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NRCS Works with Tribe to Revive Deep-rooted Ag Practices

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Rob Pearce collecting nahavita corms. Photo by Ken Lair, NRCS.

Native American agriculture techniques once dominated the continent, but after the arrival of Europeans, many of those traditions were nearly lost. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with tribal communities and ethnobotanists to restore some of these techniques and crops.

NRCS Earth Team volunteer Ken Lair is working with the Big Pine Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley in California to test a cultivation technique to stimulate growth of the plant nahavita, or blue dicks.

Traditionally, when native people harvested geophytes through digging, they did more than just retrieve the largest bulbs, corms, tubers and rhizomes for eating—they also replanted the smaller ones so that they could grow into new plants. Lair is testing this cultivation technique by growing nahavita at the Big Pine Indian Reservation. Read more »

Native American FFA Members Discuss the Future of Agriculture with USDA Officials

Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse (center) with Native American FFA Students: Hannah Nichols (left), Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) (right). USDA photo:  Bob Nichols.

Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse (center) with Native American FFA Students: Hannah Nichols (left), Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) (right). USDA photo: Bob Nichols.

The future of America is entirely about its youth. According to figures provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, sixty percent of the farmers in this country are 55 years old or older. Will the next generation take over for their parents and accept a rural lifestyle?  What options are available for promising students, many of them minorities, living in economically challenged rural areas?

Last week, USDA welcomed two Native American members of the National FFA organization to the Agriculture Department for meetings with Acting Deputy Secretary Michael Scuse, Arthur “Butch” Blazer, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, and representatives of the USDA Office of Tribal Relations (OTR), including Director Leslie Wheelock.  FFA members Hannah Nichols (Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana) of Elton, La. and Jessica Wahnee (Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Okla.) of Morris, Okla. were in the capital for the FFA Washington Leadership Conference (WLC) and were accompanied by Kent Schescke, director of government and non-profit relations for the National FFA. Read more »

Summer Harvests Can Turn Into Summer Meals for Kids

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

Summer is the season when harvests of healthful foods are most abundant: gardens overflow with zucchini and berries, trees are laden with sweet, ripe fruit, and farmers tend and harvest crops from dawn until dusk. Despite the seasonal abundance, many children go hungry when school is out and the food programs that fed them during the year are no longer part of their daily routine.

Bringing summer’s bounty to hungry kids is “just common sense” according to Cathy Rogers, School Food Service Director for Pipestone Area Schools, located in a small city of 4,000 in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Every day during the summer months, she serves fresh foods from local producers to 400 of her students. Read more »

Advances Help Assure Olive Oil Authenticity

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.

When you plunk down $17.99 for a bottle of your favorite premium olive oil, you’d like some assurance that what you just bought actually is top-quality olive oil.  Sadly, there’s a possibility that your high-priced olive oil might be watered down with other, less expensive vegetable oils, such as those from safflower or canola.

Fortunately, the scientists of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are helping ensure that what you get is what you paid for. Read more »

USDA, Helping Small Rural Businesses Grow and Create Jobs

Last month, I joined Secretary Vilsack in announcing National Small Business Week on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Louisiana. In support of rural small businesses, USDA announced several funding opportunities across the country for business owners to increase their capacity to hire new workers and expand their businesses. Small Businesses are the lifeblood of every community, but in a rural town one small business can mean the difference between a thriving main street and empty windows. This is why the work that USDA does on behalf of rural America is so important.

The state office for Rural Development is located in Central Louisiana where I met State Director Clarence Hawkins and his staff before we headed out to visit local businesses. The first stop was Consolidated Energy Holdings in Pollock. A variety of waste sources is produced by the company. Later, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cenla Small Business Appreciation Luncheon at the Central Louisiana Business Incubator in Alexandria. I was so inspired by the business incubator, which the city started as a workforce training facility for those with the desire to grow and expand their businesses. The incubator provides business owners with growth strategies, financing options, resources, and administrative support to name a few. There is an industrial kitchen available to use for food based business opportunities and specialty food producers. This incubator is the epitome of what small communities across rural America should be doing, making investments in their own citizens to foster job growth. Read more »