Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Urban Youth Discover Conservation can be Life Changing

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer with Greening Youth Foundation members

Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer visits with members of the Greening Youth Foundation while hiking at Cascade Springs. Photo credit: Michael Williams

A peaceful forest setting mixed with sounds of birds and running water provides a feeling of solitude one would expect in a remote wilderness. But this area is anything but remote. Nestled in the shadow of Atlanta’s metropolitan skyline resides a green jewel so secluded and tucked away that many pass the main entrance without even noticing.

Part of the larger Atlanta Children’s Forest Network, Cascade Springs Nature Preserve provides 135 acres of isolated urban forest inside Atlanta’s perimeter. The Children’s Forest is instrumental in connecting underserved communities with conservation education and career paths. Yet for six young adults from inner-city Atlanta, these hidden woodlands in the heart of the city represent more than a forested landscape; they symbolize life-altering experiences. Read more »

New Tools Bring Lenders to the Table for Local, Regional Food Enterprises

Farm Fresh's Warehouse Manager Alex Mendonca and Market Mobile Manager Kimberly Garofolo

Farm Fresh's Warehouse Manager Alex Mendonca (middle) and Market Mobile Manager Kimberly Garofolo (right) work on the early morning packline. They work together to perform a final quality inspection before orders are packed onto delivery trucks.

Open any food magazine these days and you’re bound to find a profile of the latest locavore start-up turning cream and cantaloupe into craft popsicles or maple sap into a whole new category of bottled beverages.  As consumer demand for local foods continues to climb like pole beans, venture capitalists are scouring this sector in search of the next hot investment.

USDA has long been investing in this space too, for the good of rural economies. And now we’re unveiling a new online interactive training to help other funders understand the work of regional food enterprises that are connecting local producers with local markets, and why they might want to invest in a piece of this pie. Read more »

Safeguarding Consumers from Olive Oil Fraud

USDA Quality Monitored Seal

Olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers can be assured that olive oils with labels bearing the USDA’s Quality Monitoring Program (QMP) seal are pure and authentic.

Olive oil is a staple in many American kitchens. But, this popular product has also been the focus of concerned consumers who want to understand and trust the quality of the oil they buy.

To help the entire industry—olive oil producers, bottlers and consumers—ensure that products are pure and authentic, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) provides the Quality Monitoring Program (QMP). Read more »

Working Together To Prepare Forests For A Changing Climate

Large white pines

Large white pines are retained in a 110 year-old plantation, while canopy gaps were created to initiate regeneration of hardwood species at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park. Photo by Kyle Jones, National Park Service

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.”

It can be a daunting task to try to plan for something as big and complex as climate change. Uncertainty, whether we will be facing drought, extreme storms—or both—from one year to the next, may make planning for healthy and productive forests seem impossible for managers and landowners.

Just like no two forests are alike, neither are the people who own or manage them.  The different values and goals are reflected in the variety of decisions people make when responding to risks or incentives.  The USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) are focused on helping people think about climate change in a way that’s practical and relevant to their particular goals.  We use the Adaptation Workbook to help all kinds of organizations and people consider climate adaptation while meeting their land stewardship goals. Read more »

Be Fire Wise: Preparing Your Home for Wildfire Season

A Fire Wise protected home

A Fire Wise protected home with landscaping designed to minimize fuel that would feed a fire to the doorstep.

Very often, the difference between saving your home in a wild fire and losing it to the flames is pretty much determined by what you do to prepare your property. The U.S. Forest Service calls it being Fire Wise.

I’ve had personal experience in the importance of clearing a wide perimeter around your property to deny fuel—dried wood, grass and trees—to a fire. Back about ten years ago my grandparents’ ranch house near the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County was spared because of a 150-foot clear space between the flames and the house. And this wasn’t the first time that had happened. Read more »

Talking Local Food: Measuring Progress and Creating Opportunities

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko, Bee Thorp, Susan Hill with USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.

Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them.  We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need.  Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.

During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production.  Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub.  The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA.  I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »