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USDA Announces Winners of 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the selection of 30 university students who
will attend USDA’s 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum. The students—who attend land-grant,
Hispanic-serving, and American Association of State Colleges of Agriculture and Renewable
Resources Institutions—have received assistance from USDA and corporate sponsors in order to
attend the Forum. The 2013 Agricultural Outlook Forum will be held Feb. 21- 22, 2013, at the
Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Va.

“The Outlook Forum will give these students the chance to hear from leading government and
industry voices on a broad range of topics, opening and expanding their opportunities to excel in
agriculture-related fields,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. Read more »

What’s Your Beef – Prime, Choice or Select?

Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.

Infographic (click to see larger version) outlining the differences between USDA’s beef grades.

The USDA grade shields are highly regarded as symbols of safe, high-quality American beef.  Quality grades are widely used as a “language” within the beef industry, making business transactions easier and providing a vital link to support rural America. Consumers, as well as those involved in the marketing of agricultural products, benefit from the greater efficiency permitted by the availability and application of grade standards. Read more »

Pike Valley Farm Foods – Certified Organic Pasture Farming in Kentucky

The free range meat chickens stay in their shelters to protect them from predators.  Electric netting in combination with the dogs protects them.  A drip line on each shelter allows for a garden hose to be connected in order to supply fresh water for the chickens in their shelter.

The free range meat chickens stay in their shelters to protect them from predators. Electric netting in combination with the dogs protects them. A drip line on each shelter allows for a garden hose to be connected in order to supply fresh water for the chickens in their shelter.

Over a decade ago, Winston and Teresa Pike brought their family back to the 140-acre farm where Winston grew up to begin a farming operation of their own.

Since then, the Pikes’ business has grown from a small family farm with fewer than ten pasture-fed beef cattle to a thriving operation with over 100 head of beef cattle, as well as dairy cows, hogs, meat chickens, egg laying chickens and turkeys – not to mention a variety of vegetables. The farm sells its organic products to restaurants, a co-op and online, and has a CSA (community-supported agriculture, a kind of farm subscription service). Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Encouraging Americans to Enjoy the Great Outdoors

As we look ahead to the coming years, I know that rural America has unlimited capacity to continue providing a great deal for every American – including even more opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors.

We know that many Americans deeply value outdoor recreation. According to industry estimates more than 140 million Americans participate in some outdoor recreation activity annually.  In fact, more than 38 percent of American adults participate in hunting and fishing alone.

These opportunities are important for those living in our cities, and for their families. Outdoor recreation helps us all to enjoy the beauty of the outdoors – from parks, to trails, to lakes and forests. Meanwhile, getting outdoors allows us to instill a love and appreciation of the environment for our youngsters. Read more »

USDA Mississippi Employees Contribute Time, Effort on Martin Luther King Day of Service

Earlier this month, all Mississippi agencies and staff were invited to participate in USDA’s Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service by volunteering two hours of their time to a non-profit organization of their choice. Three USDA Rural Development Mississippi State Office employees, Jennifer Jimerson, Ericka Butler, and Michelle Wilkerson volunteered at Stewpot Community Services in Jackson, serving meals for lunch.

The very heart of Stewpot is the noon meal its staff and volunteers serve each day of the year. This meal serves as the center of each day as well as the heart of the Stewpot philosophy. Rich and poor, black and white … all God’s children come together over a nourishing meal. More than 120 people a day are physically and spiritually fed in the community kitchen and 50 meals are delivered to shut-ins in the area. Volunteers are always needed to lend a hand in the Stewpot Community Kitchen. Read more »

Retiree Improves and Diversifies Kentucky Farm for Future Generations

Left: Larry Woods checking for growth a few weeks after the first field seeding this summer. Right: Larry in the same field just a few months later.

Left: Larry Woods checking for growth a few weeks after the first field seeding this summer. Right: Larry in the same field just a few months later.

Larry Woods dedicated 36 years of his life to education in Kentucky. After a successful career as a teacher, coach and administrator, last year Larry retired to his Garrard County family farm, which he plans to develop into a full working operation for his children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Woods was raised on the 100-acre farm, and a love of farming, hunting, fishing and living off the land comes naturally for him. But when he returned to his farm, he quickly realized that keeping track of his 30 head of Charolais cattle was a next-to-impossible task. He spent countless hours rounding up the herd from ridgetop pastures and steep valleys full of tree and brush. Read more »