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Back to School Means More Opportunities for NASS Statistician

In addition to working with numbers and statistics during the day, USDA’s statistician Lisa Jackson also spends her evening with numbers, teaching math at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.

In addition to working with numbers and statistics during the day, USDA’s statistician Lisa Jackson also spends her evening with numbers, teaching math at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold, Maryland.

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.

Back to school has a three-fold meaning for me these days. In addition to watching my daughter and son head back to complete yet another year of college and high school, respectively, I get to meet my new students at an area community college. These math students arrive in my classes with varying levels of academic preparedness, goals and aspirations and I have the chance to encourage and inspire them to consider a future career in mathematics or statistics.

As their evening instructor, I teach the core curriculum with the knowledge that what they learn can far outweigh the credit hours each student will receive for completing these courses. My adult learners will benefit from real world practical answers to the age-old rhetorical question, “When am I ever going to need this?” That’s where my experience with USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) comes in. I have seen just the kind of impact numbers can have on rural communities, and whole sectors of U.S. agriculture. Just as I have learned in my job, my students get to see the importance of accuracy when it comes to numbers and data. Of course I am not alone in this approach. Like me, many adjunct professors of mathematics bridge the gap for math learners from what is being taught to its practical applications. Read more »

Un-Paving the Way to Successful Outdoor Education in Urban Settings

Children from Warren Village discover hiding spots for bugs at Warren Village’s new Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom in Denver. (Courtesy of Dexter Lane, Nature Explore)

Children from Warren Village discover hiding spots for bugs at Warren Village’s new Nature Explore Outdoor Classroom in Denver. (Courtesy of Dexter Lane, Nature Explore)

Mothers sit and laugh together, shaded by newly planted trees. They look on while their children play and explore in dirt and grass at the new Outdoor Nature Explore Classroom of Warren Village in the heart of Denver, Colorado.

A U.S. Forest Service grant of $100,000 and a partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation made the outdoor classroom possible.

This new outdoor space is un-paving the way to outdoor education opportunities for urban children in Denver, planting the seeds of inspired outdoor learning through the use of nature play spaces. In contrast to the previous hardened playground with sticky asphalt and hot metal slides, children of Warren Village are now immersed in a nature play zone of trees, shade, dirt, flowers, plants, stumps, stones and water. Read more »

Produce Pilot Ready to Take Root in Schools

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Last fiscal year, AMS purchased more than 272 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables. The new produce pilot program will increase these figures, expanding the opportunity for qualified vendors to supply fresh, quality fruits and vegetables to schools. USDA Photo Courtesy of Bob Nichols.

Whether it’s trying on a new pair of shoes or eating a new item from your favorite restaurant, there’s always a feeling of excitement when you try something new. Here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we get that same feeling when we are able to create new opportunities for our nation’s producers. That’s why we’re excited to announce that AMS and our sister agency—the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)—have launched a new pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The new pilot program—established by the 2014 Farm Bill—is part of USDA’s continued commitment to create and expand opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers.  The pilot will open doors for American producers, giving them an additional opportunity to supply quality, fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in up to eight states. Read more »

Food Bank Partner Sign-up Competition Extended to September 15 with New “Suite” Incentive

USDA volunteers harvest food for a local food bank during a gleaning event in Clinton, MD.

USDA volunteers harvest food for a local food bank during a gleaning event in Clinton, MD.

Food banks around the country have engaged in a friendly competition all month long to get the most food donors to sign up as participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, with the food bank that signs up the most donors to be honored in an event hosted by the Department of Agriculture.  We are now extending the deadline for the competition to September 15th.

If you are still on the fence, maybe the experience of one of our Challenge partners will convince you. Read more »

US Forest Service Asks: How Does Your Marshmallow Roast?

S’mores, a treat whose recipe first appeared in the 1927 Girl Scouts Handbook, is a staple of National Roasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30). (Think Stock/Getty Images)

S’mores, a treat whose recipe first appeared in the 1927 Girl Scouts Handbook, is a staple of National Roasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30). (Think Stock/Getty Images)

Some wonderful memories are born around a fire ring. But whether you are camping, “glamping” or sitting with friends and family in your backyard, waning evenings typically include one campfire staple: marshmallows.

So, on the eve of National Roasted Marshmallow Day (Aug. 30), we pay tribute to the sweet ingredient that makes any form of outdoor gathering, well, sweeter.

For some, the best use of marshmallows is as the gooey main ingredient of s’mores. Take a graham cracker, place a section of chocolate on it, and then carefully place a freshly roasted marshmallow on top of the candy bar. Top the marshmallow off with another graham cracker, carefully squeezing the campfire dessert sandwich together as the hot marshmallow melts the chocolate. Read more »

Ohio Farmers Show Their Commitment to Protecting Lake Erie

Four types of cover crops, including annual rye, oilseed radish, crimson clover and rapeseed, are being seeded into wheat stubble. Photo by Dianne Johnson, NRCS.

Four types of cover crops, including annual rye, oilseed radish, crimson clover and rapeseed, are being seeded into wheat stubble. Photo by Dianne Johnson, NRCS.

Ohio farmer Allen Dean holds a four-way blend of cover crop seeds. Photo by Dianne Johnson, NRCS.

Ohio farmer Allen Dean holds a four-way blend of cover crop seeds. Photo by Dianne Johnson, NRCS.

In the wake of a water crisis that left 400,000 Toledo, Ohio-area residents without water to drink, bathe or cook, the U.S. Department of Agriculture took action.

USDA created an opportunity for farmers in Ohio’s portion of the Western Lake Erie Basin to apply for a special initiative of Environmental Quality Incentives Program that focuses on cover crops. Farmers had one week to apply for assistance to plant cover crops through this initiative, the deadline for which passed earlier this week. Read more »