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Big Data Implications for the Production of Official Statistics

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann at the Morris Hansen Lecture.

Dr. Daniel Pfeffermann, current President of the International Association of Survey Statisticians, discussed the implications big data might have for the production of official statistics at the recent Morris Hansen Lecture, an annual, open-to the-public education and outreach event held at USDA’s Jefferson Auditorium in Washington D.C. Pfeffermann stressed that big data may improve the timeliness of statistics while reducing response burden, but only if big data can be properly assessed, analyzed and interpreted to provide high quality, accurate information that is truly of value to users. USDA/NASS Photo by Dan Beckler.

Unless you live completely off the grid, you likely have heard of, and contribute to, “big data,” the often-used catch phrase describing massive (and ever-increasing) volumes of information stored digitally on computers, servers and clouds.

From advertisers using data mined from customer interactions; to government agencies making data public so developers can create beneficial mobile apps; to farmers applying statistical data to determine their production and marketing practices, a wide-variety of people and industries use big data. Read more »

It’s Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month – Head for a National Forest

Kristin Merony and Tammy Randall-Parker, a Forest Service district ranger and a ski instructor at Telluride Mountain Resort, after Kristin’s first solo run down the mountain after a day of ski lessons. (U.S. Forest Service)

Kristin Merony and Tammy Randall-Parker, a Forest Service district ranger and a ski instructor at Telluride Mountain Resort, after Kristin’s first solo run down the mountain after a day of ski lessons. (U.S. Forest Service)

A new year means new resolutions and new adventures to embark upon. As many of you sit down to contemplate your goals of the year, I would like to suggest learning to ski or snowboard on national forests.

January is Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, which means that on many resorts learning now can be the easiest and most affordable time to head to a forest near you. The U.S. Forest Service is host to 122 ski areas. The most visited forest, the White River National Forest, has 12 ski areas. Read more »

Avocados: Helping Draw up the Perfect Recipe for the Big Game

Avocado infographic.

The avocado is quickly becoming a Super Bowl fan favorite. In 2014, Americans consumed more than 104 million pounds of avocados during the game. Estimates indicate that more than 120 million pounds will be consumed during the week leading up to the game. Infographic courtesy of Hass Avocado Board. Click to enlarge.

The Super Bowl is next Sunday and people are busy making plans for the big game. For many, the most valuable player will be the avocado, which is quickly becoming a fan favorite.

In fact, it’s estimated that Americans will consume 120 million pounds or 240 million fresh avocados during the week leading up to the Super Bowl. This is a 20 percent increase from last year. It is also estimated that the amount of avocados consumed during the big game will be enough to fill an entire football field from end zone to end zone over 46 feet high. Read more »

Students Get Schooled by Schools of Fish

USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.

USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.

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.

Schools of fish may be common things to see, but watching some fish school high school students from a basement in Manhattan’s West Side is a different experience altogether. Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, observed such a program recently during a visit to Food and Finance High School in New York.

There on West 50th Street, Cornell University operates laboratories that represent the latest in scientific technology to raise fresh, clean fish in addition to garden produce in a sustainable urban setting. Renowned Cornell scientist and educator Philson Warner developed a system for continuously re-circulating and reconditioning water to raise more than 10,000 tilapia and other fish at a time in the basement lab. The nutrient-rich water from the fish is then transferred to a hydroponic garden located a few floors up on campus. That garden produces nine types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage such as bok choi, and a variety of herbs that include sweet basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. The plants then clean the water, which is sent back to the fish. Read more »

Fresh Food Abounds on a Six Acre Mississippi Farm

Priscilla Williamson, NRCS supervisory district conservationist, (left), enjoys seeing all the varieties of tomatoes ripening in the newly constructed seasonal high tunnel.

Priscilla Williamson, NRCS supervisory district conservationist, (left), enjoys seeing all the varieties of tomatoes ripening in the newly constructed seasonal high tunnel.

Hattie Thompson has a heart for growing healthy food for her community thanks to the help of her new seasonal high tunnel.

“My mission is to network throughout the local community with other growers who might be interested in doing the same thing, and to teach children and mothers about nutrition,” said Thompson, who farms in Leake County, Mississippi.

After 50 years of city life in Wisconsin, Thompson and her husband moved to the country near Carthage, Mississippi, when they inherited some land 10 years ago. The small six-acre farm is landscaped with fruit trees and an abundance of beautiful flowers. Chickens, guineas and turkeys also call the farm home. Read more »

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Pays Dividends

A veterinarian in field with cattle

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program helps vets repay qualified student loans for service as food animal veterinarians in selected areas of the country. (iStock image)

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.

A solid education is crucial to those seeking careers in animal science. However, many student loans can be burdensome. But a student loan payment the size of a mortgage couldn’t stop someone who has wanted to be a veterinarian since they learned to talk. Dr. Annie Bowes is one of those people.

After acquiring the knowledge to begin her dream career, Dr. Bowes was left with overwhelming debt.  Luckily for this Idaho-based veterinarian, she wasn’t left alone to repay it. In 2011, she received assistance through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) a program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »