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Georgia School Gardens Nourish Healthy Habits

Administrator Audrey Rowe joining Bibb County School District and Alexander II Magnet School faculty and students in their school garden

Administrator Audrey Rowe joins Bibb County School District and Alexander II Magnet School faculty and students in their school garden.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 celebrated its fifth anniversary last month, and I can tell you it has made a difference!  I think back on the past five years and am proud of the strides we’ve made in giving students access to more local and healthy food in our schools.

Accompanied by FNS Administrator Audrey Rowe, I had a wonderful visit with two Georgia elementary schools this fall. Our trip to Alexander II Magnet School in Bibb County and Westside Elementary School in Houston County highlighted 2015 National School Lunch Week celebrations (October 12-16) and offered a great example of progress on the school meals front. Read more »

Oregon Organic Farmer Unlocks Soil Health Secrets and Boosts Production

Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm with tomatoes

Becoming a certified organic producer presents a unique set of restrictions and challenges. Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm overcomes those challenges with the help of a powerful ally: healthy soil. Photo by Bob Stobaugh

For agricultural producers, it’s an age-old question: How do you grow the largest, healthiest, most-profitable crops possible? Oregon organic farmer Chris Roehm says the secret is in the soil.

Co-owner and operator of Square Peg Farm in Forest Grove, Roehm is among a growing number of producers, both conventional and organic, who are realizing the benefits of improving the health and function of their soil through working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Lessons from USDA’s Farmers Market Help Local Food Businesses

A Timber Pizza employee working

Timber Pizza’s success at USDA Farmers Market helped fuel its expansion. (USDA photo by Richard Tyner)

The USDA Farmers Market, next to the Department’s headquarters and steps from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is a “living laboratory” for identifying and testing strategies to help support local and regional food systems.

To mark the 20th anniversary of the market, my colleagues and I at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which manages the weekly Friday market, tried a few new approaches during the 2015 season.  Our goals were to make the market more successful for vendors and more enticing to visitors.

For example, we opened the market a month early–in May instead of in June.  We also redesigned the layout of the market, allowing us to more than double the number of vendors from 14 to 32. Read more »

46 Million-Year-Old Eocene World in a Forest

Kishenehn fossil mosquito

Kishenehn fossil mosquitoes are among the best preserved Eocene insects in the world. Scale bar is 2 mm. (Photo credit: D. Greenwalt & C. Labandeira, Smithsonian Institution.)

An intrepid fossil hunter on the U.S. Forest Service’s Flathead National Forest in northwest Montana doesn’t need to dig too deep to find exquisitely preserved fossil insects with traces of their original stomach contents. Amazing as this sounds you just need to visit rock outcrops of the Kishenehn Formation exposed on the banks of the Flathead River.

There, researchers affiliated with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History have discovered a treasure trove of tiny, 46-million year old fossil insects from the Eocene Epoch, which were deposited in sediments of an ancient lake early during the Age of Mammals. The preserved insects—over 7,000 specimens have been collected over the last several years—include fossil mosquitos. At least one specimen preserves an abdomen still engorged from its last meal. Read more »

Organic Sound and Sensible Resources: Understanding Rules, Certification, and Inspections

A tractor on a farm

Farmers and producers debunk common myths around organic certification in a new Sound & Sensible video resource.

Last month, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s National Organic Program (NOP) announced new resources resulting from our Sound and Sensible Initiative, which is making organic certification more accessible, affordable, and attainable. Today, we are introducing more guides, videos, and other tools – all produced by our partners in the organic community. These resources help farms and businesses understand the USDA organic standards, certification process, and inspections in more depth. Read more »

Innovative Program Promotes Rotational Grazing in Chesapeake Bay Area

Cows grazing on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD

Cows graze on a farm in Upper Marlboro, MD.

“Who better to share the benefits of intensive rotational grazing than farmers who are actually doing it on their lands?” asked Beth L. McGee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation Senior Regional Water Quality Scientist.

Intensive grazing systems, a type of rotational grazing that uses higher per acre stocking rates in smaller grazing or pasture units, can provide multiple benefits for farmers and the environment. These systems can help maintain and enhance farm profitability while reducing labor and input costs. Compared to more traditional confinement operations, intensive grazing can result in improved soil health, an increase in sequestered carbon and decreased emissions of other greenhouse gases. Read more »