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Farm to School: The Taste of Washington State

Students at Conway Elementary School, in Mount Vernon, Wash., learned a few things about carrots last week. First, they don’t start out as “babies” in bags; they grow in the ground and have green tops. And second, as the third grade boys can attest, they’re good for an impromptu sword fight. Bugs Bunny likes them because they are crunchy, tasty and good for you all at the same time. Students here were chomping down for all those reasons, but also because the carrots came from a farm just down the road.

Ralph’s Greenhouse supplied the carrots to Conway Elementary, while across the state Oxbow Farm, Full Circle Farm, and Local Roots Farm provided produce to Riverview School District. And last week in Vancouver, students at Fort Vancouver High School brought potluck dishes made with produce grown in their school garden. Read more »

Scientists Work to Protect Trees in Southeast Alaska from Non-Native Longhorned Beetles

Alex Vaisvil, a student intern from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, lowers a Lindgren multi-funnel trap to lure longhorned beetles from the mid-canopy in the Tongass National Forest. Traps were located in the forest as part of a study to refine woodborer trapping methods in Southeast Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Elizabeth Graham)

Alex Vaisvil, a student intern from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, lowers a Lindgren multi-funnel trap to lure longhorned beetles from the mid-canopy in the Tongass National Forest. Traps were located in the forest as part of a study to refine woodborer trapping methods in Southeast Alaska. (U.S. Forest Service/Elizabeth Graham)

Non-native longhorned beetles are easily transported around the world in solid wood packing material, arriving in a new location with no natural enemies to control their populations. Across the country, many of these non-native beetles, particularly the Asian longhorned beetle, have killed tens of thousands of hardwood trees, especially in eastern states.

Will these pests ravage trees in Southeast Alaska? U.S. Forest Service specialists are working to determine ways to prevent the kind of devastation they’ve had elsewhere. Read more »

#AgStrong Innovation in Rural America

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.

For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources.  Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably.  State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent. Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »

Conservation Program to Launch Bold Ideas, Accelerate Innovation

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

NRCS Chief Weller talks with partners, conservation agencies and landowners during a conservation tour in Illinois.

When USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the Regional Conservation Partnership Program, (RCPP) we envisioned a program that would help local and diverse organizations to accelerate innovation, bring new partners to the table, and demonstrate the value and effectiveness of voluntary, private lands conservation to a national audience.

The response was tremendous! More than 5,000 partners submitted nearly 600 pre-proposals from all 50 states and each critical conservation area. The total amount of NRCS funding requested was more than six times what was available. About $2.7 billion in federal assistance was requested, but incredibly these partnerships offered about $2.9 billion in leveraged conservation funding and in-kind support to deliver their projects. In the end, NRCS has about $394 million in total funding to co-invest in projects during this first signup. Read more »

New Program Helps Bringing Technology and Innovation to Market

An abundant blackberry crop that is easier to harvest on the Rotating Cross-Arm Trellis, which is on the market thanks to an SBIR loan. Photo Fumiomi Takeda, ARS.

An abundant blackberry crop that is easier to harvest on the Rotating Cross-Arm Trellis, which is on the market thanks to an SBIR loan. Photo Fumiomi Takeda, ARS.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Research, even cutting edge research, is often only half the battle when it comes to solving an agricultural problem. You’ve got to get those results out of the laboratory and into the market place before people can use them.

But a new facet of USDA’s Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture set up this summer will help make it a little easier for technologies from the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) to do just that.

USDA’s SBIR program makes grants to small businesses to help move agricultural research down the road to commercial products. Read more »

No Sour Grapes for a Nebraska Vinegar Crafter

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

Fifteen years ago, George Johnson and his daughter, Emily, began their first foray into winemaking, vinifying local wild grapes and other fruits in their home in rural Cody, Nebraska. At the suggestion of a family friend, they began to experiment with turning their uniquely flavored wines into vinegar, and today, Johnson operates one of the most successful independent vinegar businesses in the nation. With customers in every state and the loyalty of top chefs in Omaha, St. Louis, and Chicago, George Paul Vinegars offers a product ripe with old-world methodology and modern entrepreneurial spirit.

With the help of a $40,000 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, the Johnsons conducted a feasibility study to gauge the likelihood of success for an independent vinegary in rural Nebraska, and were thrilled when the study indicated enormous potential for their unique product. With continued support from a Nebraska Agricultural Innovation Value-Added Agriculture grant from the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, George Paul Vinegars produces seven handcrafted varieties ranging from standards like apple cider and raspberry vinegars to more specialized flavors, including Johnson’s signature “Emilia” blend. Read more »