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Soils Support Urban Life

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This is one of a continuing series of blogs to mark this observance.

Soil is defined as a dynamic natural body that is made up of solids, liquid and gases and occurs on the earth’s surface, contains living matter, and supports or is capable of supporting plants.  But soil is bigger than this.

Civilizations have either flourished or perished partly based on this natural resource and the capability of its people to manage and use it wisely. We all depend on the soil, regardless of where we live – rural or urban. Read more »

Teach Healthier Meals in a SNAP!

Zucchini Coleslaw is a delicious alternative to sweet coleslaws. Adding salsa instead of sugar to the coleslaw sauce gives each serving more nutrients and more flavor. Photo credit: Jennifer M. Anderson.

Zucchini Coleslaw is a delicious alternative to sweet coleslaws. Adding salsa instead of sugar to the coleslaw sauce gives each serving more nutrients and more flavor. Photo credit: Jennifer M. Anderson.

This is the fourth installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will highlight the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.

Attention nutrition educators helping Americans make healthy and budget-friendly choices—this edition of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series is for you!  If you haven’t already heard, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipes have a new home on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl web site. This site combines recipes designed for SNAP-Ed, child nutrition programs, the food distribution program, and ChooseMyPlate.gov.  Visit What’s Cooking?  USDA Mixing Bowl, and you will see that there are hundreds of healthy recipes for educators to browse and use in nutrition education programming. For example, how do Zucchini Coleslaw, Mozzarella Chicken with Garlic Spinach, A Simple Mexican Salad, or Ginger Orange Muffins sound?

Many of the recipes found in What’s Cooking?  USDA Mixing Bowl were created for educating recipients of SNAP benefits. The goal of the education component of SNAP, commonly called SNAP-Ed, is to improve the likelihood that persons eligible for SNAP will make healthy choices, within a limited budget, consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPlate.  The SNAP recipes were developed by SNAP-Ed educators to do just that! Read more »

An Amphibian Only a Mother (or Biologist) Could Love Needs your Attention

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches.  Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators.  (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

The Eastern hellbender is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 24 inches. Hellbenders need clean streams with high water quality and silt-free streambeds to find their prey and avoid predators. (Copyright photo courtesy Freshwaters Illustrated/Dave Herasimtschuk)

Hiding beneath a pile of rocks in a clear mountain stream flowing from the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina lurks North America’s largest salamander, the Eastern hellbender.  It is also locked in battle between its perilous decline and valiant struggle for survival.

Sediment from runoff, prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic and veterinary drugs, personal care products such as soaps, fragrances and cosmetics, other chemical pollutants, and the physical disturbance of its rocky lairs by unknowing recreationalists are all suspects contributing to the hellbender’s decline. Read more »

An Ag Outlook Audience Learns How Voluntary Conservation Can Help At-Risk Wildlife and Reduce the Need for Regulation

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Meet seven at-risk species that benefit from habitat restoration and enhancement through NRCS’ Working Lands for Wildlife partnership. Infographic by Jocelyn Benjamin. Click to enlarge.

Regulations may be needed, but are they all we need? That was the common thread weaved through presentations by natural resource experts last week at USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Panelists included: Chris Hartley, deputy director of USDA’s Office of Environmental Markets; Jim Serfis, chief of the communications and candidate conservation branch of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (FWS); and Matthew Wohlman, assistant deputy commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. Read more »

Training Empowers Ag Boards to Recruit the Next Generation of Farmers

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center, first row) is thanked by AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (far right, first row) and members of the AMS research and promotion team for speaking at the diversity and inclusion training event on Feb. 18, 2015. USDA photo.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, and all of USDA are committed to supporting the next generation of farmers and ranchers and promoting diversity and inclusion in all sectors of agriculture. As Administrator of the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I had the pleasure of advancing these important priorities during our Research and Promotion Program (R&P) board diversity and inclusion training session, held in Northern Virginia prior to the 2015 Agricultural Outlook Forum.

Meeting participants – including more than 50 board members and board staff from 20 of the 22 R&P boards that we oversee, AMS employees, and representatives of Certified Nominating Organizations – gathered to tackle a serious issue: how to recruit talented and diverse board members who are representative of the industries they serve. The R&P boards allow farmers and ranchers to pool their resources and set common goals to develop new markets and strengthen current markets for the commodities they grow or handle. Read more »

Waving Wheat Still Smells Sweet in Oklahoma

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

Oklahoma Agriculture is diverse – both in the crops raised and in the farmers that work the land. Check back next week for another state spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Oklahoma consistently ranks in the top five states for beef cattle and winter wheat, but our agriculture is much more than just rolling fields of wheat and cattle. With more than 80,000 farms counted in the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Oklahoma remains in 4th position in the number of farms in the nation. The bulk of our farms are less than 500 acres in size, but contributed $2.2 billion dollars to the market value of agriculture products sold (including government payments).

The average age of farmers nationally and in Oklahoma is now 58.3 years, increasing in both since the last census. Here in Oklahoma however, this increase is happening at a significantly slower rate than the U.S. average. Read more »