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2011

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Our Favorite Social Media Moments from 2011

As 2011 draws to an end, this is a time where we begin to look back on things we learned or achieved, and to make resolutions for the year ahead.  We wanted to take the end of 2011 to look back on the wide range of social media activities that we had the pleasure of planning, executing and watching unfold across the Department in an effort to better serve you, our most important audience. From Twitter chats, to video challenges, to new ways to share valuable data, we think USDA really upped the ante on the social media front this year.

Organic 101: What Organic Farming (and Processing) Doesn’t Allow

This is the first in series of Organic 101 pieces that will explore the different rules within the USDA organic regulations.

When it comes to organic foods, it’s just as important to know what isn’t allowed as what is.  The organic standards are process-based, meaning they establish the rules for an entire system of farming that follows a product from its beginnings on the farm all the way to retail.

Secretary's Column: Honoring Rural Troops This Holiday Season

As they have in years past, tens of thousands of American troops will celebrate the holidays overseas. Many of them call our nation’s rural communities home.  So it is important – especially in this season – to remember those men and women who defend our nation.

There is one notable difference this year.  At President Obama’s direction, after nearly a decade at war, we are moving forward so that all American troops will be out of Iraq to reunite with their families for the holidays.  We should never forget the sacrifices of the more than one million men and women of the United States armed forces who served in Iraq, and the sacrifices of their families.  We are indebted to them, and proud of their efforts.

Don’t Lose Your Holiday Cheer: Avoid Having Your Imported Holiday Food Items Seized

Importing foods from abroad can make the holidays more meaningful and fun. But please take care when bringing any food or agricultural items into the United States—whether you’re returning from an international trip or ordering online. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) restricts or prohibits many foreign foods and agricultural items from entering the United States. Why? They could be carrying pests or diseases that could threaten human health or devastate the environment, crops, agricultural animals, ornamental plants, and gardens.

Invasive pests threaten agricultural jobs and raise our food prices by damaging crops, costing millions of dollars in treatments to farmers and government agencies, and closing foreign markets to U.S. products from infested areas. They also feast on America’s natural resources, disrupting and harming our environment. These pests push out native species that provide food and habitat to wildlife, reduce biological diversity, kill forest trees, place other species at increased risk of extinction, and alter wildfire intensity and frequency.

Urban Fruit for Urban Communities

Who says you have to travel outside the city to enjoy the beauty (and deliciousness) of fresh fruit orchards? Cities all across America are transforming the urban landscape by harvesting trees in public spaces. Together with growing community gardens, planting urban orchards is bringing local groups and residents together to improve their neighborhoods. Planting fruit and nut-bearing trees in limited resource neighborhoods and in neglected areas in cities connects people with nature, provides volunteer opportunities, produces food in public areas, and teaches the public about the environment.

From Art Student to APHIS Veterinarian, Dr. Karen James-Preston on World Vet Year

Hello, I’m Dr. Karen James-Preston. I’m work for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, as Director of the Veterinary Services’ National Center for Import and Export, Animal Products. My staff and I work every day to make sure animal products are safely imported into the United States. We also work to facilitate the export of animal products to other countries. My job is fulfilling because I’m part of the team that’s protecting the domestic livestock and poultry population from disease, as well as helping our agriculture industry move products abroad.

My path to becoming a veterinarian was non-traditional, to say the least. My undergraduate degree is actually in Art Education. Even though my plan for college was math, I somehow ended up in the art department. While I was at Howard University, I got my first pet, a toy poodle named Oatmeal. After a while, my friends asked why I didn’t want to become a veterinarian… and I didn’t have a good answer. Now I wasn’t a great artist, so I decided to pursue a veterinary career. I needed additional science courses to get into vet school, but luckily I was able to take those classes at University of Maryland and get into the vet school at Tuskegee, Alabama.

Urban Fruit for Urban Communities

Who says you have to travel outside the city to enjoy the beauty (and deliciousness) of fresh fruit orchards? Cities all across America are transforming the urban landscape by harvesting trees in public spaces. Together with growing community gardens, planting urban orchards is bringing local groups and residents together to improve their neighborhoods.

Chief Economist Joseph Glauber on "Agriculture: Tomorrow's Power"

For more than 65 years, the Oxford Farming Conference has built up a reputation as the most important of its kind in the UK and Europe. And this year, USDA Chief Economist Dr. Joseph Glauber will speak on the outlook for agriculture in light of the major global, climate and resource challenges facing agricultural producers over the next 40 years.

His presentation will occur during the meeting’s first session titled “Farming's Place in an Uncertain World” on Wednesday January 4th. The 2012 conference will be held on the January 3-4-5 at the Examination Schools at Oxford University, Oxford, England.