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Planting a Holiday Tradition

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

One of the many celebrations and traditions that people still practice is the burning of the yule log and singing yuletide carols. Photo courtesy of Penny Stritch.

Many holiday traditions are celebrated during the season surrounding the winter solstice, or the time when the sun is at its lowest point above the horizon.

For communities and families, plants play a central role in these traditions. Yet, most people are unaware of the origins of how plants like holly and yule logs became part of holidays and traditions. Read more »

USDA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Enter into Agreement to Improve Drought Weather Forecasting

President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Monday, August 13, 2012 to view the drought stricken crops. The federal government has already taken some steps to ease farmers whose crops are growing poorly this summer, and the administration plans to spend close to $200 million on livestock, officials announced earlier in the day. The Department of Defense is encouraging vendors to buy meat to ease the crisis. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

President Barack Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the McIntosh family farm in Missouri Valley, Iowa, on Monday, August 13, 2012 to view the drought stricken crops. The federal government has already taken some steps to ease farmers whose crops are growing poorly this summer, and the administration plans to spend close to $200 million on livestock, officials announced earlier in the day. The Department of Defense is encouraging vendors to buy meat to ease the crisis. USDA photo by Dave Kosling.

USDA and other federal agencies continue to work to address the long term effects of last summer’s historic drought.

In the wake of a series of regional drought conferences with farmers, ranchers, business owners and other stakeholders, USDA is entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Commerce, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), to improve sharing of data and expertise, monitoring networks, and drought forecasting efforts.  The MOU is a direct outcome of the regional conferences. Read more »

South Dakota Local Foods Conference Supports South Dakota Producers and Resource Providers

South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks presents funds to South Dakota State University Extension for an online Local Foods Center while attending the 2012 South Dakota Local Foods Conference.  Pictured left to right, Dr. Rhoda Burrows and Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension; and State Director Meeks.

South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks presents funds to South Dakota State University Extension for an online Local Foods Center while attending the 2012 South Dakota Local Foods Conference. Pictured left to right, Dr. Rhoda Burrows and Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension; and State Director Meeks.

The second annual South Dakota Local Foods Conference was held recently to continue the dialogue on local foods among producers, consumers, farmer’s markets, retailers, schools and others.  The conference provided attendees from across the state two days of breakout sessions, networking, and instruction.

USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie Meeks attended the conference, taking the opportunity to award South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension a Rural Business Opportunity Grant of $50,000.  The Rural Development funds will be used to build capacity in South Dakota’s local food system through the establishment of an online Local Foods Center which will create structured connections between local growers and resource providers. Read more »

Kake Forests Provide More than Just Trees

Alaska's oval-leaf blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium.

Alaska's oval-leaf blueberry, Vaccinium ovalifolium.

On a typical late summer day in Kake, Alaska, residents prepare for the day by layering heavy-duty rain gear, protective gloves and rubber boots over jeans and fleece. Most of these Alaskans will head to work supporting the local fishing industry. A select few, however, will be bundling up for a slightly different catch: wild organic blueberries. Read more »

Nevada Stronger Economies Together Team Spirit of Engagements Shows in Economic Blueprint

Nevada’s Stronger Economies Together (SET) Regional Team members met one last time Nov. 28 in Fallon, Nevada, to unveil the “Western Nevada Blueprint for Economic Development,”  a plan that set goals to develop five targeted economic sectors for a 33,000-square mile region of Nevada across nine counties, involving more than 200 people.

The 75 people who met in good cheer that morning at the beautiful old Oats Park Art Center, had a lot to celebrate.  They knew their region’s assets, they understood the barriers to growth, and they were starting to understand how working collaboratively benefits them all. Read more »

Energy Advisor Says a Host of Factors Affect Food Prices

Rob Green’s recent Wall Street Journal op-ed “The cause of higher grocery bills isn’t the drought. It’s the failed federal ethanol policy” fails to take into consideration a host of factors, other than demand for corn, that affect food prices.

In the domestic and global markets commodity, labor, transportation, energy costs, processing, and marketing costs all contribute to what we pay for food in our local grocery store or restaurant. In some cases, factors such as higher oil prices affect one or more of these underlying costs producing higher domestic and world food prices. Read more »