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See You on May 6th for Opening Day of USDA Farmers Market

Get excited—we sure are! Friday, May 6, is the opening of the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.  This means USDA employees and others who work nearby, residents of the city’s Ward 2, and tourists visiting the National Mall can once again shop at the USDA Farmers Market at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., starting next Friday, May 6, at 9 a.m.

We’re thrilled to have more farmers and growers participating than ever before. Farmers and growers participating for the first time include Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm and Spiral Path Farm, both of which are certified organic farms that offer community supported agriculture (CSA) pick up; EcoFriendly Foods, which has packaged and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products from animals raised without steroids, antibiotics, and hormones; King Mushrooms, which offers fresh varieties of oyster, button, and other mushrooms; and Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, which has small-batch, handmade cheeses and farmhouse foods.

Shiitake Mushrooms: A Commercial Forest Farming Enterprise

Helping landowners care for their forests and strengthen local economies is an important goal of the U.S. Forest Service, USDA National Agroforestry Center and their partnering organizations.

According to Ken Mudge of Cornell University, any farmer with a woodlot and the drive to diversify should consider forest-cultivated shiitake mushrooms. They are well suited to the increasing demand for locally produced, healthy foods.

With a retail price of $12 to $20 per pound, the demand for shiitakes is considerable throughout the Northeast. As an added benefit, growing mushrooms encourages landowners to learn more about managing their forests.

Blending Up New Ways for Kids to Enjoy School Meals

Sometimes the right blend can change your perception. One of our industry research and promotion programs is remixing school meal items to help change students' preconceptions and get them to eat healthy foods.

The Mushroom Council helped out on this front in a number of ways. The Council, which is overseen by our agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – encouraged schools to use recipes that added mushrooms to their beef burgers. By reducing some of the beef and adding the hearty texture of mushrooms, schools were able to increase student consumption of healthy meals without compromising taste.

Many Facets of Pennsylvania Agriculture

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.

Many people today associate Pennsylvania with heavy industries, such as coal and steel, forgetting the presence of another major industry – agriculture. Farming has been a major part of Pennsylvania culture for centuries. In fact, one of the theories behind the “Keystone State” moniker is that Pennsylvania was a combination of Northern industries and Southern agriculture, making it a true keystone of the original colonies. And even today, agriculture remains a major component of our state’s economy.

As the latest Census of Agriculture showed, Pennsylvania farmers sold more than $7.4 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012 and have nearly 60,000 farms and ranches on more than 7.7 million acres of land. The land area dedicated to farming in Pennsylvania is larger than the total areas of at least 8 states in the nation.

Spice It Up in the New Year - MyPlate Holiday Makeover Week 8

The MyPlate Team offers the final “Makeover Monday” recipe this week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page.

I love mushrooms and could probably eat them every day. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and flavors and can be worked into every meal. On their own, mushrooms are pretty healthful – very low in calories, free of cholesterol and (almost) free of fat. They are also naturally low in sodium, high in potassium, and are generally high in vitamins and minerals.

Stuffing mushrooms just makes something wonderful ever better!  But what you stuff in these tasty little vegetables can make or break the dish. Typically, mushrooms are stuffed with foods containing saturated fats and sodium. So, if you’re trying to watch one or both of these in the New Year, consider various herbs and spices!

Alaska Forests are Fine for Fungi

While many people look forward to fall for football rivalries and tailgate parties, others enjoy a different pastime — foraging for fall’s crop of fungi.

In Alaska, the season’s fungi festivals will find enthusiasts lined up for hikes into the woods to search for lichens and forage for mushrooms.

In September, the Wrangell Ranger District on the Tongass National Forest hosted a two-day event near the Rainbow Falls Trail. Karen Dillman, the forest’s ecologist, and Kate Mohatt, an ecologist from the Chugach National Forest, shared a variety of tips and information on fungi with locals and visitors including information profiled in the video “The Mushroom Maven of the Chugach National Forest.” What are the differences between edible and poisonous mushrooms? The pair described how to look for telling colors of the mushrooms after they are cut open, as well as the distinctive features of the caps and ridges.

Alaskan Forest Floors Sprout Array of Interesting Mushrooms

The fly agaric (Amanita muscaria) sits on the forest floor in Alaska as if it is waiting to be cast in an Alice in Wonderland movie.

Its recognizable bright red cap dotted with white warts belies their toxic nature. Although the effects vary, experts warn against eating them. In Alaska, fly agaric is generally found around birch or spruce trees and loves the northwest environment.