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La Locura Por Correo: Enviando y Recibiendo los Regalos de Alimentos

Parece que los días navideños llegan más temprano cada año. Un modo de reducir la tensión de comprar regalos es hacer compras en línea o por catálogos. Los regalos de alimentos son muy populares porque el recipiente consigue disfrutar del regalo dos veces – primero como un regalo maravilloso y segundo sirviendo y compartiéndolo con familia y amigos.

Los siguientes pasos ayudarán al comprador y recipiente a determinar si la comida perecedera que ellos reciben en el correo haya sido manejada correctamente:

Volunteers Have Fossil Field Find on Forests and Grasslands

Paleontologist Barbara Beasley’s voice filled with excitement as she described a recent dinosaur find on the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northeastern Wyoming.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our Passport in Time volunteers,” she said. “Mother Nature preserved and stored this treasure for more than 65 million years.”

Beasley led a group of 22 volunteers on a fossil excavation project at the Alkali Divide Paleontological Special Interest Area where volunteer Tom Ludwig found the nearly three-foot Triceratops horn.

For Flavor's Sake: In New Mexico, Conservation Makes Things Peachy

Every single student in Santa Fe County Schools in New Mexico received a juicy, locally-grown organic peach for lunch on the first day of school last year from Freshies Farm.

On only a little more than three acres of land, Christopher Bassett and Taylor Dale were able to grow the peaches for the schools and still find time to support two young children of their own.

For this young couple, their land and the food they grow is their life. After working on farms for 10 years in everywhere from California to Colorado, Bassett and Dale finally bought their own. They settled at Freshies Farm, a slice of a larger orchard near Velarde, N.M. near the Rio Grande.

Secretary's Column: Supporting Innovation for Stronger Rural Communities

American innovation is one of our most special traditions, fueling our nation to new heights over the course of our history. Innovation is critically important in rural America, where research is helping to grow American agriculture, create new homegrown products, generate advanced renewable energy and more.

Continued research has the capacity to lead the way to economic opportunity and new job creation in rural areas – and USDA has been hard at work to carry out these efforts.  But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to innovation in the years to come.

On the Road: Meeting with New Farmers in New York

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with new farmers across New York to talk about challenges and opportunities in agriculture.  I began my trip with a visit to Eight Mile Creek Farm in Westerlo where the farmer, Pam Schreiber, participates in a variety of USDA programs. Along with her three children and some local interns, Pam runs a 223-acre farm that produces more than 100 crops.

The next stop of the day was to Hearty Roots Farm, where the Shutes raise dairy cows and chickens. They also have row crops on their farm and are in the process of applying for a Farm Storage Facility Loan which will help their produce stay fresh for longer periods of time. Hearty Roots Farm has a strong Community Sponsored Agriculture program. In addition to local deliveries, one of the farmhands drives two hours each way, twice a week to bring produce to CSA customers in New York City.

Graceful Conifer Inspires a Devoted Club of Scientists

Northern Research Station scientist Laura Kenefic resists the temptation to stick with people she knows at scientific gatherings, and her discipline is paying dividends for northern white-cedar.

Attending a forestry conference a decade ago, Kenefic joined a table of strangers that included Jean-Claude Ruel, a Canadian scientist who, it turned out, was looking for long-term data on northern white-cedar. A research forester at the Penobscot Experimental Forest north of Bangor, Maine, Kenefic happens to work at one of the few places in the country with more than half a century of data on the species. Their collaboration quickly grew to include scientists from universities, industry, the U.S. Forest Service and the Canadian Forest Service who are all interested in northern white-cedar. Meetings, dinners and a few adventures in the course of research aimed at addressing the tree’s slow growth and sparse regeneration gave the group of scientists an atmosphere that felt unique to its members. “It seemed more like a club than a scientific working group,” Kenefic said. “We became the Cedar Club.”

FNS Takes Nutrition Message to DC United's Youth Soccer Event

The DC United Soccer Club held its “Fall Kick” a couple weeks ago and I was happy to attend and help them mark the end of the fall season. The “Fall Kick” brought together youth ages 6-12 from across the District and Maryland to RFK stadium making it a perfect event to reach out to the local community and spread FNCS’ message of good nutrition and physical activity.

The event featured tournament style matches, DC United players and mascot Talon, music, and educational games involving nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Around 400 kids, their coaches, and parents visited our booth to learn about proper diet and nutrition. I brought with me a set of engaging games such as “Duck, Duck, Fruit!” and the “Eat Smart. Play Hard. Relay” as activities to teach the children key elements to healthy eating.

My Family's Christmas Tree, from a Colorado National Forest

Across the nation, 193 million acres of National Forest land provide incredible benefits to every American – from outdoor recreation opportunities to cleaner air, soil and water that impact folks from all walks of life.

And with a simple permit and some planning ahead, a National Forest can also provide a great Christmas tree during the holidays – as well as an incredible experience in visiting the forest. This year my family joined thousands of others in venturing onto a National Forest to find our tree.

Our visit to Pike National Forest in Colorado was truly memorable. The Forest encompasses more than one million acres, is home to many exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, resources and landscapes such as the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. The forest also is home to the headwaters of the South Platte River, which provides 60 percent of the Denver metropolitan area’s water supply.

Connecting Local Residents with USDA Services

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers use conservation to help the environment while improving agricultural operations. But not everyone knows about the variety of programs and services offered through USDA agencies.

USDA recently launched an effort to ensure the department is reaching landowners and rural citizens of different backgrounds. Through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA is intensifying outreach efforts in places with persistent poverty. For example, NRCS’ goal is to reach landowners with farms and ranches of all types and sizes.

Sixteen states, including South Carolina, identified StrikeForce counties, where more than 20 percent of the population has been considered persistently impoverished for the past three decades.

Dive Deeper Into USDA Data with New APIs

Data consumers can now more easily leverage several of the most popular offerings from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)!

To meet the needs of a growing community of data users, including application developers and researchers, ERS has just released seven new APIs (Application Programming Interface), enriched with shared services provided by other Federal agencies.  The APIs offer dynamic access to ERS’s atlases, traditional data sets, and indicators in machine-readable formats.  ERS has developed rigorous standards for data products; users will note the extensive metadata and full documentation and transparency provided for each of the data sets via APIs.

Experienced users may want to dive into the thorough documentation available on ERS’s Developer page; while those seeking a simpler path can leverage pre-built widgets and starter-code snippets available in jQuery, Python, and Ruby.  The geospatial APIs provide access to map layers via ESRI (or other mapping services, such as Mapbox and Google Maps).  The newly released APIs supplement the following data sets: