Friday, March 12, 2010

Dr. Kathleen Merrigan visit to Wisconsin

It was an honor to be included in a round table discussion today with Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture.

I learned that the array of projects and real stakeholders the USDA must represent is daunting.

That's why having someone of Dr. Merrigan's experience in sustainable ag and regional food systems at the number two spot in this highly influential federal agency is pretty remarkable.

In a review of her nomination at "She comes from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, in Boston, where she is the director of the Center on Agriculture, Food and Environment. She has also worked in government, as head of the Agricultural Marketing Service at the USDA, as a consultant to the Food and Agriculture Organization at the United Nations, and as staff to the Senate Committee on Agriculture."

"At Tufts, Merrigan has directed a group of projects designed to stimulate community gardens, develop regional marketing strategies between consumers and local farmers, and promote food and gardening education in local schools. This is not the traditional career path of high-ranking USDA officials."

Dr. Merrigan has significant responsibilities as a top member of a leadership team of a major federal agency. Yet amid all that she has carved out time and space, with no budget, to champion the great 'Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food' program at USDA (link below). It was inspiring to hear about the widespread movement these ideas have generated. It was also really cool to see this level of entrepreneurship at this level of policy making.

Our Highland vegetable processing and IQF facility will be a platform for enabling "Know Your Farmer" programs run at a scale that can start creating real-world, measurable solutions that match existing demand from our 35 million regional consumers.

Mark has insisted from the beginning that a goal for foods processed at Highland would be that they would be farm-identified for the consumer.

Much like the Wisconsin Innovation Kitchen (previous post), the Highland facility will soon generate all kinds of new action steps that will connect consumers with local producers.

I know everyone that had the opportunity to meet with the entrepreneurial Dr. Merrigan while she was in Madison today was grateful for her visit.

It was a wonderful day to be in Wisconsin talking about food and the future. Thanks Dr. Merrigan!

USDA Biography of Dr. Kathleen Merrigan

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Review of Dr. Merrigan's nomination in

Thanks to Stan Gruszynski, Director of Wisconsin USDA Rural Development for the invitation to Dr. Merrigan's round table visit. Stan is on the right in the photo above.

My friend Sue Noble, Director of Vernon County Economic Development and I got to discuss our complimentary regional projects with Dr. Merrigan today. Sue is on the other side of Dr. Merrigan in the photo above.

Mark's Renaissance Farm

See previous posts about the Highland vegetable processing and freezing facility by clicking the label 'Driftless Foods' below

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