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A Lesson in Agricultural Alchemy: Greening Brownfields into Economic Gold

Real Food Farms used EPA’s Brownfields Program to reclaim 6 acres in downtown Baltimore.  Once the land was ready for production, Real Food Farms accessed USDA funds to build a greenhouse.  Now, the farm grows food for the neighboring communities.  Photo by MD Department of Agriculture

Real Food Farms used EPA’s Brownfields Program to reclaim 6 acres in downtown Baltimore. Once the land was ready for production, Real Food Farms accessed USDA funds to build a greenhouse. Now, the farm grows food for the neighboring communities. Photo by MD Department of Agriculture

In Waterbury, Connecticut, vacant lots are becoming community greenhouses – growing jobs and growing food.  Roanoke, Virginia is planning to build raised beds in empty lots to become community gardens that increase healthy food access.  In Missoula, Montana, asbestos abatement is allowing a local food coop to expand its footprint to include a café and community kitchen and to increase their capacity to work with local farmers and schools. Read more »

Cheers to Butterflies

As the bartender drew pints of Silverspot India Pale Ale for the crush of people in the Pelican Pub and Brewery in Pacific City, Ore., recently, Michelle Dragoo, Siuslaw National Forest wildlife biologist, and Anne Walker, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist, prepared to tell the story of the butterfly that inspired the event. About 50 people grabbed a drink and a snack then settled in to listen.

Beer and endangered butterflies? Generally there’s not much in common there. But in this small western Oregon town they intersect in an interesting manner.

The Oregon silverspot butterfly once flourished in beach communities along the West Coast, but due to habitat loss they are found now in only a handful of protected areas, many of which are within the boundaries of the Siuslaw National Forest. Read more »

A USDA-funded Transfer Station Cuts Costs for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe was exceeding the landfill capacity of handling 20 tons a day of garbage at the central landfill in the Northeast corner of the Rosebud Reservation.  Garbage is hauled from twenty communities on the Reservation that range from 15 miles to 80 miles one way.  Approximately 30 tons of solid waste is generated daily on the Rosebud Reservation.

Recently the Rosebud Sioux Tribe received USDA Water and Environmental loan and grant funds to construct a new transfer station.  The project has made the operation cost effective and improved trash collection for residents on the Reservation.

A central transfer station located closer to where most of the garbage is generated allows the Tribe to minimize trips to the landfill, alleviate wear on equipment, minimize dumpster overflow and illegal dumping, and allow the Tribe to participate in recycling efforts resulting in saving space and extending the life of the landfill.  In addition, the modernization of the transfer station has provided the members of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe efficiencies in managing how the solid waste is handled and disposed of.   What used to take almost 5 days for pick-up now takes 3.5 days, which is a huge labor savings, plus, fuel costs have dropped. Read more »

Conservation Makes a Difference in Drought-Stricken Areas

Rancher Willie Utley of Benavides, Texas and Sammy Guerra, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Benavides, Tex., discuss the successful drilling of the water well they’re standing behind. (NRCS photo/Beverly Moseley)

Rancher Willie Utley of Benavides, Texas and Sammy Guerra, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service district conservationist in Benavides, Tex., discuss the successful drilling of the water well they’re standing behind. (NRCS photo/Beverly Moseley)

For months, South Texas ranchers have been struggling to keep cattle fed and watered through extraordinary drought conditions. Water wells and stock tanks have run dry, and some ranchers are left with no alternative but to truck water in to cattle. Read more »

SNAP: New Rules Aim to Expand Access to Farmers’ Markets!

USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (used with permission)

USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). (used with permission)

As USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, I can tell you that there are few things I enjoy more than visiting one of the many thousands of farmers’ markets in communities across our verdant country. There’s just no better opportunity to sample the bounty of American agriculture.

The fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods you can find at farmers’ markets are the foundation of sound nutrition. Which is why USDA is working hard to expand access to farmers’ markets for those participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Read more »

FAS-Supported Project Helps Pakistani Farmers Reach Modern Markets

A Pakistani farmer from the Balochistan Province picks grapes. With the help of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress program, Winrock International partnered with the Safina Cold Store to provide an in-kind grant of modern equipment and remodel the facilities — upgrading the cold store to a modern storage facility for locally produced apples, grapes, pomegranates and dates throughout the year.  (Courtesy Photo)

A Pakistani farmer from the Balochistan Province picks grapes. With the help of the Foreign Agricultural Service’s (FAS) Food for Progress program, Winrock International partnered with the Safina Cold Store to provide an in-kind grant of modern equipment and remodel the facilities — upgrading the cold store to a modern storage facility for locally produced apples, grapes, pomegranates and dates throughout the year. (Courtesy Photo)

USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) partners with a variety of non-profit groups, cooperatives and international organizations to promote food security and develop agricultural capacity in countries around the world. Recently, I had a chance to read a report that highlights the successful partnership between FAS and Winrock International in Pakistan that I wanted to share with blog readers. Read more »