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Made in Rural America: Value-added Agriculture Takes Oregon Wool from Ranch to Runway and, Now, to the Olympics

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

I am thrilled to share with you some very good news from Oregon’s high desert. Ralph Lauren, the iconic American brand and U.S. Olympic team sponsor, recently announced they will be using wool produced by one of our Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) participants, Imperial Stock Ranch, to make sweaters for Team USA to wear at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

The news would be big for any small rural business. For one working tirelessly to find new ways to profitably preserve Central Oregon’s nearly extinct–yet very American–tradition of raising sheep for fiber, this is especially gratifying.

Imperial Yarn is the value-added business offshoot of Jeanne and Dan Carver’s family owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch, which produces sheep, cattle, grains, hay and grasses on more than 30,000 acres of stunning Central Oregon rangeland. Read more »

‘Ag in Action’ Lab on Wheels Brings the Farm to Alabama Schools

Many partners, including NRCS, helped create the Ag in Action, a traveling environmental education tool in Alabama. NRCS photo.

Many partners, including NRCS, helped create the Ag in Action, a traveling environmental education tool in Alabama. NRCS photo.

A new 26-foot learning lab on wheels enables Alabama’s elementary and middle school students to experience farming through hands-on activities and audio visual technology. The “Ag in Action” lab is the first of its kind in Alabama and one of only four in the nation.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency partnered with seven soil and water conservation districts and other groups to create this education tool.

“Ag in Action is an amazing way to bring agriculture to life and teach students about agriculture,” said the lab’s coordinator, Sarah Butterworth. “Using the lab, students will learn where their food and fiber grows and how it is produced.” Read more »

Absence Makes the Market Grow Fonder

USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database.  We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.

USDA Market News reporter Holly Mozal teaches a Cochran Fellowship group from Haiti about our Market News database. We capture data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco.

At some point in our lives, we all wonder what it would be like if we didn’t exist.  How would things be different?  Last month, American farmers and businesses experienced what it was like to live without USDA Market News.  While the markets continued to operate, we received several phone calls and heard stories of how so many small and mid-sized producers struggled without the valuable information we provide.

In the 100-year history of Market News, this was only the second time that the data reports were not available.  The reports give farmers, producers and other agricultural businesses the information they need to evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, evaluate transportation equipment needs and accurately assess movement.  The information, gathered by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and provided for free,  captures data for everything from cotton, fruits, vegetables and specialty crops, livestock, meats, poultry, eggs, grain and hay, to milk and dairy, and tobacco. Read more »

Rehabilitated Bear Cubs Return Home to the Wild

Earlier this year (see July 31 blog), the USDA-APHIS Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center’s (NWRC) field station in Millville, Utah, agreed to house two orphaned black bear cubs as part of a collaborative rehabilitation effort with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (Division).

The bears did well in captivity gaining enough weight to be re-released into the wild in early November. The young bears arrived at the facility weighing approximately 30 pounds and left weighing over 120 pounds. The two young male bears were fed bear chow (similar to dog food), fish, nuts, and fresh fruits and vegetables donated from a local grocery store and farmers. In addition to being well-fed, the bears had plenty of enrichment opportunities in their pen including a tire swing, climbing trees and logs, and a mini swimming pool. Read more »