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Chicago Botanic Garden Sprouts New Beginnings for Individuals and Communities

Windy City Harvest Graduate Aaron Serrano shows NIFA National Program Leader Siva Sureshwaran seedlings in the Daley City College greenhouse. (Photo: Alexandra Wilson)

Windy City Harvest Graduate Aaron Serrano shows NIFA National Program Leader Siva Sureshwaran seedlings in the Daley City College greenhouse. (Photo: Alexandra Wilson)

Aaron Serrano was 15 years-old when he was charged with a felony and sentenced as an adult to two years in a Chicago-area prison. Today, at age 18, he has a full-time job at FarmedHere, an aquaponics agricultural producer in Chicago, where his boss calls him “a treasure.”

Serrano’s transformation from a troubled teenager into a well-trained agricultural professional wouldn’t have been possible without the opportunities given to him by the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Windy City Harvest, which runs a Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) project funded by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

USDA Rural Utilities Administrator Meets Partners in North Dakota to Promote the Promise of Rural America

Turning on a light, running water from a faucet, or calling a friend are activities that most of us take for granted. Rural utility providers are the lifeblood in their communities offering services important in our everyday lives and in supporting rural industries. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides support to expand and modernize these services.

Recently, Acting USDA Rural Utilities Administrator John Padalino visited North Dakota to host a meeting, which focused on creating partnerships that benefit the future of rural America. Key players in this conversation were the water, electric, and telecom providers. Padalino noted that without basic infrastructure, we would have no support for our rural economies, which are critical to the success of our nation.  All of us depend on rural America for our food, water, and energy. Read more »

Picking a Winner – Tips and Insight to Selecting Seasonal Produce

A young boy smiles over a bowl of freshly washed apricots.  Select apricots that are plump with golden orange color, but avoid ones that are pale yellow, greenish-yellow, shriveled or bruised.

A young boy smiles over a bowl of freshly washed apricots. Select apricots that are plump with golden orange color, but avoid ones that are pale yellow, greenish-yellow, shriveled or bruised.

As the cold, drab winter gives way to warmer temperatures and the crisp colors of spring, our longing for stews and other comfort foods ebbs, making way for some warm-weather favorites.  Picnics, hiking and other outdoor activities heighten the appeal of lighter, fresh salad greens, fruits, and vegetables.  From strawberries to broccoli, apricots to artichokes—we offer a few tips to help you pick the best of the season’s offerings. Read more »

USDA Offers Assistance to Tornado Victims

Following the devastating effects of tornadoes this week, USDA is offering assistance to those in need.  USDA offers many programs that can provide assistance to landowners, farmers, ranchers and producers during disasters.  No Presidential or Secretarial declarations are required for the provision of much of this assistance.

Agricultural producers are reminded that Federal crop insurance covers tornado damage, as well as other natural causes of loss.  Please remember to report your loss to your insurance agent or company within 72 hours and in writing within 15 days. Your insurance company will send out a loss adjuster as soon as they are safely able to do so and will document your insurance claim. Please remember that you cannot destroy your crop or plant a new crop until the loss adjuster or your insurance company has informed you that you can do so. Read more »

ERS Ag Research Counts

To recognize the contribution that research in agriculture makes in our daily lives, we’re focusing this month’s Science Tuesday blogs on the successes that USDA science agencies have achieved for us all.

Many of us use technology daily to communicate faster than ever before. And Economic Research Service (ERS) is part of that group, too.  Using state-of-the-art technology, our economists and analysts work hard to deliver timely, policy-relevant research on topics such as childhood obesity, global food security, and climate change  — issues that affect us all.  So, today we’re emphasizing the importance of economic information because “Ag Research Counts” every day, for every American. We’re continuing our trivia contest on Facebook with questions from past ‘Science Tuesday’ blogs.  You can weigh in on Twitter using the hashtag #AgResearchCounts. Here are this week’s blogs featuring ERS research that impacts each of us every day: Read more »

Camping with Kids? There’s a Method to this Madness

Mason “Amtchat” Edwards and his son walk along the trail spotting interesting notes of nature. (Photo by: Brian McNeal)

Mason “Amtchat” Edwards and his son walk along the trail spotting interesting notes of nature. (Photo by: Brian McNeal)

As an environmental educator, I’ve taken tons of kids outside for fun and educational experiences in the woods. Now, I am looking forward taking my own son out for his first discoveries and to create memories we’ll share for years to come. I figured I would share my personal camping tips with you. Plus, May 18 is National Kids to Parks Day; a perfect opportunity to help children explore nature.

Get the kids involved during the planning stages. Gauge what they are most excited about seeing or doing. Is it waterfalls or caves, searching deep in the forest for bugs or looking for larger animals like eagles or moose? The possibilities are endless. The things they are excited about can be used to reinforce behaviors like following instructions or being open to trying new things. Read more »