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Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »

Rural Community Development Spurs Growth

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.

Though many of us don’t see farmers every day, we certainly see and benefit from the products of their farms every day. Rural America makes many cameos in urban and suburban life, from the array of foods we eat to the sweaters our Olympic and sports champions wear and the batteries that power our cars. A recent White House blog states that although Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth. Infrastructure development, technological advancement and school improvement can contribute significantly to rural and community development strategies that could spur economic growth. USDA is committed to spreading the Nation’s prosperity to rural areas, and has a long history of funding programs aimed at promoting rural America. Read more »

Arkansas Woman Graduates from Youth Loan to Become FSA’s 13,000th Microloan Recipient

Dakota Williams with cattle

Dakota Williams said raising cattle is her career. At age 18, she already has plenty of experience and within the next 10 years she hopes to own her own farm. Photo by Kim Whitten Photography.

At age 18, Dakota Williams knows exactly what she wants to do with her life — own a farm and raise cattle.

“[Farming] is all I’ve ever known. I’m a third generation farmer, working the same land as my grandparents and I don’t want to see it end,” said Dakota. A member of the Cherokee tribe, Dakota said her ancestors lived off the land and she wants to honor them in her work. “Not many people can say they live in an area where their ancestors came from and they are still trying to make that land better.”

Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to improve housing, better educational opportunities, improve infrastructure and create employment and business opportunities for Native American families, including veterans and youth. Read more »

Team Up for School Nutrition Success

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden

American Heart Association’s Nancy Brown and Executive Director of the Dallas Independent School District’s Food and Child Nutrition Services work with children at the Charles Rice Learning Center in their school garden. (Photo credit: Dallas Independent School District)

The following guest blog highlights the important work of our partner the American Heart Association. The association is a tireless advocate for supporting nutritious options in all environments, including the workplace, grocery stores, restaurants, and schools.  AHA recently participated in USDA’s Team Up for School Nutrition Success initiative, connecting them with school nutrition professionals and other partners dedicated to supporting healthy habits in children that will last a lifetime.

By Kristy Anderson, Government Relations Manager, American Heart Association

It’s the number one killer of Americans and it costs the most to treat. Yet 80 percent of cardiovascular disease cases would disappear if we practiced a little prevention such as eating right and exercising more. Read more »

Behind the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Matt Russell

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO

Matt Russell (right) with his USDA colleagues Christina Conell (left) and Deborah Kane (center), at the 2015 USDA Farm to School Grantee Gathering in Denver, CO. The annual gathering is an opportunity for Farm to School grantees from across the country to meet face to face, network and share best practices.

“The term ‘farm to school’ involves thinking of the whole plate, so to speak. It’s about increasing the amount of local and regional foods served in school cafeterias while also increasing education and community outreach for kids, and creating market opportunities for producers.”

So says Matt Russell, Grant Program Manager for the Farm to School Program at USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).  Matt works to support school districts, non-profits, and other stakeholders in bringing more local and regional food into the school meal program. Read more »

Family Values Produce Success for Sorghum Industry Leader

Verity Ulibarri

Verity Ulibarri is the vice president for Farm Credit of New Mexico and a board director for the Sorghum Checkoff. Ulibarri is a fifth-generation farmer who always wanted to be a farmer.

Meet Verity Ulibarri

Family values have proven to be the source of Verity Ulibarri’s success. As the vice president for Farm Credit of New Mexico and a board director for the Sorghum Checkoff, the sorghum producer from New Mexico is making strides in the agriculture industry.

Ulibarri, a fifth-generation farmer, said she always wanted to be a farmer. She and her husband, Anthony, started their own farming operation in 2011. They grow sorghum and wheat and run stocker cattle on approximately 1,700 acres of land. Read more »