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Young People Plant Coastal Garden to Benefit Endangered Sea Turtles

Katie Hamilton, Rie Kaku, Eliza Harris and Maya Hoeft take part in planting a coastal garden that will augment the diet of rescued endangered sea turtles at Hawaii's Sea Life Park's Rescue Program. The new garden, situated between the mountains and the sea -- or mauka to makai -- also serves as a living classroom where students see the connection between healthy forests and clean water.

Katie Hamilton, Rie Kaku, Eliza Harris and Maya Hoeft take part in planting a coastal garden that will augment the diet of rescued endangered sea turtles at Hawaii's Sea Life Park's Rescue Program. The new garden, situated between the mountains and the sea -- or mauka to makai -- also serves as a living classroom where students see the connection between healthy forests and clean water.

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

Under a bright Hawaiian sun, a group of girls ages 11 to 18 planted a special vegetable garden that will not only teach others about ecosystems but will also help endangered sea turtles. The project is inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! campaign and the USDA People’s Garden Initiative. The girls, who attend the same church in Mililani, Hawaii, needed a community service project. Sea Life Park on Oahu had land and a seed of an idea to plant a garden. The U.S. Forest Service helped to bring the two groups together. Read more »

Pennsylvania Bio-fuel Producer Harnessing Our Potential to Out-Innovate Global Competitors

Local media had a glimpse into one of the largest biofuels plants in the United States and the high-profile biofuels production industry last week.  Inside HERO BX in Erie, Penn., camera crews rolled video and snapped photos of energy’s future—the conversion of materials like animal fat and vegetable oil into bio-diesel.

HERO BX received over $275,000 in payments from USDA Rural Development’s Bioenergy Program for Advanced Biofuels to support and ensure an expanding production and distribution of advanced biofuels in rural areas.   Through programs like this, we are working to increase the production of biofuels to help meet the President’s goal of achieving a one-third cut to foreign oil imports and in turn, out-build and out-innovate global competitors. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Announces Local Projects to Help Kids Get Outdoors

Connor Stack, a youth volunteer for the National Children's Forest in California, teaches other children about coyotes. Stack and other children help to operate the National Children's Forest, a collaboration between the San Bernardino National Forest and the National Forest Association. It is the oldest among four Children's Forests associated with the Forest Service. On April 4, the agency and the USDA announced plans to add nine Children's Forests to create a national network.

Connor Stack, a youth volunteer for the National Children's Forest in California, teaches other children about coyotes. Stack and other children help to operate the National Children's Forest, a collaboration between the San Bernardino National Forest and the National Forest Association. It is the oldest among four Children's Forests associated with the Forest Service. On April 4, the agency and the USDA announced plans to add nine Children's Forests to create a national network.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Monday the infusion of $1 million from the current U.S. Forest Service budget toward projects and programs that get kids outside to experience the great outdoors, connect with nature and help nurture future land stewards.

The two programs receiving funding through this announcement will reach tens of thousands of young people this year, and support the goals of both President Obama’s America’s Great Outdoors Initiative and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative.

Read more »

Science from USDA, Building on Tribal Traditions

Recently, I visited Tohono O’odham Community College, in Sells, AZ, one of the tribal colleges that the Department of Agriculture supports around the country to level the playing field and open the doors of higher education to more young people. The Tohono O’odham or “Desert People” live in the Sonoran Desert on tribal lands in the southern part of the state, bordering Mexico. The terrain is flat, dry desert and presents numerous agricultural challenges that USDA helps students address through research and hands-on training, teaching traditional scientific disciplines – but through the lens of the tribe’s needs and culture.

The college is doing a lot of work to keep their tribal language alive, providing language classes for all students. But science professor Dr. Teresa Newberry has taken that to a whole new level by building a Web-based database of plants that is built in three languages: English, Latin and Tohono O’odham. It’s the kind of project that integrates the native culture into learning in a practical, living way. Read more »

Maintaining a Med Fly Barrier to Protect U.S. Fruits and Vegetables

On my recent trip to Guatemala, I had the honor and pleasure to spend some quality time with my counterpart from Mexico, Dr. Enrique Sanchez Cruz and the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture, Francisco Mayorga.

We were in Guatemala to attend the MOSCAMED Med Fly Commission meeting and to sign an agreement between Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and the United States to continue the MOSCAMED program. The program is a cooperative effort with a focus on maintaining a barrier for the med fly pest in Central America through the production of sterile flies and the development of natural parasites and organic bait sprays. Read more »