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Farm to School Programs Come to Life on Video

In this video from Georgia Organics kids take a survey after tasting new foods.

In this video from Georgia Organics kids take a survey after tasting new foods.

Right before the Academy Awards I race around trying to see all the films that have been nominated. And right about now, with Farm to School Month about to come to a close, I’m feeling the same way about trying to absorb all the great information being shared this month.

As the USDA Farm to School Census shows, schools across the country are putting local foods on the school menu at breakfast, lunch and dinner; taking trips to the farm; integrating lessons about food and agriculture into the school’s curriculum; and sowing seeds in school gardens.

Lucky for me, and you, more and more school districts are documenting their good work through film. I took a break recently and got caught up. Here are just a few videos that I’d nominate for an Academy Award if there were a category for “Best Local Lunch Video.” Read more »

Local Food Makes the Grade: Farm to School and Beyond

If you are a regular USDA blog reader, you’ve heard about the new Farm to School Census, which shows the national farm to school footprint down to the school district level.  With farm to school purchases topping $350 million across the country and over 38,000 schools nationwide participating in farm to school activities, local food is making marks in schools.

But who produces all that local food?  How does the food make it from the farm to the lunch tray?  How are farmers and ranchers getting the support they need to take advantage of this, and other, blossoming local food market opportunities?  What role does the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and our federal partners play in the local food system? Read more »

Public TV Series Showcases NRCS, Working Lands for Wildlife

The bog turtle is one of America’s rarest, and NRCS and private landowners are working together to boost populations.

The bog turtle is one of America’s rarest, and NRCS and private landowners are working together to boost populations.

Private landowners have voluntarily restored more than 3.5 million acres of habitat to help seven at-risk species, such as the prairie chicken and bog turtle. And their stories will be highlighted this fall by “This American Land,” a public television series.

The new episode was released today (Oct. 28) and available on public TV stations across the United States.

The segment, called “Prairie Chickens and Bog Turtles,” will feature fifth-generation Kansas rancher Roy Beeley who has worked to help the lesser prairie chicken, an iconic bird of the southern Great Plains. Loss of habitat has caused the species to be proposed as a threatened species for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Read more »

Forest Service Puts Out ‘Bat’ Signal for You to Get Involved

Indiana bats, such as this one, are part of a monitoring program on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The bats are fitted with a radio transmitter and tracked to roosting locations throughout the life of the transmitter. (U.S. Forest Service)

Indiana bats, such as this one, are part of a monitoring program on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The bats are fitted with a radio transmitter and tracked to roosting locations throughout the life of the transmitter. (U.S. Forest Service)

Synonymous with a superhero signal in the sky and silhouettes hanging upside down in a darkened cave, bats inspire a long-standing fascination, and with good reason: Bats are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies world-wide.

With Halloween upon us and many people believing bats are creepy, the U.S. Forest Service wants to raise awareness about these mysterious and often misunderstood animals. For example, bats consume up to their body weight in insects every night, including agricultural and forest pests, thus reducing the need for chemical pesticides.

Almost a third of the world’s 1,200 species of bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants. In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants and essential seed dispersers with a major role in regenerating rainforests. Read more »

Helping SNAP Recipients Prepare for November 1st Benefit Changes

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients will see their monthly benefits decrease beginning on November 1st. As USDA’s top official in charge of the program, I want to ensure that SNAP recipients know that this change is coming and understand what it means for you and your families.

As you know, the amount of SNAP benefits each eligible household receives depends on many things, such as income, household size and expenses. In addition, SNAP households have been receiving an increased amount of benefits because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), a piece of legislation that provided a temporary boost in benefits to help individuals and families impacted by the economic downturn. Read more »

Ancient Pacific Creation Legend Promotes Soil Health

Ancient Palauans feeding the giant child, Chuab. This painting is common on traditional meeting houses. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Ancient Palauans feeding the giant child, Chuab. This painting is common on traditional meeting houses. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

Imagine talking about soil management to 50 farmers from Palau with a collective 1,500 years of experience. The Ngetkip Community’s minister of community and cultural affairs requested me, a resource conservationist with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Palau, to talk about soil.

These farmers mostly have no formal education or training. They still farm mostly with hand tools and as their parents and grandparents taught them. They know what to do, what works well and how to do it. But they don’t necessarily know why. Read more »