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Breeding Local Seed for Local Food

They say that variety is the spice of life. Well, you can’t get much more variety than in the plant world. Genetic variation exists for many traits in all crops. For example, although most carrots on grocers’ shelves are orange, carrots can also be white, yellow, green, or purple. Most potatoes are susceptible to potato late blight, but some wild potato species are immune. Carrot color may be unrelated to where the carrots are grown, so a local grower can grow whatever color carrot people enjoy. Variation for disease resistance or tolerance to different soil types, however, does affect local adaptation.

Many local foods can be bred specifically to adapt to local conditions and preferences. Since local breeding takes manpower, the costs for these seeds can spill over to the customers. One solution is participatory plant breeding where breeders and farmers collaborate to contribute genetic variation; resources such as fields and labor; and expertise in breeding, crops, and farming. Read more »

Earn Your Healthy Eating Badge and Check In with the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory

Screenshot of CNN showing the USDA Farmers Market Directory

Screenshot of CNN showing the USDA Farmers Market Directory

As part of CNN’s week-long series “Eatrocracy: Mind, Body and Wallet,” the USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory is featured in a unique way to encourage consumers to use farmers markets as a source of fresh, local and healthy food.  The series showcases our database of more than 6,200 farmers markets currently listed in the USDA Farmers Market Directory with the social networking and geo-locating mobile application, Foursquare. The series debuted yesterday  and will continue to run through the week on CNN. We’re thrilled to see several “Healthy Eating Badge” check-ins already! Read more »

NRCS Donates 1,800 Pounds of Sweet Potatoes to Food Pantry

Some of the 1,800 lbs. of sweet potatoes donated by NRCS to a local food pantry in Arkansas.

Some of the 1,800 lbs. of sweet potatoes donated by NRCS to a local food pantry in Arkansas.

When I heard about the USDA Feds, Friends, and Farmers Feed Families food drive, I knew the Central Arkansas Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Council could help in a big way. We ended up donating 1,800 pounds of sweet potatoes to the Grace Community Food Pantry, in Phillips County, from our Delta Blues Sweet Potato facility. Read more »

NRCS around the World: Learning by Teaching

USDA agricultural advisors and temporary duty agricultural representatives in Afghanistan. From left: Jon Fripp, Bruce Dubee, Feridoon Mehdizadegan, Eileen Thacker, Ginger Murphy, and Iraj Motazedian.

USDA agricultural advisors and temporary duty agricultural representatives in Afghanistan. From left: Jon Fripp, Bruce Dubee, Feridoon Mehdizadegan, Eileen Thacker, Ginger Murphy, and Iraj Motazedian.

Earlier this year, I volunteered to go on a month-long work detail to Afghanistan. I volunteered because the Secretary of Agriculture and the Chief of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service put out a call for a job I knew I could do, but I had no idea what to expect. Read more »