Skip to main content

May 2013

US Forest Service Celebrates National Get Outdoors Day June 8

National Get Outdoors Day, created in a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will include a wide variety of opportunities to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun, from a rousing day of festivities in City Park in Denver to quieter observations on some national forest and grasslands.

Go Day, as it is often called, was launched June 14, 2008, through a partnership between the Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition. Built on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other efforts, Go Day connects Americans – especially children – with nature and active lifestyles.

In Virginia, a Food Hub Helps Growers Scale Up

Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.

But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood.

Secretary's Column: Helping Families Achieve the Dream of Homeownership

Throughout the month of June, USDA will celebrate National Homeownership Month with a renewed commitment to providing safe, affordable housing in our small towns and rural communities.

Our theme for this year’s Homeownership Month is “Bringing Rural America Home”.  When families can find a good place to live in rural America, they’ll stay there. They’ll invest in their community and help create new economic growth.

USDA's 2012 Sustainability Scorecard

USDA’s 2012 Sustainability Scorecard showcases the Department’s ongoing commitment to meeting goals that reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions, decrease energy use per square foot, increase renewable energy use, decrease potable water use per square foot, and incorporate sustainable building practices in new and existing buildings.

In 2012, USDA made significant progress in reducing indirect GHG emissions, largely associated with employee travel and commuting, resulting in an 18 percent reduction in indirect GHG emissions. In 2012, USDA consumed nearly 39,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy, which translates to enough green energy to meet more than seven percent of the Department’s electricity use.

After Oklahoma Tornado, USDA Assists in Pet Rescues

“His name is Zeke,” read the Facebook posting after the May tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. “He’s a male boxer, almost 6 months old. Wearing green collar. Last seen near NW 63rd and Portland. He is fawn, black mask with white marking on face, chest and paws. We miss him very much. Please return.”

There are a lot fewer missing or homeless “Zekes” today due to the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) and partners who are working to reunite lost pets with their heart-stricken owners.

Going Green by Reducing Food Waste

At this very moment, an underappreciated tool for combating climate change may be hiding in your chiller drawer or at the back of your pantry.  By keeping that limp carrot or dusty box of pasta out of our nation’s landfills, you can help reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills (accounting for over 20% by weight) and that that landfills are the third largest source of methane (16% of national total).  By reducing the amount of food we toss into the trash, we can help reduce these potent greenhouse gas emissions.

The benefits do not stop there, however.

Social Media Buzz for MyPlate’s 2nd Birthday

For MyPlate’s 2nd birthday on June 2, 2013, USDA is using the power of social media to throw a month- long virtual party.  Everyone is invited to participate and help celebrate the success of USDA’s MyPlate on the new MyPlate Facebook page.  Log on to from June 2 through the end of the month and wish MyPlate a healthy Happy Birthday!

MyPlate’s birthday wish is to increase its Facebook fan base so that even more people can learn about MyPlate and healthy eating.  The MyPlate Facebook page will have a new birthday cover photo and birthday related posts all week long.  Fans, partners, and other federal agencies are also being encouraged to use blogs, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram to help celebrate this happy milestone. The event hashtag is #MyPlateBirthday.

New Center Improves Lives of Kentucky Seniors, Creates Jobs

Recently, I spoke at the grand opening of the Daisy Hill Assisted Living facility in Versailles, Ky.  In visiting this facility, I reflected on the future of this and other facilities and their importance as we anticipate the droves of baby boomers seeking to maintain a quality of life as they transition to assisted-living.

The facility was financed through USDA’s Business and Industry Guarantee Loan program.  The $4.5 million loan guarantee to Pinnacle National Bank of Nashville has provided the owners an opportunity to create a beautiful facility for the residents.

10 Years Later, a Shelterbelt Proves to Be a Wise Investment

South Dakota’s harsh winters can be tough on a farm or ranch, and conservation improvements like a shelterbelt can help shield buildings, crops and livestock from the wind and snow. Ken Mouw, a CEO-turned-farmer, has used a shelterbelt—a band of trees and shrubs—to protect his Elk Point, S.D. farm against rough weather over the past 10 years.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Union County Conservation District helped Mouw design the shelterbelt, consisting of trees and shrubs of different heights and densities that all work together to protect from the northern and western winds, keeping snow from collecting in his driveway during a snow storm.

Livestock Statistician Knows Data Matter to Many

2013 is the International Year of Statistics. As part of this global event, every month this year USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will profile careers of individuals who are making significant contributions to improve agricultural statistics in the United States.

Growing up on a small general crop and livestock farm in central Minnesota cultivated my enthusiasm for agriculture. Even then I knew I wanted to do something related to agriculture but I also knew the value of getting a good education. I attended the University of Minnesota to earn my undergraduate degree, after which I earned a Master of Science degree at North Dakota State University.

College provided me with skills in mathematics and agriculture but like most college graduates, no job. This is where the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) came into the picture. I joined the agency’s North Dakota field office as an agricultural statistician, allowing me to keep in touch with agriculture. Next I worked in the Idaho field office and then on to Washington, D.C. where I worked in both crops and livestock areas, finally settling into my current position as Chief of the Livestock Branch in 2001.