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US Forest Service Celebrates National Get Outdoors Day June 8

National Get Outdoors Day, created in a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will include a wide variety of opportunities to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun, from a rousing day of festivities in City Park in Denver to quieter observations on some national forest and grasslands.

Go Day, as it is often called, was launched June 14, 2008, through a partnership between the Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition. Built on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other efforts, Go Day connects Americans – especially children – with nature and active lifestyles. Read more »

In Virginia, a Food Hub Helps Growers Scale Up

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.

But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Helping Families Achieve the Dream of Homeownership

Throughout the month of June, USDA will celebrate National Homeownership Month with a renewed commitment to providing safe, affordable housing in our small towns and rural communities.

Our theme for this year’s Homeownership Month is “Bringing Rural America Home”.  When families can find a good place to live in rural America, they’ll stay there. They’ll invest in their community and help create new economic growth. Read more »

USDA’s 2012 Sustainability Scorecard

USDA’s 2012 Sustainability Scorecard showcases the Department’s ongoing commitment to meeting goals that reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions, decrease energy use per square foot, increase renewable energy use, decrease potable water use per square foot, and incorporate sustainable building practices in new and existing buildings.

In 2012, USDA made significant progress in reducing indirect GHG emissions, largely associated with employee travel and commuting, resulting in an 18 percent reduction in indirect GHG emissions. In 2012, USDA consumed nearly 39,000 megawatt-hours of renewable energy, which translates to enough green energy to meet more than seven percent of the Department’s electricity use. Read more »

After Oklahoma Tornado, USDA Assists in Pet Rescues

Those impacted by the Moore tornadoes continue to be reunited with their animals. All Photos are Courtesy of the ODAFF.

Those impacted by the Moore tornadoes continue to be reunited with their animals. All Photos are Courtesy of the ODAFF.

“His name is Zeke,” read the Facebook posting after the May tornado that devastated Moore, Okla. “He’s a male boxer, almost 6 months old. Wearing green collar. Last seen near NW 63rd and Portland. He is fawn, black mask with white marking on face, chest and paws. We miss him very much. Please return.”

There are a lot fewer missing or homeless “Zekes” today due to the efforts of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) and partners who are working to reunite lost pets with their heart-stricken owners. Read more »

Going Green by Reducing Food Waste

At this very moment, an underappreciated tool for combating climate change may be hiding in your chiller drawer or at the back of your pantry.  By keeping that limp carrot or dusty box of pasta out of our nation’s landfills, you can help reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calculates that food is the single largest component of municipal solid waste going to landfills (accounting for over 20% by weight) and that that landfills are the third largest source of methane (16% of national total).  By reducing the amount of food we toss into the trash, we can help reduce these potent greenhouse gas emissions.

The benefits do not stop there, however. Read more »