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Volunteers Have Fossil Field Find on Forests and Grasslands

Tom Ludwig sits smiling about his discovery among other U.S. Forest Service Passport in Time volunteers while unearthing the 31 inch Triceratops horn core  continues. (U.S. Forest Service)

Tom Ludwig sits smiling about his discovery among other U.S. Forest Service Passport in Time volunteers while unearthing the 31 inch Triceratops horn core continues. (U.S. Forest Service)

Paleontologist Barbara Beasley’s voice filled with excitement as she described a recent dinosaur find on the Thunder Basin National Grassland in northeastern Wyoming.

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for our Passport in Time volunteers,” she said. “Mother Nature preserved and stored this treasure for more than 65 million years.”

Beasley led a group of 22 volunteers on a fossil excavation project at the Alkali Divide Paleontological Special Interest Area where volunteer Tom Ludwig found the nearly three-foot Triceratops horn. Read more »

For Flavor’s Sake: In New Mexico, Conservation Makes Things Peachy

Taylor Dale picks fresh cherry tomatoes grown in a hoop house to sell in the local farmer’s market in Santa Fe, N.M. USDA photo.

Taylor Dale picks fresh cherry tomatoes grown in a hoop house to sell in the local farmer’s market in Santa Fe, N.M. USDA photo.

Every single student in Santa Fe County Schools in New Mexico received a juicy, locally-grown organic peach for lunch on the first day of school last year from Freshies Farm.

On only a little more than three acres of land, Christopher Bassett and Taylor Dale were able to grow the peaches for the schools and still find time to support two young children of their own.

For this young couple, their land and the food they grow is their life. After working on farms for 10 years in everywhere from California to Colorado, Bassett and Dale finally bought their own. They settled at Freshies Farm, a slice of a larger orchard near Velarde, N.M. near the Rio Grande. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Supporting Innovation for Stronger Rural Communities

American innovation is one of our most special traditions, fueling our nation to new heights over the course of our history. Innovation is critically important in rural America, where research is helping to grow American agriculture, create new homegrown products, generate advanced renewable energy and more.

Continued research has the capacity to lead the way to economic opportunity and new job creation in rural areas – and USDA has been hard at work to carry out these efforts.  But we need Congress to get its work done and provide a new Farm Bill that recommits our nation to innovation in the years to come. Read more »

On the Road: Meeting with New Farmers in New York

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden talks to Hearty Roots Farm owner Ben Shute on his farm in upstate New York. (Photo courtesy: Christina Iskandar)

Last week, I had the pleasure of visiting with new farmers across New York to talk about challenges and opportunities in agriculture.  I began my trip with a visit to Eight Mile Creek Farm in Westerlo where the farmer, Pam Schreiber, participates in a variety of USDA programs. Along with her three children and some local interns, Pam runs a 223-acre farm that produces more than 100 crops.

The next stop of the day was to Hearty Roots Farm, where the Shutes raise dairy cows and chickens. They also have row crops on their farm and are in the process of applying for a Farm Storage Facility Loan which will help their produce stay fresh for longer periods of time. Hearty Roots Farm has a strong Community Sponsored Agriculture program. In addition to local deliveries, one of the farmhands drives two hours each way, twice a week to bring produce to CSA customers in New York City. Read more »

Graceful Conifer Inspires a Devoted Club of Scientists

Laura Kenefic is a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, where she studies issues related to sustainable forest management. (Courtesy Liam Kenefic)

Laura Kenefic is a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, where she studies issues related to sustainable forest management. (Courtesy Liam Kenefic)

Northern Research Station scientist Laura Kenefic resists the temptation to stick with people she knows at scientific gatherings, and her discipline is paying dividends for northern white-cedar.

Attending a forestry conference a decade ago, Kenefic joined a table of strangers that included Jean-Claude Ruel, a Canadian scientist who, it turned out, was looking for long-term data on northern white-cedar. A research forester at the Penobscot Experimental Forest north of Bangor, Maine, Kenefic happens to work at one of the few places in the country with more than half a century of data on the species. Their collaboration quickly grew to include scientists from universities, industry, the U.S. Forest Service and the Canadian Forest Service who are all interested in northern white-cedar. Meetings, dinners and a few adventures in the course of research aimed at addressing the tree’s slow growth and sparse regeneration gave the group of scientists an atmosphere that felt unique to its members. “It seemed more like a club than a scientific working group,” Kenefic said. “We became the Cedar Club.” Read more »