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Bringing New Markets to Puerto Rico’s Producers

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

AMS Commodity Procurement Financial Analyst Keven Valentin talks about contracting opportunities through the AMS Commodity Procurement Program.

In any business venture, the key to reaching a new market is starting with accurate and comprehensive information. For American agricultural producers and suppliers looking at USDA feeding programs as a potential market, having a clear understanding of the rules, regulations and requirements is the best start on the path to success. USDA encourages new businesses to participate by providing information through our websites, publications, and conferences. Recently, we attended Puerto Rico’s 2013 Market Expansion Conference to encourage new businesses to consider our programs.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is part of a team of seven USDA agencies that attended this conference to strengthen Puerto Rico’s agriculture sector. Read more »

Enjoy Winter on a National Forest, but Don’t Become an Avalanche Statistic

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

Every snowmobile rider in avalanche country needs to carry rescue gear on their back, not on the machine. They should also know how to use the gear. (U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center)

It’s early into the winter sports season and already there are stories of avalanche victims on the nation’s slopes.

But there are some steps you can take to keep your name and those of your companions out of the statistics record.

The U.S. Forest Service is a partner in the Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month, an effort to encourage children and adults to take lessons to improve their skills. Knowing about avalanches is vital to your safety. Read more »

Shasta-Trinity National Forest Brings Christmas Cheer to Disadvantaged Youth

Ally Buccanero, Shasta College student and volunteer, demonstrates how to make a bird feeder using a large pine cone and peanut butter during Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s annual Operation Christmas Tree event on Dec. 7. (U.S. Forest Service)

Ally Buccanero, Shasta College student and volunteer, demonstrates how to make a bird feeder using a large pine cone and peanut butter during Shasta-Trinity National Forest’s annual Operation Christmas Tree event on Dec. 7. (U.S. Forest Service)

For some, it can be a bit challenging to get in the holiday spirit in Redding, Calif., because the area typically has warm winter temperatures. But this year, residents were treated to a Dec. 6 snowstorm, which offered the Shasta-Trinity National Forest a wintery-white backdrop for its annual Operation Christmas Tree event.

Working in partnership with Shasta County Youth and Families Foster Care, OneSAFE Place (a women’s refuge), and the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Center, the forest invited 62 local, disadvantaged youth on Dec. 7 to kick off their holiday season on the forest. Read more »

Spice It Up in the New Year – MyPlate Holiday Makeover Week 8

Dave’s Herb-Stuffed Mushrooms

Dave’s Herb-Stuffed Mushrooms

The MyPlate Team offers the final “Makeover Monday” recipe this week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page.

I love mushrooms and could probably eat them every day. They come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, textures, and flavors and can be worked into every meal. On their own, mushrooms are pretty healthful – very low in calories, free of cholesterol and (almost) free of fat. They are also naturally low in sodium, high in potassium, and are generally high in vitamins and minerals.

Stuffing mushrooms just makes something wonderful ever better!  But what you stuff in these tasty little vegetables can make or break the dish. Typically, mushrooms are stuffed with foods containing saturated fats and sodium. So, if you’re trying to watch one or both of these in the New Year, consider various herbs and spices! Read more »

USDA Makes Meat and Grain Serving Flexibilities Permanent

As a mother and a grandmother, and as a school nutrition professional who has served at the local, state and national levels, I know the unique challenges and rewards that come along with helping to raise children—particularly when it comes to good nutrition.

Feeding kids, and feeding them well, can be tough, but I am proud to say that with the strong support of parents, our schools are making a real difference in the health of our nation’s children.

We at USDA have been working closely with schools during the transition to the updated meals. We have listened to school nutrition professionals, teachers, administrators, parents and students themselves. We have made tweaks and changes to the new meals along the way, based on feedback from their real world experiences. Read more »

Montana Seed Growers “Sow” Importance of Organic Farming

Anna Jones-Crabtree and Doug Crabtree discuss soil health with NRCS Soil Conservationist Amy Kaiser. NRCS photo.

Anna Jones-Crabtree and Doug Crabtree discuss soil health with NRCS Soil Conservationist Amy Kaiser. NRCS photo.

When Anna Jones-Crabtree and Doug Crabtree founded Vilicus Farms in 2009, they snagged the farm’s name from Latin, as “vilicus” means steward. Anna and Doug are definitely stewards of their 1,200-acre organic farm near Havre, Mont.

In a region where wheat is the primary crop and stretches as far as the eye can see, Vilicus Farms is unique. They work on a five-year rotation of about 15 different crops, including flax, lentils, oats, red spring wheat, durum, sweet clover, vetch, peas, rye, winter wheat, buckwheat, safflower, sunflower, spring peas and chickling vetch.

The farm is divided into strips about one mile long and 240 feet wide, and the Crabtrees grow one crop in each strip. Between the strips are untilled sections of native grazing land that serve as buffers to catch snow in the winter for added moisture. Read more »