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Dedicated Volunteers Help Care for Alabama’s Talladega National Forest

Volunteers on the Talladega National Forest work to help keep forest recreation areas like the Pine Glen campgrounds clean and ready for visitors.  U.S. Forest Service photo.

Volunteers on the Talladega National Forest work to help keep forest recreation areas like the Pine Glen campgrounds clean and ready for visitors. U.S. Forest Service photo.

Volunteers play an integral part in helping the Forest Service reach its annual goals in managing healthy national forests.  And on Alabama’s Talladega National Forest, three exceptional volunteers have dedicated countless hours towards this work:  John Calhoun, Ray Bittle and Charles Laminack. Read more »

Got (Enough) Vitamin D?

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

April, the springboard to warm, sunny weather, is National Minority Health Month—a good time to focus on the sun, vitamin D insufficiency for African-Americans, and the ways that monitoring its intake have improved.

Vitamin D is primarily produced by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. However, African-Americans have more melanin in their skin, resulting in the reduction of the body’s ability to make the vitamin from sun exposure. Read more »

Michigan Earth Team Volunteer Enjoys Giving Back

Twice a week, Susan Anderson volunteers a morning or afternoon at the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Big Rapids, Mich. She calls it “giving back.” As a member of NRCS’ Earth Team, the agency’s volunteer workforce, Anderson assists clients, files and helps staff inventory and analyze the resource concerns of area farmers and landowners.

Anderson started volunteering with NRCS seven years ago, shortly after retiring from the Michigan Department of Education, where she was director of School Support Services, with statewide responsibilities and a budget of $500 million a year. She administered Michigan’s non-academic education programs, including child nutrition, food distribution, drivers’ education and pupil transportation. Read more »

Fresh from the Garden

I get to learn about a lot of great local initiatives when I make visits around the country.  On a recent trip to Dallas, I visited Metrocrest Social Services, a community resource agency in Farmers Branch, Texas, that provides services to families in crisis and helps them make plans for the future. The purpose of the visit was to learn how outreach workers from the North Texas Food Bank come to this office to assist clients submit applications for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Camilla Zimbal, social services director, gave me a tour of the agency, and showed me some of the other services available to clients. One of the highlights of this one-stop shop is a food pantry at which pantry clients may select groceries once a week. In addition to the canned and boxed food, they can also select fresh-from-the-garden fruit and vegetables. Read more »

Uncovering USDA’s Deep Roots in Foreign Affairs

Louis Guy Michael, the "father of FAS."

Louis Guy Michael, the "Father of FAS."

The concept of ensuring access to foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products dates nearly to the founding of the Republic, when Thomas Jefferson was posted to Paris to, in his own words, ensure “the receipt of our whale-oils, salted fish, and salted meats, on favorable terms; the admission of our rice on equal terms with that of Piedmont, Egypt and the Levant; a mitigation of the monopolies of our tobacco by the Farmers-general, and a free admission of our productions into their islands.” Read more »

A Country Boy’s Journey

April 16, 2012, was a memorable day for Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency. Yesterday marked 40 years as SED for FSA and the former Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). In August, Cooper will celebrate 55 years of total service to USDA. Prior to his appointment, Cooper had worked as a field reporter, county office trainee, county executive director, county office reviewer, assistant administrative chief and chief of the Administrative Division. Recently, he provided some thoughts and memories on his tenure.

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

Willie F. Cooper, state executive director (SED) for the Louisiana Farm Service Agency

Read more »