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Hummingbirds and gazpacho in the People’s Garden

Today in the People’s Garden, USDA volunteers hosted another Healthy Garden Workshop — and visitors were once again able to sample a dish created entirely from garden-grown foods in the Chef’s Garden. The events will continue all summer here in Washington, but you can also check out some video from this afternoon:

A volunteer from the Natural Resources Conservation Service leads the Healthy Garden Workshop, on attracting wildlife to the garden — in this segment of the presentation, he’s outlining how to attract hummingbirds.

Chefs from the USDA cafeteria hand out samples of gazpacho, prepared entirely from garden grown ingredients.

Be sure to check out the People’s Garden Twitter feed, and we’ll also be posting these and other videos on the USDA Facebook page.

Rural Tour fostering a nationwide discussion on rural issues

Since the first event in June, we’ve been excited to see the Rural Tour generating really thoughtful conversation and debate on the issues facing rural America. At town hall forums across the nation, Secretary Vilsack and his counterparts across the government have met with large, sometimes overflow, crowds. They’ve been able to answer questions and engage in productive debate on the best ways to help rural America. Read more »

Secretaries Vilsack and Duncan participate in food packaging event to promote “United We Serve”

On Monday, August 17, Secretary Vilsack joined Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for a Rural Tour event in Hamlet, North Carolina. While they were there, the Secretaries had the opportunity to participate in a meal packaging service project at Richmond Community College to promote President Obama’s United We Serve summer volunteerism initiative. The event was coordinated by Stop Hunger Now, a Raleigh-based non-profit organization that has hosted similar events at area colleges, including North Carolina State, the University of North Carolina, NC Central and others. Read more »

Stimulus spending at street level: the USDA and Google Maps API Premier

Note: This blog post was originally published on the Official Google Enterprise Blog:

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to welcome guest blogger Carole Jett, Deputy Chief of Staff for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Department of Agriculture has taken the lead on making detailed state-by-state information about stimulus spending available to the public via an interactive Google Map. The map makes it easy for people to find information about stimulus projects in their part of the country by department, program, or dollar amount.

In May 2009, President Barack Obama vowed to provide transparency and accountability by tracking stimulus money allocated under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The goal was to provide taxpayers with the ability to track money in their community, all the way to street level.

Recovery.gov was launched to provide detailed information on projects and report on how stimulus money is being spent. In addition, each agency began to publish reports on their own websites for allocated funds.

In addition to funding reports, the U.S. Department of Agriculture created an interactive geospatial map using Google Maps API allowing the public to generate customized views for tracking funds.

This map was made available to the public in early May and has received nearly one million hits to date. Today, the interactive map provides data for five programs within USDA and is continuously adding other agencies within the department as the funds get allocated and data becomes available. Citizens can search and drill down to see funding allocations per department, program and location. To support the map feature, we established blogs for each state to share detailed information and updates about projects underway. Communities are encouraged to share their stories through this feature as well.

In July the Department of Housing and Urban Development joined the effort, followed by the Department of Commerce in August, allowing the public to search for and track a larger set of projects. The Department of Defense and other federal departments will be added to this site in the near future.

Check out the AARA Project Map for yourself and learn more about the map, including detailed instructions for how to use the map.

– Carole Jett, Deputy Chief of Staff, U.S. Department of Agriculture

Vilsack Outlines Vision for our Nation’s Forests in Seattle Remarks

With Secretary Vilsack doing so much this month, I want to make sure everyone gets a chance to check out his great remarks last week on the future of our nation’s forests, and share people’s reaction. Read more »

Renewing America’s Promise: USDA Makes Connections In Person, and Online

As the Rural Tour continues its trek across the nation, we continue to hear amazing stories and the positive feedback. Today, we’re excited to launch a new Rural Tour web site and a number of new tools for you to follow what’s going on across USDA. Read more »