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Smokey Bear Hug Warms the Heart of Young Virginia Boy Battling Cancer

Six-year-old Nathan Norman and Smokey Bear share a moment together during a Feb. 25, 2013 visit to Nathan’s home.

Six-year-old Nathan Norman and Smokey Bear share a moment together during a Feb. 25, 2013 visit to Nathan’s home.

Six-year-old Nathan Norman counts Smokey Bear as one of his new best friends. The Rustburg, Va., boy recently met Smokey and a number of wildland firefighters and law enforcement officers from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests as part of his hobby of reaching out to these first responders for cards and letters of support.

Nathan, diagnosed with brain cancer at 2 and with spinal cancer at 4, has spent much of his life in and out of hospitals. Read more »

USDA and EPA Make People’s Garden Blossom

The Midwest Region encouraged interns to participate in the People’s Garden as part of its Cultural Transformation efforts.

The Midwest Region encouraged interns to participate in the People’s Garden as part of its Cultural Transformation efforts.

It is amazing what successful partnerships we have developed through our USDA People’s Garden initiative in the Food & Nutrition Service’s Midwest Region. It’s been four years now since we began working with the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest Program to create our garden. The garden is a symbol of USDA’s history in connecting our people to the land. Throughout the years, we have helped maintain raised garden beds in one of Chicago’s most economically and socially challenged neighborhoods. Now we have expanded those efforts to include our federal neighbors and partners at the Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »

USDA Aids Construction, Refurbishes Apartments for Elderly Wisconsin Residents

Construction is underway with a goal to substantially upgrade senior housing in three communities in rural Wisconsin.  Funding support is provided in part through the USDA Community Facilities Program.

Construction is underway with a goal to substantially upgrade senior housing in three communities in rural Wisconsin. Funding support is provided in part through the USDA Community Facilities Program.

For residents of three senior care centers in western Wisconsin, the time has come to say “good-bye” to shared living spaces, shared bathrooms and double corridors; and say “hello” to private rooms, large, private bathrooms, and neighborhood designs.  Through new construction, Baldwin Care Center, Glenhaven, and Colfax Health & Rehabilitation Center are providing more of the comforts of home in a statewide push to modernize senior living.  Funding for all three projects comes from USDA Rural Development’s Community Facilities Program, and AgStar Financial Services. Read more »

MyPlate Helps More Consumers Build a Healthy Plate with Social Media

Facebook page by Sasha Bard, MS, RD. Interest in the MyPlate Facebook page grew rapidly with more than 1,000 followers on the first day. Facebook page by Sasha Bard, MS, RD.

Interest in the MyPlate Facebook page grew rapidly with more than 1,000 followers on the first day. Facebook page by Sasha Bard, MS, RD.

MyPlate is using the power of Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter to make it easier for consumers to find simple science-based and practical guidance in many forms to help consumers eat healthier and live healthier.  These social media platforms reach broad audiences and can now direct users to the wealth of consumer-friendly content supporting the MyPlate icon.

“Through social media, USDA can reach people where they need to make food decisions  – on-the-go, in stores, at restaurants, and at home — and provide timely tips and information that can be shared with family and friends.” – Dr. Robert Post, Associate Executive Director of the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Read more »

U.S. Ag Products Make Their Mark in the Middle East

U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Michael Corbin (second from left) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator Sue Heinen cut a ceremonial ribbon during the opening ceremony for the USA pavilion at the 2013 Gulfood trade show as Consul General Rob Waller (far left) and the USA pavilion organizers exhibitors look on.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates Michael Corbin (second from left) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) Administrator Sue Heinen cut a ceremonial ribbon during the opening ceremony for the USA pavilion at the 2013 Gulfood trade show as Consul General Rob Waller (far left) and the USA pavilion organizers exhibitors look on.

Recently, I traveled to the Middle East to meet with local and U.S. Embassy leaders to discuss agricultural strategy within the region. Towards the end of my two-week journey, I also had the opportunity to meet with U.S. agricultural companies, state regional trade groups and cooperators at the USDA-endorsed Gulfood trade show in Dubai.

The show is the Middle East’s largest food, drink, food service and hospitality equipment exhibition, drawing buyers from throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) helps U.S. companies market their food and agricultural products at international trade shows through market development programs such as the Market Access Program (MAP). Read more »

Innovative i-Tree Spreads Worldwide

This is the logo for i-Tree, a suite of urban analysis tools utilized by city foresters in the U.S. The U.S. Forest Service is releasing the latest i-Tree version 5.0 allows upgrading to rapidly assess urban trees and forests throughout Canada and Australia, two of the countries leading i-Tree’s international expansion.

This is the logo for i-Tree, a suite of urban analysis tools utilized by city foresters in the U.S. The U.S. Forest Service is releasing the latest i-Tree version 5.0 allows upgrading to rapidly assess urban trees and forests throughout Canada and Australia, two of the countries leading i-Tree’s international expansion.

When Dave Nowak of the U.S. Forest Service and Scott Maco of Davey Tree Expert Company began collaborating on the creation of a suite of urban forest analysis tools called i-Tree, they imagined that users would be mostly city foresters from the United States.

Inspired by users from 105 countries, the latest version, 5.0, is upgraded to rapidly assess urban trees and forests throughout Canada and Australia, two of the countries leading the free software’s international expansion. One of the major updates is the addition of a new web form that allows the use of smartphones and tablets. Read more »