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World Soil Day - A Time to Celebrate the Foundation of Agriculture

Last year during the International Year of Soils (IYS), I had the incredible opportunity to help the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) spread the word about the many life-giving functions of soil. As part of this effort, I traveled to New York City to attend the kickoff ceremony for IYS at the United Nations, which was held on World Soil Day.

In 2014, the United Nations General Assembly designated December 5 as World Soil Day. It is observed this day each year to honor the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, the world’s longest reigning monarch, who passed away in October. He played a pivotal role in the promotion of soil science and conservation, and was a leader in sustainable land resource management.

Innovation Grows Local Food Economies in New York State

Consumers expect a lot from local food. They want it to be fresh, healthy and raised responsibly. They want it to be affordable and convenient. And, they want their purchase to support local farmers. At first glance these goals seem at odds with each other. How can local food improve farmers’ bottom lines without being expensive? Is it possible to efficiently deliver local food to (mostly) urban consumers while still supporting (mostly) rural farm economies?

The answer may look something like Field Goods, an innovative food hub and social enterprise based in eastern New York State. Like other food hubs, Field Goods helps facilitate the connection between producer and consumer. By providing distribution and aggregation services, Field Goods helps reduce producers’ costs. And, for consumers, Field Goods delivers fresh, affordable and local products directly to workplaces – making it easier to support local producers.

Remembrance, Recovery, and Resilience: 9/11 Memorials in NYC Metropolitan Landscapes

As we approach the 15th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 or 9/11, our thoughts return to that day and many of us will revisit public spaces designed to promote healing and emotional recovery from the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. The memories of the victims are cemented in our minds and hearts. They were employees, friends, family members, and American and world citizens that touched us all through their stories that we’ve seen in memorials, through media, and personal experience.

The healing power of nature is recognized around the world, including by those who create living memorials.  Living memorials can be plantings in a special location, development of beautiful gardens, or enhancements to existing landscapes like a beachfront.

Now is a Good Time to Look for and Report Signs of Asian Longhorned Beetle Damage on Trees

To some people the smell of summer is a fresh cut grass or morning dew, but to me summer is the scent of healthy trees in full bloom.  It reminds me that summer isn’t over yet and there is still time to be outdoors.  And with August as Tree Check Month for the invasive Asian longhorned beetle (ALB), it’s a good time to take a look at your trees to make sure they are beetle free.

Last month, a homeowner on Long Island, N.Y., outside in her own yard, captured an adult beetle.  She visited the website then called the ALB hotline telephone number 1-866-702-9938 to report the beetle.  New York State’s Department of Agriculture and Marketing together with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service responded and collected the beetle, which was ALB.  Six infested trees were found on the property.

It's Not Too Late to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

National Farmers Market Week is a good example of why I say it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. More than ever, all segments of the food industry are coming together to provide consumers with foods fresh from the farm, and farmers markets lead the way.

As I visited markets in Alexandria, La., and Greenwood, S.C.—and right here in Washington, D.C.—I saw firsthand the positive impact of farmers markets on the businesses and communities around them.  And, through our 2015 Market Managers Survey results, we know that across the nation farmers markets are helping build businesses and bring communities together.

Open Data Can Help Feed a Hungry World

Today with over 7 billion people on Earth, nearly 800 million people struggle with debilitating hunger and malnutrition in every corner of the globe. That’s one in every nine people, with the majority being women and children. Experts tell us we currently produce enough food to feed everyone, so why do so many people go to bed hungry every day? We believe that by making agriculture and nutrition data available, accessible, and usable for unrestricted use worldwide, we will enable the creation of innovative solutions to eliminate hunger.

Poor connections between production and distribution, limited knowledge sharing about what crops grow best where, and incomplete access to information about agricultural markets all contribute to global food insecurity. Agriculture and nutrition data can help.

Pavilions, Food Hubs and Community Kitchens - Designing for Local Food Systems

Today, we celebrated National Farmers Market Week at Uptown Market in Greenwood, South Carolina, highlighting USDA support for the local food sector in South Carolina and across the country. Uptown Market Manager, Stephanie Turner, and Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams joined us in thanking the farmers and vendors, and recognizing the great benefits their market has brought to the local community.  The Uptown Market is a special place for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with a special connection to my program and work we do.

In 2013, AMS Architect, Fidel Delgado, got involved in providing technical assistance for the design and development of the new Uptown Market pavilion.  We worked with city officials, businesses leaders and local farmers to understand the community needs for the farmers market. The planned site was originally a railroad station and inspired the design that mimics a train station to fit the historic character of the town.  From our visit today, it is clear this market is creating business opportunity and serving as a community resource.

USDA is a Boon to Business in Boonville, NY; Higher Exports Thanks, in part, to Rural Development Program

Focusing on international markets, renewable energy and a community’s inherent assets, rural businesses find dynamic paths to prosperity.  To see this in action, I headed to Boonville, New York.

Mark Bourgeois was born and raised in Boonville and today is President of CJ Logging Equipment and 3B Timber.  A stable employer in the region, 3B Timer processes softwood trees on-site into utility poles. 3B Timber utilized Rural Development’s Business & Industry (B&I) loan guarantee to expand their operations.  As Mark explained, his company now exports 80% of its poles to Canada, expanding international trade and supporting job creation in the region and state.

Will Chestnuts Roast on an Open Fire Again Someday?

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. Today we learn more about how the National Institute of Food and Agriculture invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and seeks to make transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges.

Seventy years ago, when Nat “King” Cole first regaled us about roasted chestnuts in The Christmas Song, not many Americans could actually enjoy the treat because American chestnut trees were in dire straits.

The predominant tree in Eastern American forests was nearing the tail end of a 50-year blight that killed an astonishing three to five billion trees, making the species functionally extinct. Now, however, researchers supported by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) are working to restore the American chestnut and may be only a few years away from bringing back the iconic tree.

A Diverse Sector is a Strong Sector: My Brother's Keeper National Week at the Labs

Two years ago, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent disadvantages and ensure boys and young men of color have opportunities to reach their full potential.  Since the initiative’s launch, the Administration has partnered with nonprofits, businesses, towns and cities to connect young people with mentors and resources, helping to build lasting bridges of opportunity for youth across the country.

Over the next five years, approximately 57,900 jobs will become available in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment annually -- with only 35,400 students graduating with the specialized expertise to fill them. A diverse sector is a strong sector, and that’s why we’re taking strides to ensure all Americans have access to the array of opportunities across the field.