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Conservation Wildlife Enhancements Inspire Creativity in a Delaware Farmer

Muffled honking above draws wildlife painter Richard Clifton’s eyes to the sky. Flying overhead is a flock of nearly 30 snow geese preparing to land nearby in Clifton’s crop field in Milton, Delaware. In early March, this is a common scene due to his unique wetland ‘plant and flood’ restoration project that enhances wildlife habitat and production.

Clifton’s farming background combined with his love of duck hunting and passion for painting wildlife gives him a unique perspective on habitat enhancement. Growing up on a farm, as did his father and many generations before him, he recognizes the need to keep his fields in production agriculture. However, as an avid duck hunter, he wants additional habitat, food and breeding grounds for wildlife―all of which inspire his award-winning wildlife paintings.

Second-Generation Builds on a Father's Legacy of Sustainability at Colvine Bison

Bison farmer Bobbi Lester cares for the land with just as much passion and love as her father. As a little girl growing up on the ranch in southern Delaware, she remembers learning the ropes of bison farming, often traveling with him to regional and national bison conferences. When Bobbi Lester’s father, Robert Collins, lost his battle to cancer in 2012, Bobbi, along with her husband Allen, stepped up to continue farming the way he would have wanted—as a family.

Bobbi recalls how her dad started with just three heifers and a bull on 88 acres in Greenwood, Delaware, and grew into the herd of 65 bison.

“Because of the bison’s population decline 30 years ago, Collins originally planned to breed the bison,” said Bobbi.

Induction Day at First State Military Academy

I had the opportunity to travel to Delaware to celebrate the Induction Ceremony of the First State Military Academy, an innovative charter high school bringing new life to an historic educational campus with the help of USDA Rural Development. Since 1896, Clayton, Delaware has been home to the sprawling, 35-acre St. Joseph’s educational campus. The site first hosted the St. Joseph’s Industrial School beginning in 1896 and was used as a school until 1972; it made it onto the historic register in 2002. Most recently, the site was home to Providence Creek Academy, a charter school for grades K-8.  Through a separate collaboration with Rural Development, Providence Creek Academy was able to build a new complex behind the campus to accommodate its growing student population. With the historic educational campus now vacant, the First State Military Academy had a chance to make it their new home.

"Fuel Up to Play 60" Has Game Plan to Supercharge School Fitness and Nutrition

Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.

In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few.

Northeast Regional Climate Hub Vulnerability Assessment Published

The Northeast Regional Climate Hub covers Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Northern Forests Climate Sub Hub shares this footprint and represents people working and living in the forests of the Northeast.

About 21 percent of land in these 12 states is farmland (6 percent of national total), and 62 percent is classified as timberland (total land area covered by trees is somewhat larger). The northeastern United States is home to about 175,000 farms that collectively produce agricultural commodities worth more than $21 billion per year. The most important commodities in the Northeast are dairy production and poultry, and about half of the field crops (including pasture) grown in the Northeast are for animal feed. Horticulture is a relatively large portion of total plant production in the Northeast, as are perennial fruits such as apples, pears, blueberries, and cranberries. Farms in the Northeast are on average smaller than in many other parts of the country, and a greater percentage of these are operated by women than in the rest of the United States. Organic production is relatively greater than in most other regions.

Experiencing the Hope, Surprise and Joy of Homeownership in Delaware

I wake up every day excited to work for an agency that gives rural American families three intangible gifts through homeownership: hope, surprise and joy.

They experience a sense of hope when they find there are affordable options to become homeowners. They surprise themselves by doing the incredible amount of work it takes to literally build the dream, and they experience unbounded joy when they move into their own home.

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students' Lives

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members.

Do You Know the Biosecurity Steps to Protect Your Poultry from Avian Influenza? Get Advice From the Experts with #chickenchat2015 on April 16

Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada, or internationally.

Anyone who owns or works with poultry—whether on a commercial farm, in the wild, or at a hobby/backyard farm—should take proper steps to keep HPAI from spreading. The best way to protect your birds is to follow good biosecurity. Even if you are already familiar with biosecurity, now is a good time to double-check your practices. You are the best protection your birds have!

Farm Bill Program Helps Improve Water Quality in the Delaware River Watershed

The Delaware River watershed is one of our nation’s most treasured resources. It is home to more than 7 million people and the water supply for more than 15 million in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. An historic new Farm Bill program at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) will help farmers and local leaders make investments to keep the watershed healthy and vibrant for years to come.

Secretary Vilsack recently announced the recipients of the 2014 Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) awards.  This new program will invest $1.2 billion over five years in innovative, partner-driven strategies to protect air and water quality, make more efficient use of water resources, restore habitat and protect open spaces.  This year’s RCPP awards nation-wide total more than $370 million dollars. Counting the dollar-for-dollar partner match, almost three quarters of a billion dollars will be invested in private land conservation through the RCPP.

Broiler Industry Stretches Its Economic Wings in Delaware

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

The New Year is upon us and we are resuming our Census of Agriculture profile blog series. It’s fitting that Delaware is profiled first in 2015, because Delaware’s nickname is “The First State” because it was the first of the 13 original states to ratify the United States Constitution on December 7, 1787.

Although Delaware is the 2nd smallest state in the nation, its value of agricultural production exceeds that of 10 larger states. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Delaware had 2,451 farms which produced $1.3 billion in agricultural sales. That works out to an average of $520,000 per farm and ranks Delaware #2 in the nation behind California in per farm sales! Delaware ranks #1 nationally in the value of agricultural sales per farmland acre at $2,505 and also for lima bean production.