Release No. 0595.09 Contact: Office of Communications (202) 720-4623 WASHINGTON, December 3, 2009 - Deputy Agriculture Secretary Kathleen Merrigan today announced that USDA has signed a cooperative agreement with the Fair Food Network, a Michigan-based organization working toward improving consumers' access to healthy foods. The agreement lays the foundation for creating a regional food system with a strong urban-rural link by conducting research and matching small and mid-size farms in rural Southeast Michigan to emerging urban markets, particularly Detroit, where there is need and unmet demand for locally-produced fresh foods. Research results will be used to develop a comprehensive communications and social marketing plan to reach out to and inform small farmers in Southeast Michigan about urban market opportunities. USDA Rural Development will provide $40,000 to complement private funding.

“The Obama Administration supports establishment of local and regional food systems, part of our ‘Know your Farmer, Know your Food’ initiative,” Merrigan said. “Linking Michigan’s agricultural community to urban markets will bring new understanding of the importance of healthy eating and provide enhanced access to fresh foods,”

Merrigan noted that Michigan has the second most diverse agriculture industry in the country – second only to California. Fair Food Network is a non-profit organization that works with other groups to design a food system that provides access to an abundant supply of healthy, fresh and sustainably grown food.

This agreement is part of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, which promotes local and regional food systems by stimulating community economic development and ensuring equitable access to affordable fresh and local food.

USDA Rural Development’s mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for rural residents. Rural Development fosters growth in homeownership, finances business development and supports the creation of critical community and technology infrastructure. Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting

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