up to 25 acres of wheat an hour—as well as real-time data on crop yields. Most of the food Americans eat is now produced on such large-scale, mechanized farms, which grow row after row of a single crop, allowing farmers to cover more ground with less labor.
With the world’s population exploding, we’ll have many more mouths to feed in the near future. But agriculture already uses up tons of resources and land. So how can we grow more food and how can we limit its damage to the environment?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture wants to greenlight a proposal that would allow imports of fresh beef from certain sections of Brazil, despite the South American country’s history of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, a highly contagious pathogen that cripples cattle.
In the kitchen at the high school in Decorah, Iowa (IA), Chad Elliott ladels out tomato soup. The school system sources many ingredients locally.
Credit Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media
The smell of baking dinner rolls fills the kitchen at Decorah High School in northeast Iowa. As two kitchen workers mix a fresh broccoli salad, another, Chad Elliott, ladles tomato soup from a large metal pot on the stove into white plastic buckets for delivery to the town’s elementary schools.
Samara Davis shops at the small Harvest Learning Center market in the basement of her Kansas City, Mo., church. It’s part of an effort for local farmers to expand their customer base.
Credit Jeremy Bernfeld / Harvest Public Media
Farm stands and farmers markets remain really important for many local farmers, but U.S. consumers barely buy any food directly from farms. That’s why local farmers are trying to crack in to the big institutional markets such as grocery stores, work cafeterias, schools and hospitals.
Local food is slowly becoming a not so niche market. Six years ago, USDA put the size of the local food sector at $4.8 billion.
Credit Matt Hannon / Flickr
When the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases detailed data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture in May, the numbers should illuminate all sorts of details about the country’s farmers. And for those involved in local food initiatives, the data may finally make it possible to update the statistics on the size and scope of their successes.