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Unique Conservation Partnership Helps Create Win-Win Situation

By keeping their grasslands intact, two Colorado ranches are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and protecting vital wildlife habitat, all while earning additional revenue.

It may seem too good to be true, but it is thanks to a unique partnership spearheaded by the Climate Action Reserve, one of North America’s leading carbon offset project registries.

With the help of a Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Climate Action Reserve listed Raven’s Nest and Heartland Ranch, both owned by the Southern Plains Land Trust (SPLT), as the first two grassland offset projects developed and executed under a new Grassland Project Protocol.

Small Steps for Using the USDA Farm to School Census

Cross-posted from the National Farm to School Network website:

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released final results from the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, showing that more than 42,000 schools across the country are operating farm to school programs and another 10,000 have plans to start in the future. During the 2013-2014 school year, these schools purchased nearly $800 million worth of local products from farmers, ranchers, fishermen and other food producers – a 105 percent increase from the 2011-2012 school year – and tended to more than 7,101 school gardens.

The Farm to School Census establishes a national baseline of farm to school activities happening across the country. Whether you’re interested in learning about the national landscape, what’s happening in your state or how your school district participates in farm to school, there are many ways that this information can be used to support your farm to school efforts. Here are three small steps you can take for using Census data to strengthen farm to school activities in your community:

Empowering America: USDA's Cooperative Month Celebration

October is National Cooperative Month, and this year, USDA is helping to focus attention on the multiple ways cooperatives help build more vibrant communities and improve the livelihoods of their members. USDA’s theme for the annual celebration is: “Co-ops Empower America, USDA Empowers Co-ops.”

Cooperatives are a versatile business model that can address many needs, such as affordable housing, utility services (including electricity and broadband), agriculture production (including local foods) and can help convert existing businesses to worker ownership.

Helping States Build an Agricultural Future

Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple.  They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.

That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers.  This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry.

State Agencies are Bringing the Farm to School!

From organizing statewide conferences, to training farmers and child nutrition professionals, to developing farm to school curricula and resources, state agencies are playing a big role in bringing the farm to school. This fact sheet describes effective strategies state agencies are using to help community food systems take root. Here’s a sampling of three ways state agencies are making an impact.

RCPP Benefits Longleaf Ecosystem in Alabama

It takes time, patience and a committed partnership, but seeing thriving forests of longleaf pine trees return to Alabama’s Gulf Coast is well-worth the wait.

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the American Southeast, stretching across 90 million acres. A stronghold of the region’s environment and economy, longleaf was an essential building material used during the American Industrial Revolution. Today, only four percent of the original forests remain standing.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alabama is working with groups to revive this strong and resilient wood, while also providing environmental benefits for the Gulf Coastal Plain’s wildlife and water.

Team Up and Show Your Spirit for School Meals!

The school nutrition community is celebrating National School Lunch Week from October 10-14. This year’s theme “Show Your Spirit” is all about encouraging parents, students and school officials to show their spirit for school lunch. Through the Team Up for School Nutrition Success (Team Up) initiative, school nutrition professionals have teamed up to provide nutritious and appealing meals to students, offering plenty of reasons for all of us to show spirit for awesome school meals!

The Team Up initiative, created through a partnership between the United States Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and the Institute of Child Nutrition (ICN), provides school nutrition professionals a unique learning experience.  The initiative is designed to enhance schools’ food service operations by providing training and peer-to-peer mentorship to school nutrition professionals who want to maintain a healthy environment and strong student meal program participation. The goal of this training is to help schools find simple ways to meet the updated USDA nutrition standards from the 2010 Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA), while increasing the number of students enjoying healthy and flavorful school meals.

The Farmers Screen

Nobody wants fish to get stuck in irrigation pipes. Not the public; not the farmers; especially not the fish. But with more than 70,000 irrigation diversions tapping into Oregon’s rivers and streams, the concern is real.

Irrigation diversions channel stream water through a series of narrowing pipes, eventually reaching fields through irrigation devices. Until recently, there’s not been an adequate selection of screens to prevent high-gravity and sediment diversions from getting clogged. Diversions on wooded hills required daily maintenance during certain times of the year.

US Forest Service Helps Educate Students at World's Largest Conservation Event

Approximately 180 middle and high school students joined Smokey Bear, U.S. Forest Service staff and a host of other conservation-focused professionals from around the world for Student Day at the Hawaiʻi Convention Center in Honolulu.

The students were invited to learn about natural resources careers and interact with professionals during the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest and most democratic recurring conservation event in the world. The event draws thousands of participants, including heads of state, business leaders, top scientists, educators and artists.

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.