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Diane Baedeker Petit, Public Affairs Officer

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USDA features Hadley, Mass. dairy farmer on new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass interactive website

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food CompassNew web resource maps USDA support for local and regional food projects and business opportunities

AMHERST, Mass. (March 1, 2012) - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan have unveiled the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass, an interactive web-based document and map highlighting USDA support for local and regional food projects and successful producer, business and community case studies. The site emphasizes how local and regional food systems across the country create additional economic opportunities for farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs, expand healthy food access and meet growing customer demand.

John Kokoski, owner of Mapleline Farm, HadleyA report on the new website mentions John Kokoski, owner of Mapleline Farm in Hadley, Mass. for his work with the department's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS helped Kokoski, a fifth-generation family dairy farmer, engineer a solution to manage both cow manure and wastewater when he built an on-farm plant to bottle milk for local sale. The revenues from local sales are now helping Kokoski keep his farm viable and stave off pressure from developers.

"We try to project a favorable image to our neighbors and the general public. NRCS's help with nutrient management was kind of a helping hand in managing our farm," says Kokoski, who sells his milk directly to consumers through a farm store and old-fashioned home delivery, as well as through wholesale accounts with local retailers.

Read the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass report [PDF].Acrobat Reader is required. See page 23 for the highlight on John Kokoski.

Read John Kokoski's full story: Direct marketing and land stewardship keep Mapleline Farm viablein our Conservation Showcase.

"USDA works every day to strengthen American agriculture, drive job growth and support farm-family income," said Vilsack. "The KYF Compass highlights how USDA support for local and regional food systems has brought additional opportunities to our country's farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors and food entrepreneurs. The stories and maps in the Compass underscore how diverse and innovative American agriculture can be."

The KYF Compass is a digital guide to USDA resources related to local and regional food systems. The Compass consists of an interactive U.S. map showing local and regional food projects and an accompanying narrative documenting the results of this work through case studies, photos and video content. The KYF Compass organizes USDA's work on local and regional food systems into seven thematic areas. Among the themes covered on the map and in the narrative portion of the Compass are:

Local Food Infrastructure: maps USDA support for food hubs, cold storage facilities, local food processors and other infrastructure and examines how this infrastructure keeps wealth in rural communities

Farm to Institution: examines programs to connect local food producers and institutions and the results of these initiatives for healthy food access, farm incomes, and students' understanding of agriculture

Careers in Agriculture: discusses USDA support for young and beginning farmers and ranchers, as well as opportunities to get involved in agriculture through food business development and public service, and the importance of this work to creating vibrant rural communities

Stewardship and Local Foods: explains how local food producers are implementing environmentally sustainable practices on their farms and ranches to preserve farmland, forests and natural landscapes across the country

Local Meat and Poultry: showcases resources for local meat and poultry producers and small processors to succeed in local markets

Healthy Food Access: highlights tools to connect farmers and ranchers underserved communities to increase access to healthy food for consumers and economic opportunities for producers

Local Food Knowledge: tracks existing research and identifies opportunities for further understanding of local and regional food systems and their impacts.

"By encouraging all Americans to know their farmer, USDA is helping consumers learn more about agriculture and the people producing your food," said Deputy Secretary Merrigan. "The Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative helps farmers and ranchers tap into a vibrant, growing market opportunity. And it's also stimulating a broader national conversation about where our food comes from and how important agriculture is to our country."

"The staff in our Hadley field office say that, among their many good clients, John Kokoski stands out," said Christine Clarke, NRCS Massachusetts State Conservationist. "Some are good cooperators with conservation districts, some have a great rapport with NRCS, some are real stewards of their natural resources and others are community leaders. John Kokoski, they say, embodies all of those qualities."

A large selection of USDA-supported programs and projects is also visible on the KYF Map, which can be displayed by theme, program, or recipient type. Both the KYF Compass and map will be regularly refreshed with new data and case studies.

In September 2009, USDA launched the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to coordinate USDA resources and expertise on local and regional food systems. The KYF Compass documents the ways in which USDA has collaborated across its 17 agencies and additional offices, enhanced transparency and met congressional mandates from the 2008 Farm Bill on local and regional food. KYF is not a separate USDA program or agency. It is a management initiative to increase inter-agency coordination.

For more information and to join the national conversation, please visit the 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' website, atwww.usda.gov/knowyourfarmer. People can join the national conversation on Twitter by using the hash tag #KYF2.