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Let’s Move! Across Michigan

My colleague Julie Mikkelson and I are back to Chicago after a road trip across Michigan, March 22-24. We were there to recognize a number of schools for their efforts to support the First Lady’s LetsMove! initiative and the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Our trip began in Waterford, north of Detroit, with a HUSSC Gold award celebration.  Three days, five schools, and hundreds of miles later, we ended our trip near Lansing with a HUSSC award presentation. All the schools we visited were HUSSC award winners, and everywhere we went, we saw tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to healthier students. Read more »

Connecticut Farmer Honored for Sustainability, Conservation Efforts

A Windham County, Conn., resident was recognized as an outstanding farmer during Ag Week for utilizing environmentally conscious technology and progressive agriculture sustainability.

Matthew Peckham, who operates a dairy farm with 140 Holstein and Jersey cows, was honored during a ceremony at the Connecticut State Capitol. The Windham County Farm Service Agency nominated him for his work with farm programs and dedication to conservation practices. Read more »

FoodCorps Brings Nutrition to Rural Montana Schools

In an effort to counter rising obesity rates among children, one Montana group is looking to a younger generation to take the lead in bringing locally-grown, nutritious food to schools in the area. The Grow Montana coalition, in conjunction with AmeriCorps, is accepting applications from March 25 to April 22 for a team of 11 FoodCorps members who will develop Farm to School programs in Montana’s food deserts. Because many residents in these areas must drive an hour or more to the nearest grocery store, good nutrition is literally out of reach.

As AmeriCorps VISTA members, the FoodCorps team aims to address this problem by connecting schools with farmers and ranchers to serve healthy, locally-grown meals, building and tending school gardens, and educating students about how and why to eat nutritious foods. Read more »

Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture

A newly released report Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture.  Overview and Policy Issues published by USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, serves as an overview of solar energy use by farmers and ranchers in the U.S. that identifies trends and future potential.  According to USDA’s 2009 On-Farm Energy Production Survey, ninety-three percent of farms with on-farm renewable energy production produce solar energy and 8,000 farms have installed a solar energy system on their farm.

On-farm solar energy production has increased significantly in the last decade.  Sixty-three percent of solar panels in agriculture were installed from 2005-2009 and the growth rate was almost five-fold from 2000-2009.  Solar energy projects funded under USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program also experienced a five-fold increase between 2007 and 2009.  The report reviews the regulations and incentives that are available to farmers and ranchers, which has recently boosted installations, and also examines major financial influences.

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Asks Gathering of 4-H Youth to Commit to Public Service, Reach Out to At-Risk Peers

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke with approximately 300 youth from 47 states or territories and Canada at the National 4-H Conference on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The conference is the premier youth development opportunity of the USDA. Aged between 15-19 years old the attendees were selected=

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke with approximately 300 youth from 47 states or territories and Canada at the National 4-H Conference on Tuesday, April 5, 2011 in Washington, DC. The conference is the premier youth development opportunity of the USDA. Aged between 15-19 years old the attendees were selected by various means by their states to be delegates to the conference. The Secretaries then took questions from the audience. Secretary Vilsack received questions on topics such as land grants, what is an average day for him, and both talked of their goals to have 1,000 new farmers and 1,000 new educators. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

“I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service and my Health to better living, for my club, my community, my country, and my world.” This is the pledge that 300 4-H youth and volunteers gave on Monday when the 2011 National 4-H Conference kicked off in Bethesda, Md. Youth and adults from 47 states and territories, as well a delegation from Canada, took part in an event that has happened in the Washington area since the 1920s, when 4-Hers slept in tents on the Washington Mall in front of the USDA headquarters. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA, is the parent organization to 4-H National Headquarters. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke to 4-Hers about community service, valuing education, and embracing positive health and nutrition habits. Read more »