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Corn Cobs on the Job

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If you’re of a certain age, you might remember General Douglas MacArthur’s famous corncob pipe, or the one sported by “Granny” on the hit TV show “The Beverly Hillbillies.” But aside from those picturesque examples, corncobs have tended to mostly be considered a waste product left over from the harvest of the golden, juicy kernels of corn.

That’s in the process of changing, thanks to the scientists of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS).  For starters, they’ve shown that corn cobs left in the field after harvest can boost soil quality.  Beyond that, those tough cobs can be used to make a whole host of products. Read more »

Taking Hack-tion for Food, Farmers and America

Code for America Northern Virginia Brigade members work on challenges at the NSF event in the foreground while USDA subject matter experts discuss Farmers Market data in the background (right side). Our challenge yielded at least eight different projects across the country. Photo by Tim Koeth.

Code for America Northern Virginia Brigade members work on challenges at the NSF event in the foreground while USDA subject matter experts discuss Farmers Market data in the background (right side). Our challenge yielded at least eight different projects across the country. Photo by Tim Koeth.

This past weekend, civic hackers across the country took action—or hack-tion—when they gathered together to use their coding, designing and tech-making powers for good.  Armed with a passion for data and working under a framework that focused their energies on solving civic problems, over 11,000 individuals set out to make a difference at 95 different events in 83 cities and communities across the nation.

At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, we serve many communities in a variety of ways.  From our support of farmers markets and food hubs to our work with industry stakeholders, we focus on supporting the business and marketing side of American agriculture.  So, when we first heard about the National Day of Civic Hacking, we knew immediately that we wanted to participate. Read more »

Financially Challenged Indiana Community Gets a Safe Wastewater System with USDA Support

Rural Utilities Administrator John Padalino visited Indiana last month to promote electrical, energy efficiency, broadband and water programs provided to communities by USDA.

Padalino and Indiana Rural Development State Director Philip Lehmkuhler traveled to Mexico, Indiana to celebrate the community’s new wastewater treatment plant which was funded by USDA Rural Development. Read more »

US Forest Service Celebrates National Get Outdoors Day June 8

National Get Outdoors Day, created in a partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, will include a wide variety of opportunities to encourage healthy, active outdoor fun, from a rousing day of festivities in City Park in Denver to quieter observations on some national forest and grasslands.

Go Day, as it is often called, was launched June 14, 2008, through a partnership between the Forest Service and the American Recreation Coalition. Built on the success of More Kids in the Woods and other efforts, Go Day connects Americans – especially children – with nature and active lifestyles. Read more »

In Virginia, a Food Hub Helps Growers Scale Up

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.

But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Helping Families Achieve the Dream of Homeownership

Throughout the month of June, USDA will celebrate National Homeownership Month with a renewed commitment to providing safe, affordable housing in our small towns and rural communities.

Our theme for this year’s Homeownership Month is “Bringing Rural America Home”.  When families can find a good place to live in rural America, they’ll stay there. They’ll invest in their community and help create new economic growth. Read more »