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No Books Required for Back-to-School Night at USDA Farmers Market on Friday, September 18

It’s “Back-to-School Night” at the USDA Farmers Market on Friday, September 18, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., in Washington, D.C., near the National Mall.  This month’s educational exhibitors and vendors will appeal to students of any age.  Market visitors can learn more about healthy eating, reducing food waste or take a trip down memory lane and eat a snack or meal off a planet-friendly disposable lunch tray!

Members of USDA’s Team Nutrition will be at the market to explain how to eat healthy in and out of school. Executive Chef Adam Tanner, from the Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC, will show you how to cook delicious and nutritious snacks.

An Update on the EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets

This week, I have the privilege of participating in the first ever EPA-USDA National Workshop on Water Quality Markets at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska.  More than 200 attendees from agriculture, utilities, industry, state agencies, and research institutions gathered at the University of Nebraska’s aptly named “Innovation Center” to think critically about how we can improve and expand water quality markets across the country.

As Secretary Vilsack noted in his introductory video remarks, water quality markets can be effective tools in helping communities improve the quality of their water at lower cost.  Markets create financial incentives for private landowners to manage their lands more sustainably to produce cleaner water while generating environmental benefits at lower cost.  They promote public awareness of the role sustainable private land management can play in protecting public health and natural ecosystems. They inject private dollars and innovation into efforts to improve water quality – leveraging finite federal funding.

Preserving "Heirloom" Collections - Microbial, That Is

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.

As a plant pathologist with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Rice Research Unit in Beaumont, Texas, Toni Marchetti oversaw a new program in 1972 to develop new cultivars that better resisted costly diseases like rice blast.  

Marchetti retired from ARS in 2001, leaving behind not only a legacy of excellence in rice breeding and plant pathology, but also a prized collection of 1,000 rice blast specimens he isolated from Texas, Arkansas, and other rice-growing states. The Beaumont unit was closed in 2012, and the collection was relocated to ARS’s Dale Bumpers National Rice Research Center in Stuttgart, Arkansas.

Montana Soil Conservationist, Organic Farmer Work Together to Reach Conservation Goals

When I learned that the “This American Land” public television series was headed to Montana, I knew this would be a great opportunity to highlight organic producers and the work USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is doing to increase conservation across the state. I’ve been working for NRCS for 10 years and in the Ronan, Montana, field office since 2010. Since transferring to Ronan, I’ve devoted much of my time to providing technical and financial assistance to beginning farmers in the area – especially landowners who are engaged or interested in diversified organic vegetable production for local markets. 

Building lasting relationships goes hand-in-hand with getting conservation on the ground. So, when Ben Ferencz and Julie Pavlock of Foothills Farm in St. Ignatius were interested in expanding their farm, they reached out to me about available NRCS programs.

Team Nutrition Grant Brings Nutrition Education to More Than 13,000 Kansas Students in School Year 2014-2015

The following guest blog highlights the creative and successful Team Nutrition curriculum in Kansas. Thanks to a Team Nutrition training grant, the state has been able to implement the curriculum in many of their school districts. Kansas students are now receiving the nutrition education they need to thrive in school and empower their classmates.

By Jill Ladd and Emily Brinkman, Kansas State Department of Education

After receiving a Team Nutrition (TN) training grant in 2013, we (the Kansas State Department of Education) implemented our Power Panther Pals (Pals) nutrition education curriculum in 110 schools across the state. Through this effort, which took place during school year (SY) 2014-2015, we reached more than 13,000 students and garnered important feedback from teachers, students, and other stakeholders.

Prepare to Expect the Unexpected

It’s hurricane season again.  It’s hard to believe that it was just 10 years ago when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and a large portion of the Gulf Coast with floods, power outages, food and water shortages, as well as many other after effects.

September is National Preparedness Month, which is a great opportunity for you, organizations, and communities to prepare for specific hazards through drills, group discussions, and exercises.  The focus this year is making sure that you and your community are prepared for six specific hazards: earthquake, flood, hurricane, tornado, wildfire and winter storm.

The Right Acres in the Right Place at the Right Time - Coastal Headwaters Forest

The Conservation Fund helps conserve and restore our American landscape, including wild areas, popular parks, working forests and more. A partner in conservation, The Conservation Fund received a $5 million grant from the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) for the Coastal Headwaters Forest project. RCPP, administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, is a new program created by the U.S. Congress through the enactment of the 2014 Farm Bill. Its goal is to provide landscape-scale conservation assistance and significantly leverage partnerships and non-federal funding. The grants will be used to protect a portion of the 205,000-acre Coastal Headwaters Forest under a conservation easement during the first phase of this multi-year project. – Ciji Taylor, NRCS

Guest blog written by Ann Simonelli of The Conservation Fund

Unprecedented in size and scope, the 205,000-acre Coastal Headwaters Forest project is the largest single longleaf pine protection and restoration effort ever proposed on private lands.

Private Lands Conservation Helps Put New England Cottontail on Road to Recovery

Wildlife and working lands go hand in hand. Today, thanks to the hard work of private landowners and land managers, the New England cottontail will not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Widespread habitat loss since the 1960s impacted New England cottontail numbers. But people like Rick Ambrose have restored habitat on private lands, putting the cottontail on the road to recovery. I had a chance to visit Rick’s place today in New Hampshire, seeing how he worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to voluntarily restore the young shrubby forests the rabbit needs.

USDA's Commitment to Quality Foods

Across the country, schools are back in session. Here at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), our inspectors and procurement specialists work hard to make sure that quality, domestically-produced foods are delivered to students and other recipients for our federal food purchasing programs. As students are getting used to their new schedules, we would like to highlight how our own little field trip shed some light on a typical day for some of our employees.

A team of AMS employees recently traveled to Knouse Foods, a grower-owned cooperative that supplies apple and cranberry products for federal food purchasing programs. The employees saw first-hand how USDA inspectors help Knouse and other companies verify the quality of their products. As the apple sauce traveled through the facility, USDA inspectors pulled random samples to make sure that they met product quality and condition requirements. All USDA Foods are required to be inspected, and in this case, inspectors pulled samples of apple sauce to evaluate traits like its color, flavor, and consistency. As an independent third-party, the inspections help suppliers meet USDA Foods requirements but they also can help them meet requirements from other buyers.

Land-Marking: Returning to 9/11 Living Memorials Projects and to the People who Continue to Shape, Create and Attend to their Meaning

Living memorials serve as a reminder of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends—but also of the power of community to reflect, rebuild and renew. Our research suggests that living memorials demonstrate the role of nature in contemporary times not only as a symbol, but as an innate and purposeful response to loss that calls forth a common humanity and compassion for others.

In other words, they demonstrate how people use nature to be resilient to loss.