Local Farming: USDA Programs Help Promote

Spring is here!

Our Pennsylvania farmers are busy preparing their farmland so that it can produce healthful agricultural products, like edible fruits, vegetables and livestock for us to consume all year long. As you know, this is important because fruits and vegetables are our primary source of essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that help protect us from chronic disease like diabetes, cancer and heart disease. Talk with your doctor to learn more about your protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber intake needs. Buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, livestock and food products. When you buy local, the food is fresher, less fuel is used and you are supporting the local farmers and the local economy.

Healthful food starts with good soil, water and air. The United States Department of Agriculture is more than the “USDA Choice” label you see on your steak. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) is a technical agency of the USDA that promotes conservation and sustainability of land, water, air and the resources on which our lives depend. The agency provides technical and financial assistance at the county level, so they are close to you.

According to Noel Soto, NRCS conservationist, “The USDA has programs that can help people who are starting to farm or who have been farming for a while. The production site could be of any size and the value of the farming goods as low as $1,000 per year. You could have a small plot of jalapeños or cilantro, some mushrooms or a few goats. We also have programs for wildlife and woodlands for individuals that have land but don’t farm it. Typically Hispanic farmers and other minorities don’t participate in the financial- and technical-assistance programs the USDA offers because they don’t know the programs are there. Examples of the assistance that we provide are: microloans (small loans) for farming, grants for energy-efficiency and marketing value added agricultural products, incentives for the installation of high tunnels to extend the growing season and programs that help families purchase their own homes.”

If you farm on rented land, are the owner or manager of a farm or own land that is in grass or trees and want to learn more about the USDA programs, contact Noel Soto by email at noel.soto@pa.usda.gov or by phone at (717) 237-2173 or (866) 232-0690. All information provided is confidential, and the programs are voluntary and free of charge.

Please buy locally grown products and protect our resources for a healthy life! Take good care of yourself, and send your health questions to dr.oralia@gmail.com. Together we can help keep Pennsylvania residents healthy. ¡Salud!

Oralia Dominic

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