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Domestic Energy in 140 Characters or Less

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responds to questions, with the assistance of Office of Communications Director of Web Communications Amanda Eamich, during the first Virtual Office hours live "Twitter" session held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 4, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack responds to questions, with the assistance of Office of Communications Director of Web Communications Amanda Eamich, during the first Virtual Office hours live "Twitter" session held at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, April 4, 2012. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

In the fast paced technology world there are a lot of firsts coming at us all the time. But if you had told me that I’d be present for the first ever USDA Virtual Office Hours on April 5, 2012, in our 150th year, I assure you I never would have believed you. The event allowed USDA, a department  President Lincoln referred to as the People’s Department –– to reach hundreds of thousands of people, 140 characters at a time.  What really struck me was how many insightful questions came in about energy and USDA, and, in particular, one that was asked on our Facebook page shortly before the hour long chat.

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Apply to Make a Difference: Farmers Market Promotion Program Grants Available

The Greensgrow Farms mobile food delivery system.  With the help of an FMPP grant, Greensgrow Farms has used this truck to supply residents of the Camden/Philadelphia area with fresh, healthy, affordable foods. (Photo courtesy of Greensgrow Farms)

The Greensgrow Farms mobile food delivery system. With the help of an FMPP grant, Greensgrow Farms has used this truck to supply residents of the Camden/Philadelphia area with fresh, healthy, affordable foods. (Photo courtesy of Greensgrow Farms)

Every day, thousands of local farmers and ranchers work hard to ensure that their communities have access to a diverse range of fresh, healthy affordable foods.  While nutritious food is a cornerstone of society’s physical health, a vibrant community also includes sustainable economic opportunities.  By funding projects that support these goals, USDA’s Farmers Market Promotion Program continues to make a difference for farmers at the local level. Read more »

APHIS Celebrates 40 Years on the Front Lines for U.S. Agriculture

This is a special year for USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  Not only are we celebrating USDA’s 150th anniversary, but we are also commemorating our own 40th anniversary.  Through the years, it’s likely you’ve heard about or witnessed firsthand some of APHIS’ activities, or seen the hard-won results of our work—perhaps without even knowing it.

Our basic charge is protecting the nation’s food, agricultural, and natural resources, but that doesn’t tell the whole story, which began long before USDA merged two separate regulatory bureaus and created APHIS in 1972.

Did you know that APHIS’ predecessor, the Bureau of Plant Industry, played a critical role in the planting of the Japanese cherry trees skirting the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.?  The first shipment of trees in 1910 arrived in the United States heavily infested.  Japanese scientists worked with the Bureau to ensure that the second shipment would be pest-free and safe to plant.  This time of year, the beautiful show of cherry blossoms reminds us of the importance of our vigilance. Read more »

Getting Back to the Farm

When he decided to get back into farming five years ago, Tony An­drejczuk faced more challenges than most farmers. Andrejczuk lost the use of his legs after a work acci­dent in 1997, and being able to access his family’s entire farm is one of his biggest obstacles.

Andrejczuk grew up farming with his father and brother on their orchard and field crop farm near Lawrence, Mich. He studied crops and soil science at Michigan State University and planned to return to the family farm to work—but a tough economy forced him to choose a dif­ferent career. He joined the military and later started a tree business; the accident ended that career.

About five years ago, Andrejczuk helped one of his sons plant a few acres of corn on the farm; they did it for fun, and planned to leave the corn for wildlife. Instead, a neighbor offered to harvest it for them and even paid them for the crop. Read more »

Let All Who Are Hungry Come and Eat: A Food and Justice Seder at USDA

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack received applause as he concluded his talk, during the Food and Justice Passover Seder, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack received applause as he concluded his talk, during the Food and Justice Passover Seder, at the U.S. Department of Agriculture headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Just ahead of the official start of Passover this Friday at sunset, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hosted its second Food and Justice Passover Seder. The traditional Jewish seder commemorates the Passover holiday and the Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. USDA’s symbolic seder, held in partnership with Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, highlighted the intersection of food and justice issues in the modern world.  This year’s event centered on the themes of hunger, access to healthy food, sustainable food production, and fair treatment for farm workers. Read more »

Celebrating 100 Years of Washington, DC’s Cherry Blossoms

Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum – Inspection of original shipment of cherry trees in January 1910

Photo courtesy of the U.S. National Arboretum – Inspection of original shipment of cherry trees in January 1910

Since 1912, the beautiful pink and white blossoms of the Tidal Basin’s Japanese cherry trees have been one of our national Capital’s most iconic images. For Washingtonians, cherry blossoms herald the beginning of spring and a reprieve, albeit brief, between frosty winter weather (although this winter, not so much) and the sweaty, swampy conditions of summertime. Tourists flock from around the world to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, snapping photographs and attending events across the city. Yet few people realize that DC’s now ubiquitous cherry trees would never have reached America without a little help from USDA. Read more »