"Compass" leads consumers, producers to USDA programs

Jun 28, 2013

In its continuing effort to connect consumers to their farmers—and producers to helpful industry contacts—USDA’s “Know your farmer, Know your food” program has created a powerful online search tool called “Compass.” The tool draws from multiple USDA databases, including the Food Safety and Inspection Service database, to serve both consumers and producers.

“Compass” is effectively a database search program attached to a mapping feature similar to GoogleMaps. Users can select from a variety of searchable items— anything from where farmers’ and wholesale markets are, to where federal agricultural projects are based—in the “data layer” on left-hand side of the page and markers for those items will appear on the map. Users can zoom into the state, county, city, and even neighborhood levels on the map to see where points of interest are relative to them. Each point includes addresses, contact information, and websites as available.

For producers, “Compass” can be used to find things like Farm Service Agency loan offices, USDA programs and projects, USDA’s federal partners, and—perhaps most helpful for smaller producers or those looking into direct marketing— small meat processors.

Producers can search for USDA-inspected processing facilities by unchecking all data layers except “meat infrastructure” in the left column. Each marker will show a processor. The marker information does not include plant size, services, or what species they process.

For consumers, “Compass” can be very helpful for finding things like farmers markets and educational or nutritional opportunities.

The “Compass” search tool can be found at usda.gov/maps/maps/kyfcompassmap.htm. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor