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Innovative Education and Public Safety through USDA Funding

Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township recently received USDA Rural Development Community Facility Loan funding to construct a new charter school to provide innovative education opportunities for K-8th grade. Photo is an interior architectural rendering of the central commons courtesy of Hemmler and Camayd Architects. USDA photo.

Bear Creek Community Charter School in Bear Creek Township recently received USDA Rural Development Community Facility Loan funding to construct a new charter school to provide innovative education opportunities for K-8th grade. Photo is an interior architectural rendering of the central commons courtesy of Hemmler and Camayd Architects. USDA photo.

Bear Creek Community Charter School has a history dating back to Civil War Brigadier General Paul Ambrose Oliver whose heirs donated the land for the school in 1929.  The original Oliver School was a traditional one-room school house, constructed as a project of the Works Progress Administration (instituted by presidential executive order under the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of April 1935, to generate public jobs for the unemployed). Read more »

Super Storm Sandy Whips Up Super Recovery Satisfaction

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.

Disasters create pain.  And recovery from disasters creates partnerships and opportunity.

That is the lesson Liang Shao Hua learned in the past year after Tropical Storm Sandy, also known as Super Storm Sandy, destroyed his New Jersey high-tunnel farming operation and left him wondering how to manage his loss.

Liang, a Chinese American with very limited English proficiency, relied first on his American-born son, Peter, a 21-year-old college student studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. Peter obtained USDA paperwork from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) that helped his father apply for Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds.  He, his brother, David, 19, and mother, Pei Yin, joined Liang in the clean-up efforts.

Liang Shao Hua was among 315 successful applicants for ECP, one-third from New Jersey.  The applicants stretched from West Virginia to New Hampshire. That was the wide swath where Sandy and her trailing cold front left a path of destruction to Atlantic Coast and New England farms. Read more »

USDA Chief Scientist Answers Your Questions on STEM and Agricultural Science Degrees; Join Our Twitter Chat Using #StudyAgScience

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Join @ScienceAtUSDA for a Twitter chat on STEM & Agricultural Science education tomorrow at 2pm ET. Use #StudyAgScience to participate.

Do you have questions about why there is a big push for students to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Or what jobs, in addition to farming, are available for graduates with agricultural science degrees? USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Dr. Catherine Woteki will host a live Virtual Office Hours session on Twitter this Friday, August 23, 2012 at 2 p.m. EDT to answer your questions about what USDA is doing to make sure we are keeping the pipeline filled with promising students. Read more »

Smokejumpers – Out of the Sky and Into the Fire

A smokejumper exits a plane. (US Forest Service photo)

A smokejumper exits a plane. (US Forest Service photo)

This blog is part of a series from the U.S. Forest Service on its wildland firefighting program to increase awareness about when and how the agency suppresses fires, to provide insights into the lives of those fighting fires, and to explain some of the cutting-edge research underway on fire behavior. Check back to the USDA Blog during the 2013 wildfire season for new information. Additional resources are available at www.fs.fed.us/wildlandfire/.

Imagine jumping from a plane into a fire, with enough provisions to last for several days.  That’s what highly trained Forest Service smokejumpers do to provide quick initial attack on wildland fires.

The attack is a well-choreographed scenario.  Aircraft can hold anywhere from eight to 16 jumpers, a ‘spotter’ who stays with the plane, the pilot and provisions to make the jumpers self-sufficient for 72 hours. The spotter is responsible for the safe release of the jumpers.  Once the jumpers have landed, the aircraft will circle around and drop their cargo by parachute from just above treetop height.  The spotter also is responsible for communicating essential information about the wind, fire activity and the terrain to the jumpers, the pilot and to dispatch centers. Read more »