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Heroes of the Harvest

Jonathan Cobb holding grain near his tractor

Jonathan Cobb says that with a new focus on soil health, "We got rid of all of the tillage equipment, and just dove in,” with cover crops. Photo: Ron Nichols.

NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American. For these reasons and more, America’s Harvest Heroes deserve our thanks.

Texas Producer Changes his Mind about Leaving the Farm

Jonathan Cobb had made up his mind. He was leaving the farm.

“I was disillusioned with farming in general because we were just pushing long days and chasing acres and it didn’t seem like there was very much reward,” Cobb said. “That quality of life was not very good. My wife was having to work a lot of hours full time and really support the family. Twenty-five hundred acres really didn’t support two families, and we weren’t living extravagant lifestyles by any means.” Read more »

Celebrate the Mysterious World of Caves, a Home for Bats during International Bat Week

Lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus in the desert Southwest

Lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus in the desert Southwest. Photo: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International

What images enter your mind when you think of caves or bats? Many people’s initial thoughts center around small spaces, dark places and the misleading myths surrounding the world’s only flying mammal. Both caves and bats are part of a fascinating story found in your national forests and grasslands.

“Natural caves are some of the most unique and complex resources managed by the Forest Service,” said Cynthia Sandeno, a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “Caves are also home to many living things like bats that play a vital role in our everyday lives, by controlling insects and pollinating plants like agave.” Read more »

Fall Migration Underway – Make Sure to Protect Your Poultry with Good Biosecurity Practices

Chickens grazing on a pasture

Chickens grazing on a pasture.

Earlier this year, we experienced this country’s largest outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza, affecting more than 200 commercial and backyard poultry flocks.  While there have been no new cases since mid-June, we ask that all poultry owners stay alert and be vigilant.  This virus can be carried by wild waterfowl (who do not get sick from it).  The fall migration is underway, so these migratory ducks, geese and other birds have the potential to bring the virus with them anywhere in the country.  It doesn’t mean they will – but they could.   So if you own or handle poultry, it is essential to follow good biosecurity practices at all times.

What is biosecurity?  Biosecurity means taking some simple steps to keep your birds away from germs AND germs away from your birds.   If you follow good biosecurity, you will help ensure your birds remain healthy.  As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593. Read more »

USDA Helps Bring Bison Back to Colorado’s Prairies

A surrogate mother bison standing guard over her new baby

A surrogate mother bison stands guard over her new baby. The young bison is part of the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd – a group of genetically-pure and disease-free bison established by Colorado State University, APHIS-Veterinary Services, the City of Fort Collins and Larimer County, Colorado. Photo by John Eisele, Colorado State University.

New greeters welcome visitors to the USDA-APHIS National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) in Fort Collins, Colorado. They are big, hairy, and far from shy.

Twelve bison are housed on Colorado State University (CSU) land adjacent to NWRC’s front gate.  These bison are part of a collaborative reproductive study among APHIS-Veterinary Services (VS), CSU, the City of Fort Collins, and Larimer County, Colorado. Read more »

Preparing for a ‘Silver Tsunami’

Kate Nichols (right), a caregiver/member-owner of the Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative, helping client Bess Christman get some exercise with golden retriever Amber

Kate Nichols (right), a caregiver/member-owner of the Circle of Life Caregiver Cooperative, helps client Bess Christman get some exercise, ably assisted by golden retriever Amber. Photo by Kathleen English, courtesy Circle of Life.

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re highlighting several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services.  This Co-op Month blog courtesy of Deborah Craig, co-op development specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center, discusses the need for senior health care options in rural America and how the co-op model is rising up to meet the challenge.

A new homecare cooperative is being formed to bring client-centered care to the elderly and handicapped in the coastal town of Port Townsend, Wash., population of just under 10,000. A sense of community runs strong here, and is especially felt for elders. When local caregivers, dissatisfied with current homecare options, met to discuss alternatives, a central concern was the ability to create locally owned, quality homecare services. Read more »

How Can We Support Affordable, Nutritious Diets? Reduce Wasted Food

Let's Talk Trash infographic

“Let’s Talk Trash” raises awareness about food waste and provides tips to help consumers reduce food waste at home. (Click to enlarge)

Looking for a way to stretch your food dollars?  Would an extra $30 per month for each person in your household help?  That’s about $370 per person per year, or almost $1,500 for a family of four.  That’s the amount of money USDA estimates the average American spends on food that’s not eaten.  It is the equivalent of approximately 2 months’ worth of groceries in a year. 

Reducing food loss and waste is an important part of maximizing household budgets. USDA has initiated a number of projects to help consumers reduce wasted food and improve overall nutrition.  Most recently, USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) launched a new section on to raise awareness about how much edible food is wasted nationwide, along with a range of resources supporting food waste reduction efforts, including a new infographic titled “Let’s Talk Trash. There are also tips on ways to reduce food waste at home. Read more »