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West Virginia Farms Feeding Families

Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, visits with Alicia Cowell and son Shawn at a West Virginia farmers’ market where the family is using WIC vouchers to help purchase fruits and vegetables.

Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, visits with Alicia Powell and son Shawn at a West Virginia farmers’ market where the family is using WIC vouchers to help purchase fruits and vegetables.

I recently took a drive out to Martinsburg, West Virginia to visit Orr’s Farm Market .  The Orr’s market, like dozens in the area, stock fresh fruits and vegetables just harvested from the nearby fields and fertile orchards.  In fact, more than 95 percent of Orr’s produce is grown just feet from where I strolled: an impressive display of berries, sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes, and a wide assortment of peach varieties of every imaginable type.  But fresh and local produce isn’t all I found at Orr’s.  You see, this market, along with many more around the country, welcomes participants in USDA food and nutrition programs–and that is very good news. Read more »

USDA Promotes Breastfeeding

Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, chats with the Shenandoah Valley Community Breastfeeding support group August 6 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs, chats with the Shenandoah Valley Community Breastfeeding support group August 6 in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

I recently had the pleasure to spend a little time with some expecting and nursing mothers in Martinsburg, West Virginia.  It was the first meeting of a newly formed community breastfeeding support group planned to coincide with World Breastfeeding Week.  My friend Mitch Greenbaum, Director of Shenandoah Valley WIC and Nutrition Services, and his team of trained WIC nutritionists, board-certified lactation consultants and breastfeeding peer counselors, hosted nearly two dozen pregnant and nursing mothers to talk about how important breastfeeding is for both mother and child and how to have a satisfying and healthy breastfeeding experience. Read more »

Conservation on the Ground in Kansas

The hayrack provided transportation for those on the conservation tour. Rep. Moran stands in the field as he listens to John Bradley explain plans to improve the field on the left. John’s low-stress grazing system benefits both his cattle and the environment (and makes life a lot easier on him as well).

The hayrack provided transportation for those on the conservation tour. Rep. Moran stands in the field as he listens to John Bradley explain plans to improve the field on the left. John’s low-stress grazing system benefits both his cattle and the environment (and makes life a lot easier on him as well).

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is a federal agency that provides one-on-one conservation assistance to farmers, ranchers and other private landowners. We help landowners grow food and other crops in more efficient, environmentally friendly ways to protect the natural resources that we all depend upon—water, soil, air and wildlife. With 70 percent of land in the lower 48 states in private hands, the choices these landowners make truly determine the health of the environment. Read more »

USDA Joins Maryland in Celebrating Farmer’s Markets

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon discusses SNAP benefits at Park Heights Community Farmers’ Market in Baltimore.

Under Secretary Kevin Concannon discusses SNAP benefits at Park Heights Community Farmers’ Market in Baltimore.

I recently visited the Park Heights Community Farmers’ Market in Baltimore, Maryland.  At USDA we’re enthusiastic about farmers markets because they help fulfill two of our primary missions – promoting good nutrition and supporting United States agriculture, especially family farmers.  Farmers’ markets also boost local communities through increased outlets for local farmers.

Park Heights is one of nine farmers’ markets in Maryland to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and one of 97 that accept WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program checks.  Like thousands across the country, the Park Heights market provides access to farm-fresh, affordable foods for low-income individuals, seniors, children and families.

Increasing the number of farmers’ markets that participate in our federal nutrition programs, especially SNAP, is a priority for USDA because farmers markets help introduce low-income families to a wide variety of nutritious foods and help them get into the habit of making healthier choices.

I am pleased to say that over the past five years, the number of farmers’ markets participating in SNAP has increased by 250 percent, with over 1100 farmers markets participating nationwide.

Farmers’ market foods are also important in getting our youngest children off to a healthy start – even before they are born.  In Maryland, more than 42,000 WIC participants have access to fresh, healthy food through the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, which serves low-income pregnant women, nursing mothers, their infants, and young children.

Nearly 7,000 low-income seniors in Maryland have used Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program benefits at local markets.

I really enjoyed my time at the Park Heights Community Farmers Market.  When I think about the time I lived in Maine, Oregon and Iowa, I remember the delicious blueberries, crisp pears and fresh sweet corn – all grown locally.  Hopefully, working together, we can help ensure that all Americans can experience the health and well-being that comes with supporting farmers markets.

USDA Forest Service, Partners, Go Live for Pollinators from the USDA National Arboretum

The USDA Forest Service, Prince William County School District and other partners will host a live webcast – “PollinatorLIVE:  A Distance Learning Adventure – on Wednesday, Sept. 29 from the Washington Youth Garden at the USDA National Arboretum. Read more »

Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Views Recovery Act Project that Improves the Environment and Creates Jobs in Maryland

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers at the Berlin plant site.  The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing construction jobs across the nation.

Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers at the Berlin plant site. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing construction jobs across the nation.

The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack visited the town of Berlin, Maryland, Monday to check up on the upgrades that are taking place to improve the Berlin Wastewater Treatment Plant. Secretary Vilsack is the highest-ranking federal official to visit the town since Franklin D. Roosevelt was there in the 1930s.  The Secretary spoke to the people of Berlin in front of the Atlantic Hotel about the status of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The technology that the Town of Berlin is installing as a part of that act was made possible thanks to a grant and some low interest Water and Environmental Program loans from the USDA. These upgrades will help to remove the pathogens, nutrients and other pollutants from the influent.  The renovation and expansion that the USDA is funding will increase the capacity at the plant to 750,000 gallons each day and make the facility compliant with current Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) Standards.  The Secretary said that these upgrades will save or create over 65 jobs in our area. Read more »