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Between Two Worlds: Frank Lake heals the land using modern science and traditional ecological knowledge

 

Frank Lake grew up learning traditional practices from the Karuk and Yurok Tribes. He developed an interest in science which led to his career choice as a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. As a young man, he didn’t realize how unusual the experience was of spending time in two parallel worlds.

The Megram Fire of 1999 was a turning point for Lake, and the Forest Service as well. It was one of California’s largest wildland fires ever and the agency grappled with how to restore salmon in the burned over watershed. Lake knew that local tribal elders considered “fire as medicine,” and an important part of the ecosystem. The link between fire and fish is through water, they told him, and “water is sacred to all life.” Fires could reduce the number of trees in overly dense forests and improve spring flow needed by rivers to support healthy fisheries.

Getting a School Garden Blooming

School gardens are gaining popularity across the country. In Texas, nearly 3,000 schools participate in farm to school activities. Some of these schools work with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension’s Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go program. Jeff Raska, a school garden specialist with the AgriLife Extension, works with numerous programs and offers practical advice to schools establishing a school garden. Here, he discusses the importance of a strong school garden committee.

By Jeff Raska, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Dallas County Texas

A school vegetable garden can be a wonderful outdoor classroom for studying natural science. Having worked with school gardens on and off for more than 25 years, I have seen many great school garden programs bloom, and then fade as time passes and school priorities change. For the last seven years, I’ve had the privilege of working with school gardens as a 4-H Club program assistant for Dallas County and have had the benefit of seeing a wide range of needs and challenges that schools face when trying to start a garden. However, the most successful programs have a few important things in place.

USDA and HHS Partnered this Summer to Help Human Trafficking Survivors in Rural and Tribal Communities

Human trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery and many survivors of it didn’t realize that their situation was a crime. This crime occurs when a trafficker uses force, fraud or coercion to control another person for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts or soliciting labor or services against his/her will.  Any child engaged in a commercial sex act is a victim of trafficking, regardless of force, fraud, or coercion.

This summer, USDA and HHS leveraged its resources to coordinate efforts that address the needs of human trafficking survivors in rural and tribal areas.  This joint partnership resulted as part of the Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services for Victims of Human Trafficking in the U.S., a five-year plan by the President’s Interagency Task Force to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons. This Plan outlines more than 250 actions the Federal government will take to coordinate and collaborate on anti-trafficking responses with state, Tribal, and local government and non-government organizations.

USDA Reaches Out to Growing Asian American and Pacific Islander Population

Did you know that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) make up the fastest growing population group in the United States?  Increasing over four times as rapidly as the overall U.S. population, AAPIs are projected to more than double by 2060, from 20 million today to 50 million. A recent event in the nation’s capital focused on the implications of this trend, in a public exhibit and conference entitled "Fast Forward 2060" (FF 2060) As USDA’s Senior Advisor and Director of AAPI Affairs, I was excited to participate in this event and exhibit the ways that USDA serves the AAPI community.

Community-based organizations, government agencies, associations, businesses and media gathered in Washington, DC on December 7, 2016 to reflect on the progress that had been made under the White House Initiative on AAPIs (WHIAAPI) and discuss the challenges that still lay ahead. Since 2009, the White House Initiative on AAPIs under President Obama has been working to improve the quality of life for AAPIs by increasing access to federal programs and assistance, as recounted in a legacy video shown by WHIAAPI at FF 2060. USDA has been very strategically engaged in WHIAAPI throughout the Obama Administration.  USDA’s exhibit at FF 2060 showcased some of our focused results.

Climate Smart Conservation Partnership Serves Two Scoops of On-Farm Solutions

Eating a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream may make you feel guilty about your waistline, but thanks to a new partnership between the ice cream company and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), you may be able to feel less guilty about contributing to climate change. The partnership is designed to help Ben & Jerry’s milk suppliers—generally small dairies—understand their greenhouse gas footprint and consider voluntary conservation approaches to reduce that footprint.

NRCS and Ben & Jerry’s will help dairies implement conservation practices that meet Ben & Jerry’s objective of “Happy Cows, Happy Planet, & Happy Farmers.” Through its Caring Dairy sustainability program, Ben & Jerry’s will use USDA’s suite of greenhouse gas estimation tools, COMET-FarmTM and COMET-PlannerTM, to quantify on-farm GHG emissions and reductions. The COMET tools—COMET stands for CarbOn Management & Emissions Tool – are a product of a long-standing partnership between NRCS and Colorado State University.

An Insider's Journey to Improving Food Security and Literacy in Tanzania

USDA’s McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program helps reduce hunger and improve literacy and primary education in low-income, food-deficit countries around the world. Today, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) works hand-in-hand with non-profit charitable organizations and others to operate McGovern-Dole programs in 25 countries. One of these partnerships is with Project Concern International (PCI) for a multifaceted school feeding program in northern Tanzania.

FAS caught up with PCI Operations Officer Kara West while visiting Tanzania to glean an insider’s perspective on the program.

Interactive Online Resource to Learn about Climate Change Adaptation

The Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) has recently released a new education resource on climate change adaptation responses to help the USDA Forest Service, USDA Climate Hubs, other agencies, and the general public learn more about responding to a changing climate.  The CCRC is an online, nationally-relevant resource that connects land managers and decision-makers with credible, relevant, and useable science to address climate change in natural resource planning and application.

Natural resource managers are already observing changes in their forests and rangelands and experiencing challenges managing these lands in a changing climate.  In order to continue to maintain healthy forests and rangelands into the future, land managers need to understand how to address these challenges and respond to climate change effects.  This requires that managers assess the vulnerabilities and risks associated with climate change and choose the best course of action for the landscapes they manage.

USDA's Diversity Programs "Open New Doors" for Montana Student

Robert G. Bruton grew up on the Flathead Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana in a family that, like many others, was severely challenged by the rising college tuition costs. He is not a Native American, but he chose to attend Salish Kootenai Tribal College in Pablo, Montana, in part because of its reasonable cost.

He knew he liked chemistry and his grades were good enough to qualify him to serve as a science and math tutor for fellow students. The school was one of the few tribal colleges nationwide that offered four-year bachelor’s degrees. But as a first-year student, Bruton was like a lot of other people – he wasn’t quite sure what direction his life would take.

A New Retirement Account Option for Farm Households

In agriculture, retirement can mean something quite different compared with other U.S. households.

Often, our parents and senior relatives on the farm or ranch are far from “retired,” and, in fact, remain active participants in daily operations and decisions.

Minneapolis School Embraces Family-Style Dining

How do you create a better lunch experience for students? It all started with a conversation between Ginger Davis Kranz, Principal of Webster Elementary School, and the Minneapolis Public Schools’ Director of Food Service, Bertrand Weber. In September 2016, I was fortunate enough to visit Webster Elementary School in Minneapolis and see for myself how their family-style dining works. I’d like to share Webster Principal Ginger Davis Kranz’s inspiring blog about her school’s innovative and thoughtful approach to the students’ mealtime experience.

By Ginger Davis Kranz, Principal of Webster Elementary School

What if school lunchtime was more than just a wait in line and a race to find a seat and eat, but instead was more like a traditional family meal – a time when friends gather to enjoy their food, engage in meaningful conversation, build relationships and gain important life skills? After reflecting on this question, Webster Elementary, a Minneapolis public school, made the decision to abandon the typical chaotic and impersonal lunchroom experience and create a family-style dining program.