Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Data

Farm from shutterstock.com

This post wasoriginally published on Food+Tech Connect andwritten by Danielle Gould, founder of Food+Tech Connect.

The United States Department of Agriculture is stepping up its online engagement and open data efforts.

Yesterday, the USDA launched Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF) Compass, a new digital report detailing USDA support for local and regional food projects between 2009 – 2011. The KYF Compass includes interactive maps, data sets, photos, video content, and business and community case studies, doubling as a resource for local and regional food economy stakeholders, and a mandatory report to Congress.

Unveiled by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan via a live webinar, the USDA will continue the virtual conversation on Monday, March 5, 2012 with a “Tweetup” from 2:30 – 4 PM EST, using the hashtag #KYF2. This report, and its engagement strategy, are significantly evolved for a government agency.

KYF delivers an entirely new research consumption experience.

A departure from the traditional, difficult-to-consume PDF report, the interactive format makes it easier for people to find the information they need. KYF still includes PDFs, but they are divided into sections and have outside links to augment information about related resources. The sections are also beautifully designed, including pictures that further contextualize the information being presented.

What do the Compass and map have to offer the food tech community?

Within the report you will find detailed information about local food infrastructure, farm to institution, careers in agriculture, stewardship and local foods, local meat and poultry, healthy food access, and local food knowledge. The wealth of data and case studiesare a valuable asset for those who want to help local food economies grow. It also offers an easier way to navigate USDA resources and programs.

The map displays data about many USDA grants, loans and programs that support local and regional food systems during 2009-2011, including Farm Service Agency, Farmers Market Nutrition Program, and Seasonal High Tunnel initiative data.

For the first phase of this project, the USDA selected an initial list of 27 programs to use as examples for the Compass and map. The USDA ‘incrementally shares and gathers relevant data,” so only a “portion” of resources and investments are included. Both the map and Compass will be updated over the coming months to showcase additional resources and projects.

The data is available for download in machine-readable format.

Will there be an API (application programming interface)?

“The new KYF Compass, map and data is a three phase project,” commented Deputy Secretary Merrigan in an email interview. “In phase one, you can see USDA investments in local and regional food systems to date and we will be entering new USDA projects as available. Phase two will provide additional context data that we have at the USDA to better understand local food systems [ie farmers market directory and list of food hubs]. Phase three? Stay tuned.”

Maybe a hackathon is in order to help the USDA make this data easy for developers to integrate into their own platforms.

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