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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 »

FNS Takes Nutrition Message to DC United’s Youth Soccer Event

DC United Mascot Talon helped us promote MyPlate and the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition.

DC United Mascot Talon helped us promote MyPlate and the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition.

The DC United Soccer Club held its “Fall Kick” a couple weeks ago and I was happy to attend and help them mark the end of the fall season. The “Fall Kick” brought together youth ages 6-12 from across the District and Maryland to RFK stadium making it a perfect event to reach out to the local community and spread FNCS’ message of good nutrition and physical activity.

The event featured tournament style matches, DC United players and mascot Talon, music, and educational games involving nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Around 400 kids, their coaches, and parents visited our booth to learn about proper diet and nutrition. I brought with me a set of engaging games such as “Duck, Duck, Fruit!” and the “Eat Smart. Play Hard. Relay” as activities to teach the children key elements to healthy eating. Read more »

My Family’s Christmas Tree, from a Colorado National Forest

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) and his family recently at Pike National Forest in Colorado. USDA photo.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) and his family recently at Pike National Forest in Colorado. USDA photo.

Across the nation, 193 million acres of National Forest land provide incredible benefits to every American – from outdoor recreation opportunities to cleaner air, soil and water that impact folks from all walks of life.

And with a simple permit and some planning ahead, a National Forest can also provide a great Christmas tree during the holidays – as well as an incredible experience in visiting the forest. This year my family joined thousands of others in venturing onto a National Forest to find our tree.

Our visit to Pike National Forest in Colorado was truly memorable. The Forest encompasses more than one million acres, is home to many exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, resources and landscapes such as the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. The forest also is home to the headwaters of the South Platte River, which provides 60 percent of the Denver metropolitan area’s water supply. Read more »