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Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields.

Creating a Gentler, More Profitable Way to Harvest Blueberries

Although automation in agriculture is often synonymous with efficiency, that has not been the case with harvesting and processing berries.  That is about to change.

Automated berry processing systems often damage the fruit, which results in lower profitability for growers and marketers.  To counter this, a University of Georgia (UGA)-led research team is developing an advanced sensor system to help harvest and process fresh-market highbush blueberries at high-speed and with low yield loss.

In New York, Youth Learn Leadership by Doing

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In Binghamton, New York, at-risk youth are learning to take charge of their lives by working on a variety of community improvement projects that they design and carry out.

CITIZEN U stands for Citizen You and Citizen University,” said Dr. June Mead, director of New York’s Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) program.  “(It’s) a metaphor for creating a university environment in which teens are empowered to become community change agents and graduate from high school prepared for college, careers, and citizenship.  Through their involvement, teen leaders gain knowledge and real-world application of civic engagement.”

High Five: NIFA-Funded Research Improves Agriculture

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural sciences that turn research into action by taking groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms.  Scientific advances that result from NIFA-funded research – more than $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2015 – enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy.  The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that impact the lives of Americans every day.

A Banner Year for Education: 5 Grants Supporting Ag Education at All Levels, from Classrooms to Farms and the Table

USDA scientists work 365 days to provide safe and sustainable food, water, and natural resources in the face of a changing climate and uncertain energy sources. To recognize the contribution that agricultural science and research makes in our daily lives, this week’s “Banner Year” series features stories from 2015 that show the successes that USDA science and statistical agencies made for us all.

Strengthening education is crucial to the future of agriculture. To ensure that citizens are aware of farming’s impact on the economy and society, school curricula must emphasize the interconnected role of farming, food, and fiber production with environmental quality.  Funding includes programs targeting minority-serving universities, including the 1890 and 1994 land-grant institutions as well as Hispanic-serving institutions.  The following blogs illustrate the portfolio of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grants that help educational institutions address shortfalls in curricula design, material development, instruction delivery systems, student experiential learning opportunities, scientific instrumentation for teaching, and student recruitment and retention.

Here are five stories from 2015 to check out:

From Boots to Roots: Helping Women and Hispanic Vets Earn Ag, STEM Degrees

A professor in the Lone Star State is counting on two underrepresented groups to play a major role in the future of agriculture.

Ken Mix, assistant professor of agriculture at Texas State University (TSU), is the project director of a new program called “Boots to Roots,” a program that helps female and Hispanic military veterans to earn bachelor’s degrees in agriculture and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs.

Tribal Communities Strive to Regain Food Sovereignty

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

For thousands of years Native Americans thrived in self-sustaining communities.  Now, many have to make do with whatever food and basic goods can be hauled in by truck.

“The Oglala Lakota people thrived for centuries as a self-sustaining community.  They utilized the bounty of their local environment to provide food and shelter,” said Nick Hernandez, Community Food Project director at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation.  “In modern times, 95 percent of food and basic goods are hauled onto the Oglala Lakota Nation, perpetuating a phenomenon known as a ‘food desert’.”

USDA Programs Help Ease Transition to Farming, One Vet at a Time

Located three miles east of Vale, South Dakota, on Cox Farms, Cox Sweet Corn is produced by veteran Kyle Cox, who left the Army after 12 years to return to the family farm.

In 2013, Cox separated from the Army to begin his family’s future in agriculture. With 700 acres, the farm produces alfalfa, corn, and more than 2,000 head of cattle.  To help make the most of his agricultural opportunities, Cox took advantage of veteran-focused training funded by U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The training is part of USDA-wide effort to support veteran farmers.

UGA, Italy Develop Dual Graduate Degree Program

The world will have many more mouths to feed in the next few decades – projected to be more than 9 billion by 2050 – but the amount of arable land is not getting any larger, droughts are taking their toll on fresh water, and there are fewer experienced farmers to do the work.  How will food get on the table?

By globalizing precision agriculture education – the art of gathering and using data to make sound, timely decisions for agricultural production, such as when and how much fertilizer, water, or other resource to add.  Precision agriculture allows growers to maximize yield while minimizing waste.  The result is more food to feed the hungry, a reduced environmental footprint, and greater profits for producers.

There's Something Fishy Going on in Petersburg's Food Desert

Money’s tight in Petersburg, Va., and sometimes it’s difficult to put nutritious food on the table.  Like many other cities in America, Petersburg has found its way onto USDA’s list of food deserts – meaning that residents have limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.

Virginia State University has found a way to fill the void with a hands-on program that teaches students how to successfully sustain urban farming operations and helps put affordable nutritious food on the tables of community residents.