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Natural Resources Conservation Service Helps Michigan Tribes with Wild Rice Production

Larry Romanelli, with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema (left) and NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee (right) pose with artist Shirley M. Brauker, the winner of the agency’s Native American Heritage Month poster contest. NRCS photo.

Larry Romanelli, with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians Ogema (left) and NRCS Michigan State Conservationist Garry Lee (right) pose with artist Shirley M. Brauker, the winner of the agency’s Native American Heritage Month poster contest. NRCS photo.

When the Anishinaabe people migrated from the Atlantic Ocean coast to Michigan centuries ago, they were in search of a place where “food grows on the water,” according to their tribe’s legend. Their quest ended when they found wild rice, thriving in shallow waters in the Great Lakes region.

The wild rice, or manoomin, served as a staple of the Anishinaabe diet is still culturally and spiritually important to them. And, today, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is helping keep this tradition alive.

NRCS has worked with two Anishinaabe tribes to increase the number of wild rice beds using financial assistance from Farm Bill conservation programs. The Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was the first tribe to use NRCS assistance for planting rice. Tribal members planted about 12 acres of wild rice at six locations in 2006. Read more »

Food Hubs – Building Businesses and Sustaining Communities

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

An infographic looking at how food hubs are building businesses and sustaining communities. Click to view a larger version.

Food is a great equalizer.  Whether sharing it with loved ones around our holiday table or worrying about how we’re going to fit lunch in to our busy work days–food is something we all have in common.  But we don’t always think about the path it takes to get to our plates or even the store shelves.  And while there are many different ways it gets to us, we’re seeing food hubs play an increasingly important role for everyone along the way–farmer to corner store, chef to school lunch.

Food hubs are innovative business models emerging more and more across the country. They bring farmers and suppliers together, with 81 percent of food hubs focusing on increasing opportunities for local farms and allowing smaller producers to pool their products and fulfill larger contracts. Ninety-one percent of food hubs are near cities, connecting rural farmers to larger suburban and urban communities.  Oftentimes, farmers who work with food hubs offer a wider variety of products and are able to continue selling their goods later into the growing season.  That translated into an average of over $3.7 million in sales in the last year.  And USDA’s efforts have helped expand the number of regional food hubs operating around the country.  There are over 230, a 65 percent increase since 2009. Read more »

USDA Announces Farm to School Grant Awards

USDA Farm to School grants help get healthy, local foods into schools and teach children where their food comes from. (Photo Credit: Kelly Campbell)

USDA Farm to School grants help get healthy, local foods into schools and teach children where their food comes from. (Photo Credit: Kelly Campbell)

I just spent the morning calling people who had applied to receive a USDA Farm to School grant. They were fun calls to make as I was letting this year’s awardees know their project had been selected for funding.

Today USDA announced awards for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support USDA’s efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School program.

USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. Selected projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45 percent of whom live in rural communities. Projects are diverse: Read more »

Prince Follows Great-Grandfather’s Steps through the Forest

Prince Albert II of Monaco poses in between Wapiti District Ranger Sue Stresser and Shoshone Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander. (U.S. Forest Service/ Kristie Salzmann)

Prince Albert II of Monaco poses in between Wapiti District Ranger Sue Stresser and Shoshone Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander. (U.S. Forest Service/ Kristie Salzmann)

On a beautiful fall day on America’s first national forest, Prince Albert II of Monaco retraced the steps his great-grandfather took 100 years ago through the wilderness of the Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming.

Prince Albert II helped celebrate on Sept. 20 the centennial anniversary of the hunting trip his great-grandfather, Prince Albert I, took with now-historic figures William “Buffalo Bill” Cody and Abraham Archibald Anderson, the first Special Superintendent of Forest Reserves. The successful hunting trip cemented lasting relationships between the men and established an area in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, which is still known today as Camp Monaco. Read more »

Cover Crops Improve Soil & Provide Food for Cattle

The Bremmer family has raised cattle and grown crops in northwestern Illinois for more than a century. Over time, they’ve found ways to improve their operation — the latest improvement is the use of cover crops.

Brothers Ross and Chad Bremmer, fourth-generation farmers, are already seeing the benefits of cover crops — healthy food for their cattle, less erosion and an increase in the soil’s water-storage capacity.

The brothers worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to find the best cover crops for their land. They were looking for a cover crop that helped the soil while providing good sustenance for their cattle. Read more »

Breadfruit: Bad News for Mosquitoes

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds on an artificial membrane loaded with a blood substitute as part of tests that have shown that natural compounds found in breadfruit flowers are highly effective at repelling biting bugs. (Photo by Peggy Greb, ARS)

A female Aedes aegypti mosquito feeds on an artificial membrane loaded with a blood substitute as part of tests that have shown that natural compounds found in breadfruit flowers are highly effective at repelling biting bugs. (Photo by Peggy Greb, ARS)

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

Breadfruit has been a hit in Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia for more than 3,000 years because of its many pluses:  This tropical staple food crop is plentiful and packed with nutrients.  It’s hailed by some as a possible solution to world hunger, but it could play a totally different—but equally important—role in saving lives.

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have found that breadfruit flowers contain three chemicals that work wonderfully for repelling flying insects, including mosquitoes.  In Hawaii and other regions, people have known for years that burning dried clusters of the flowers, known as “male inflorescences,” can keep bugs at bay. Read more »