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Job Corps Students Graduate to Fight Fires Across the Nation

Thomas Barnett, a March 2013 graduate of the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, works on building slash piles to help thin unwanted forest fuels on the Boise National Forest in 2012. Recently hired by the forest, Barnett will start work as part of fire crew in May and put his newly minted wildland firefighting skills to work as he pursues a career in firefighting. (U.S. Forest Service photo/ Michael Delaney)

Thomas Barnett, a March 2013 graduate of the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center, works on building slash piles to help thin unwanted forest fuels on the Boise National Forest in 2012. Recently hired by the forest, Barnett will start work as part of fire crew in May and put his newly minted wildland firefighting skills to work as he pursues a career in firefighting. (U.S. Forest Service photo/ Michael Delaney)

Until recently, Thomas Barnett, formerly of Washington state, did not have a career goal in mind.

However, this spring, the 24-year-old graduated from the Centennial Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center in Nampa, Idaho, and will begin his career as a seasonal firefighter on a fire crew with the Idaho City Ranger District on the Boise National Forest. He said he’ll pursue a career in firefighting because it’s exciting and he enjoys helping people and communities threatened by wildfire.  Read more »

Have Crop Questions? NASS has Answers!

The current vegetation index across the United States. NASS uses satellite images like these to look at weekly crop progress.

The current vegetation index across the United States. NASS uses satellite images like these to look at weekly crop progress.

When it comes to growing crops, weather is a constantly changing variable. These past few years, grain farmers have been on a veritable weather roller coaster. The floods of 2011 were followed by perfect spring planting conditions in 2012. Conditions deteriorated rapidly, resulting in one of the worst droughts in at least 25 years. This year, the weather has thrown yet another knuckleball at farmers, idling field work and reducing plantings to the slowest pace since 1984 in many areas. Read more »

Colorado StrikeForce Meeting Draws a Crowd

May 2nd dawned a majestic spring day in the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado as rural and tribal stakeholders from the Four Corners region descended upon the San Juan National Forest Headquarters to learn more about USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Participants traveled from New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and the east coast to discuss strategies to help USDA deliver its programs more successfully in persistently poor rural areas. Read more »

Forest Service Book Answers a Kid’s Question: Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?

At the end of the book, “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” the illustration depicts children planting trees. (Illustration by Juliette Watts, U.S. Forest Service)

At the end of the book, “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” the illustration depicts children planting trees. (Illustration by Juliette Watts, U.S. Forest Service)

Some children are unaware that in order to reduce tree hazards, protect other trees, or to get wood, it is necessary to cut trees.

So the recently published book “Why Would Anyone Cut a Tree Down?” is intended to raise awareness of the issue. The book, which primarily targets first to third grade students, also features tips for planting a new tree. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Groundbreaking Research Provided by a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

This year, USDA is committed to helping Congress get a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill passed as soon as possible. This is critical to provide certainty for U.S. producers, while giving USDA the tools we need to continue strengthening the rural economy.

Without a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill, one area that would be seriously impacted is USDA’s agricultural research.

For more than 100 years, USDA scientists and their partners have made tremendous advancements. They’ve developed more nutritious foods, invented new medicines and fabrics, improved food safety, learned more about the production of many different plants and animals, and helped create new ways to use plant materials for incredible biobased products.  Read more »

19-Year-Old Hopes to Retire and Farm

At age 19, Austin Midkiff has already made plans to retire at a young age and farm the rest of his life.

At age 19, Austin Midkiff has already made plans to retire at a young age and farm the rest of his life.

Austin Midkiff thinks, breathes and lives farming. It’s all he has done since he was six years old.

By the time he was 14, he took over his grandparent’s 10-acre farm in Springdale, W.Va.

“When I turned 16 my grandparents sold everything to me in order to teach me how to get things on my own and start from scratch,” said Midkiff. “It’s hard starting off.” Read more »