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Secretary’s Column: Creating Modern Solutions to Environmental Challenges

Our farmers and ranchers are the most productive on earth, largely due to their innovation and their ability to adapt to new challenges. As new threats emerge for American agriculture, USDA will be there to provide assistance – and this week, we announced new steps to help producers create solutions to meet modern environmental threats.

We’re already seeing these new challenges emerge. Last year was the second most intense year in our history for extreme weather events. It was also the warmest on record for the continental United States. Read more »

Little People’s Garden Teaches Big Life Lesson

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. This Chinese proverb is the idea behind the Little People’s Garden in Montevideo, Minnesota.

“Children need to know where their food comes from,” said Liz Ludwig, Farm Service Agency county executive director.  “It’s not made in a factory; it’s grown in the soil, raised by farmers and ranchers, and cared for by people we call farmers.”

Initiated by Ludwig, the Little People’s Garden — now in its fourth year — was planted at Kinder Kare learning center in Montevideo, providing preschoolers a hands-on opportunity to learn where their food comes from and how to make healthy food choices. Read more »

Interpreting Data to Modernize Food Safety: Meet Dr. Joanna Zablotsky Kufel

Dr. Joanna Zablotsky Kufel discovered community and public health at Tufts University in Massachusetts. Afterwards, she worked in public health for a couple of years and then moved to Baltimore, Md., where she earned her Masters in 2003 and Ph.D. in 2009 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “After learning all about food safety at the state and local level, I still wanted to learn more about food safety at the federal level, where you can influence food safety throughout the entire food chain,” said Dr. Zablotsky Kufel.

Dr. Zablotsky Kufel began her career with USDA as a summer intern working for the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS). Today she works as a Public Health Food Safety Analyst with FSIS, analyzing data from across FSIS gathered by inspectors in the field, and partner agencies to evaluate FSIS policies and performance. The analyses performed and reports produced allow FSIS to effectively use science and data to understand foodborne illness and emerging trends, respond to those risks and ensure that food safety inspection aligns with decreasing those risks. Read more »

USDA Community Connect Project Brings the World to a Rural Ohio Village

Pennsylvania Law School student Levi Morris, shown with his mother, Becky, can now continue his education from home thanks to the broadband service provided to his town through the USDA Community Connect program. USDA photos by Heather Hartley.

Pennsylvania Law School student Levi Morris, shown with his mother, Becky, can now continue his education from home thanks to the broadband service provided to his town through the USDA Community Connect program. USDA photos by Heather Hartley.

It’s long been said, “You can’t go home again.” It looks like someone forgot to tell Levi Morris!

Morris, 24, is a law school student at the University of Pennsylvania in big-city Philadelphia. But he was raised in the tiny Southeast Ohio village of Stafford; nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in rural Monroe County. He says he loves Philadelphia and may even choose an urban lifestyle once he graduates, but right now, his heart is in Ohio. Read more »

A Father’s Day Tribute: The Time My Dad Took My Class on a Hike in the Woods

Noah Scott and his father Andy, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Noah Scott and his father Andy, a scientist with the U.S. Forest Service.

Recently, U.S. Forest Service scientist Andy Scott took his son’s first-grade class on a nature hike to talk about forestry, soil, and anything else the kids wanted to know. They walked along the newly created Bradford Creek Greenway behind Heritage Elementary School in Madison, Ala. Noah captured the day beautifully. We offer his words as our tribute to Father’s Day.

My Dad came to my classroom before we went outside. He told us to walk only on the path because there was poison ivy off the path and a lot of people thought everything with three leaves was poison ivy.

When we went outside we got to see some leaves from trees and my Dad told us what kind they were. One was pine, one was sweet gum, and one was sassafras. It smelled good when you crumbled it up. Then we found out how you tell how old a tree is. Read more »