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Fermentation Fest – Innovation and Creativity in Rural Wisconsin

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

As we enter the autumn season, the harvest is on most Wisconsinites’ minds.   I’m particularly excited to be participating in an upcoming gathering in Reedsburg where the Wormfarm Institute’s annual Fermentation Fest will be taking place from October 4th through the 13th.   In addition to workshops on cooking and fermenting food, and even homebrewing, this “live culture convergence” will feature the nationally acclaimed Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile self-guided drive through the rolling hills and farmlands in the “Driftless Area” of Sauk County.

On that Sunday the 12th, from 4 to 6 pm I will be participating on a panel called “The Art of the Rural – Creating Thriving Places Beyond the City” at the Woolen Mill Gallery, 28 E Main St. in Reedburg. We’ll explore how local food systems and arts and culture can combine to be integral strategies for fostering economic development in rural areas. I will be joined by a distinguished panel which includes: Jamie Bennett, the President of ArtPlace America, a national philanthropy consortium; Matthew Fluharty of Washington University who leads Art of the Rural; Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells dairy farmer, rural sociologist and member of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, a 2014 recipient of a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, and Curt Meine, conservation biologist and Aldo Leopold biographer. Read more »

Continued Support for Local Food

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

USDA’s investments in local and regional food systems help provide farmers and ranchers with greater opportunities, consumers with more choices and bring jobs to rural and urban communities. USDA Photo.

Strong local food systems are one of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Vilsack’s four key pillars to revitalize rural economies.  On Monday, he announced the award of over $52 million to support local and regional food systems and the organic industry through five USDA grant programs. Most of the grants were authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill.

As part of that announcement, my agency—the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—awarded over $27 million in competitive grants to expand marketing through the new Farmers Market and Local Food Marketing Promotion Program, as well as over $1 million in matching grants through the Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP). For years, AMS has led USDA efforts to support local and regional food systems by awarding grants that give farmers and ranchers around the country tools to reach consumers, strengthen ties between urban and rural communities and help meet the growing demand for locally and regionally produced food. Read more »

Mule Deer Habitat in Western United States Improves Based on Restoration Efforts with Partners

Mule deer are often found browsing on national forests and grasslands in the West. The Million Bucks initiative, started in 1989, involves the U.S. Forest Service and partners such as the Mule Deer Foundation who collaboratively work to conserve and restore habitats to support healthy deer populations that in turn will provide recreational opportunities for the public. (Courtesy Dave Herr. Used with permission.)

Mule deer are often found browsing on national forests and grasslands in the West. The Million Bucks initiative, started in 1989, involves the U.S. Forest Service and partners such as the Mule Deer Foundation who collaboratively work to conserve and restore habitats to support healthy deer populations that in turn will provide recreational opportunities for the public. (Courtesy Dave Herr. Used with permission.)

The mule deer on the Spanish Fork Ranger District, a part of the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Utah, are happy foragers these days thanks to a dedicated effort to improve their habitat and increase their numbers.

Mule deer are primarily browsers, with a majority of their diet comprised of broad-leaved, non-woody plants such as buckwheat and lupine and browse which includes leaves and twigs of shrubs and trees such as sagebrush and serviceberry. They are pickier eaters than larger animals like cattle and elk. Their body composition requires that they select these more nutritious plants and parts of plants than other types of feed like grass. Thus, they have more specific forage requirements and need of habitat that provides a sustainable diet, especially over the winter. Read more »

Cochran Fellowship Program Yields Results for U.S. Alfalfa Hay Producers

China’s dairy industry has seen the benefits of U.S.-grown alfalfa hay thanks to the Cochran Fellowship Program. (Photo credit: USDA-NRCS)

China’s dairy industry has seen the benefits of U.S.-grown alfalfa hay thanks to the Cochran Fellowship Program. (Photo credit: USDA-NRCS)

China’s growing middle class and rising demand for high-quality food products have led to a boom in the country’s dairy sector.  With the help of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) and the Cochran Fellowship Program, U.S. alfalfa hay producers have been able to capitalize on this expanding dairy market.

More than 10 years ago, FAS recognized an opportunity in China’s dairy sector and used the Cochran Fellowship Program to educate south China dairy professionals about the U.S. dairy industry. Between 2005 and 2007, four delegations of dairy farm managers, veterinarians, college professors, industry association leaders, government officials, and dairy processors participated in dairy training programs.  Once they returned to China, the fellows conducted feeding trials through FAS’ Quality Samples Program, learning how Chinese farmers could use U.S. alfalfa hay to help increase milk yield, improve cows’ health, and boost farmers’ revenue. Read more »

USDA Volunteers Receive Presidential Honor for Service

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Secretary Tom Vilsack presents the NRCS Presidential Volunteer Service Awards presented to Jerry Hattan, Torrington, Wyoming; and Russell Dorrough of Clarksville, Texas. From left: Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Donna Hattan, Jerry Hattan, Torrington Wyoming; Russell Dorrough, Clarksville, Texas and Chief Jason Weller, Natural Resources Conservation Service. Hattan and Dorrough have a combined volunteer effort of 12,000 hours. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Two dedicated volunteers of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recently received the top honor for American volunteers – the lifetime Presidential Volunteer Service Award.

Russell Dorrough, of Texas, and Jerry Hattan, of Wyoming, have volunteered more than 4,000 hours with NRCS. Between 4,500 and 6,000 Americans receive this award each year.

The President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation created the President’s Volunteer Service Award program as a way to thank and honor Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, give back and inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The lifetime award presented to Russell and Jerry is the program’s highest honor. Read more »

Co-op Month Celebrates Member-Owned Business Model

Amanda Barnett and David DiLorenzo pull out spinach plants in a greenhouse at Stone Soup Farm Co-Op in Hadley, Mass. (Photo by Jerry Roberts)

Amanda Barnett and David DiLorenzo pull out spinach plants in a greenhouse at Stone Soup Farm Co-Op in Hadley, Mass. (Photo by Jerry Roberts)

October is Cooperative Month, and this year’s theme is “The Co-op Connection,” an apt reference to the virtually unlimited number of ways in which co-ops connect their members to marketplaces and services they might otherwise be unable to access.

America is home to more than 30,000 cooperatives, including farmer, rural utility, credit/financial services, food stores, housing and many other types of cooperatives. To get an idea of just how flexible the co-op business model is in meeting virtually any need, see the Co-op Month special section of the Sept.-Oct. issue of USDA’s “Rural Cooperatives” magazine at: www.rurdev.usda.gov (under the “Spotlights” section of the home page). Read more »