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Hill Farm Buzzing with Pollinator Success

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden. “We had an agricultural specialist visit our farm operations who told us we needed more pollinators,” explained Susan Hill. “We initially added two bee hives and established a pollinator garden. It was amazing, our tomato production increased by 25 percent in the first year!”. Photo by Hill Farm

Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill – who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA.  Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!

In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets.  And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent. Read more »

Local Experience Plants Seeds of Positive Youth Development Abroad

Three kids standing together

4-H sponsors cultural immersion and exchange programs, such as this one in the District of Columbia. Image courtesy of the University of the District of Columbia.

Raising children to be their very best is not a concept unique to any particular country; rather, teaching youth to make better choices and create positive change in their communities is a common theme.

4-H is an American program that provides positive youth development by promoting citizenship, healthy living, science, civic affairs, leadership, positive relationships, safe areas for risk-taking, and more. In 2015, nearly 6.5 million adult volunteers and youth sported the green four-leaf clover as they prepared for college, work, career, and life. As iconic as it is, 4-H is not just an American phenomenon, its principles have become deeply entrenched abroad, as well. Read more »

Pollinator Week: Celebrating Blue Butterflies on the Great Lakes

Karner Blue Butterfly

Karner Blue Butterfly on Dotted Horsemint on the Huron-Manistee National Forest. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

In honor of National Pollinator Week, the U.S. Forest Service joins organizations and individuals across the world to celebrate pollinators and share ways to help them survive and thrive.

Pollinators are vital to healthy ecosystems. Eighty percent of flowering plants require pollination by animals to successfully reproduce and produce seeds and fruits. Plants and pollinators together provide the basis for life by converting sunlight into food, materials for shelter, clean air, clean water, medicines, and other necessities of life. Read more »

U.S. Soybeans Help Feed the World

Soybeans growing on a farm

The U.S. soy industry continues to reach new heights in producing soybean products to help feed the world.

It takes more than just a bountiful harvest to succeed in today’s agricultural marketplace.  Many farmers find strength in numbers by pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their businesses in both the U.S. and international markets. For soybean farmers, the United Soybean Board (USB) works to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for soybeans and soybean products.

Working through the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the USB annually conducts about 140 projects in international markets to promote U.S. soy products.  Comprising 70 soybean farmers, the USB facilitates trade servicing and technical support programs with importers, processors, livestock producers, and aquaculture operations.  Another important component of the soybean marketing effort is to invite international buyers, processors, and other users of U.S. soy products to the United States to understand and see firsthand the U.S. soybean production, processing, distribution and transportation systems. Read more »

Learn How to Bee a Friend during USDA’s Pollinator Festival this Friday, June 24

National Pollinator Week Festival graphic

USDA will be celebrating National Pollinator Week on Friday, June 24, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters along 12th St., Washington, D.C.

The best time to bee a friend to pollinators is now! Today is the first day of summer and the launch of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26. Around the globe, people are celebrating with events that emphasize the importance of pollinators and teach ways to save them. Here at USDA, we’ve issued the National Pollinator Week Proclamation and are hosting our seventh annual Pollinator Week Festival this Friday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

The festival highlights the work of USDA agencies, other federal departments and institutions such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Gardens, and the U.S. Botanic Garden, who along with partners like the National Honey Board, Pollinator Partnership and University of Maryland Extension are working to address pollinator decline. Read more »

Secretary Vilsack Visits Puerto Rico to Talk Climate Change and Caribbean Agriculture

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Photo by Duamed Colón.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited the Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico earlier this month to lead a roundtable discussions with local agricultural officials, farmers and ranchers, USDA agency leaders, economic investors, and scientists, and to view first-hand the Hub’s pioneering work in climate change research, education and outreach.

“Adaptation to climate change is a matter of National Security.  We need to have a functional food economy to counter food insecurity,” said Secretary Vilsack during the Climate Hub Roundtable held at the El Yunque National Forest.  Local USDA agency leaders expressed concern about the increasing incidence of pests and diseases affecting agriculture and forestry in the Caribbean, mostly related to climate change, and the need for more education and support for water and soil conservation measures. Read more »