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From Small Potatoes to 36,000 Pounds of Carrots: Farm to School Grows

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

In the past few years I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories about successful farm to school programs. As reflected in the first USDA Farm to School Census, farm to school programs are thriving from Alaska to Florida and in every state between.

I attended a recent event that demonstrates just how quickly—and by what lengths—farm to school is growing. On January 15th, students in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were served sliced carrots grown at a farm only 90 miles away in Milwaukee. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Building Blocks for a Healthier America

At USDA, we are working hard to ensure that America’s next generation has access to the healthy foods they need to grow, learn, achieve, and eventually to compete and succeed on a global stage.

We are focused on feeding a healthier future, but we are also learning that the country as a whole is making the shift towards a more health-conscious society. USDA recently released a study that shows that the diets of American adults are improving. More people are reading nutrition labels and using that information to make healthier food choices at the grocery stores. We are eating out less and sitting down around the supper table with family more. Read more »

Organization Honors Farmers for Outreach Efforts, Innovation

Alphonse and Martha Dotson worked with NRCS to conserve water and improve soil health on their Texas vineyard.

Alphonse and Martha Dotson worked with NRCS to conserve water and improve soil health on their Texas vineyard.

The National Organization of Professional Black Natural Resources Conservation Service Employees recently honored three farm families at their annual outreach and agricultural education exposition.

The Lloyd Wright Small Farmer Award is named after the organization’s founder. The award is given to producers who share a passion for improving awareness and development in the field of agriculture. The organization selected Kentucky rancher William E. Boulden, Jr. for first place, Texas grape growers Alphonse and Martha Dotson for second, and Mississippi ranchers Percy and Emma Brown for third. Read more »

Celebrate the Chinese New Year While Being Citrus Smart

If you are sending citrus gifts, learn how to do it responsibly by visiting www.saveourcitrus.org

If you are sending citrus gifts, learn how to do it responsibly by visiting www.saveourcitrus.org

Out with the snake, in with horse! January 31 marks the start of the Chinese New Year. Many people will be enjoying the rich cultural traditions of this holiday such as food, parades and exchanging gifts. One traditional Chinese New Year gift is citrus fruit, such as mandarin oranges and tangerines. This fruit is said to bring luck, wealth and prosperity.

However, without proper precautions citrus can also bring something else that may not be so favorable—the Asian citrus psyllid. This pest carries citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease threatening the commercial citrus industry and homegrown citrus trees alike. Although it is not harmful to humans or animals, the disease is fatal for citrus trees and has no known cure. Read more »

Report: Cultivated Fruit, Nut and Flower Acres on the Rise

Barbara Robinson gets ready to plant tomatoes in her high tunnel at her farm, B&W Orchards. Robinson specializes in blueberries but grows other fruits and vegetables. Photo by NRCS.

Barbara Robinson gets ready to plant tomatoes in her high tunnel at her farm, B&W Orchards. Robinson specializes in blueberries but grows other fruits and vegetables. Photo by NRCS.

Known to her neighbors in Clarke County, Miss. as the blueberry lady, Barbara Robinson has a vibrant 20-acre farm packed with blueberries, muscadines and other produce. Robinson is one of the nation’s many fruit growers, and a recent USDA report shows the land dedicated to growing cultivated fruits, nuts and flowers is rapidly growing.

The National Resources Inventory released recently by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service shows a boom in land dedicated to growing fruits, nuts and flowers, increasing from 124,800 acres in 2007 to 273,800 in 2010. Cultivated refers to farms that plant a second crop amid the fruit, nut and flower crop. This finding is one of many in the newest NRI report.

While the report only provides the numbers and doesn’t make inferences, experts at NRCS say one reason for the growth is more available assistance to fruit, nut and flower growers. Read more »

Beginning Farmer Seeks Greener Pastures, Sustainable Future

NRCS District Conservationist Kate Parsons discusses pasture management with Sean Stanton. NRCS photo.

NRCS District Conservationist Kate Parsons discusses pasture management with Sean Stanton. NRCS photo.

When Sean Stanton started improving the pastures surrounding his small farm in Great Barrington, Mass., his efforts not only benefited the natural resources of this scenic southwest corner of Berkshire County but also diners at a Manhattan restaurant.

That’s because he supplies the Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village with pasture-raised beef, veal and pork, as well as eggs and farm-fresh tomatoes. At Blue Hills Farm in Massachusetts, a herd of 20 or so cattle feed in a field skirted by the Appalachian Trail and the rolling Berkshire hills.  Some of the farm’s products stay in the Berkshires and some make their way to bigger markets less than three hours away in the Big Apple. Read more »