U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits San Antonio
Government offers loans to support small, local farmers
For years, South Texas farming has been nothing short of challenging, but it appears the landscape of farming may be changing once again.
That change is represented by farmers like Curtis Stiefer. Stiefer’s farm in Medina County is small and offers a small yield.
"Our type of farmer is a whole lot smaller, intense operation,” said Stiefer.
So when Stiefer received a government letter offering small or "micro” loans to support small farms, he was intrigued.
"I'm just curious on what they have to say,” said Stiefer.
United States Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited San Antonio Thursday morning and laid out the details to area farmers like Stiefer. He also took time to address concerns in a round-table discussion at the Leon Valley Community and Conference Center.
"We want to give these small operators an opportunity,” said Vilsack.
It is an opportunity that is supported by a growing popularity of locally, fresh grown food. Farmer’s markets, according to Vilsack, have increase nationally by 67 percent over the past three years.
"A small farmer can make a really, really excellent living for their family by growing their produce and selling it at farmer's markets,” said Penny Gonzalez, with the San Antonio Farmer’s Market Association.
For the resurgence of small farms to continue, Vilsack acknowledged that a younger generation of farmers must also get involved.
"We're very concerned about the fact that the average age of farmers in the country is 60 and we're concerned about the fact that the rural communities are having a difficult time maintaining populations,” said Vilsack.
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