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It’s Quite a Pickle To Be In

Pickles of many kinds fill grocery store shelves, all of them safe for consumers thanks to the work of an ARS food safety lab in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Pickles of many kinds fill grocery store shelves, all of them safe for consumers thanks to the work of an ARS food safety lab in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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.

Pickles are a popular food, but are even trendier today as more and more craft brands show up in stores and farmers’ markets all over the country. But did you know USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) has helped commercial pickle-makers, from small brands to the nation’s largest, meet the highest standards of food safety?

While pickling—storing in an acid liquid, usually vinegar—has been recognized as a food-preserver since long before the discovery of bacteria, the kind of data that today’s precise food safety standards require was not established until recently. Read more »

Spraying Smarter Strengthens Strawberry Production

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

Thanks to a USDA NIFA grant, strawberry growers in Florida are benefiting from a smart system that helps them time spraying to prevent diseases – saving the farmers money while minimizing the environmental impacts. The system is being adapted for growers in other states.

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.

With the U.S. being the world’s leading producer of strawberries, the success of these tart and sweet treats is essential to the economy of a state like Florida. In fact, with a $366 million-per-year industry, the state comes second only to California as the nation’s largest strawberry producer. Naturally, strawberry growers are looking for ways to sustain their harvests and profitability.

Enter Natalia Peres, University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center professor of plant pathology.  With funding from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Peres and her research team developed an online web tool, the Strawberry Advisory System (SAS), which helps farmers spend less money on fungicides yet achieve better results with what they do spray. Read more »

Día de Reyes: A Time for Friends, Feasts, and Food Safety

Image of rice with chicken on plate.

Arroz con pollo (rice with chicken) is a traditional dish of Spain and Latin America.

Nothing brings people together like the Holidays, or Navidades for us Spanish speakers.  Día de Reyes (Three Kings Day) would not be complete without some excellent eats. Many Hispanic-Americans have a favorite dish during this special season – from lechón to pasteles to tamales to atole.

Nothing brings a party down like poor food safety though.  No one wants to be down for the count during this time of the year–think of all the parties that will be missed! With the information we’ve given you over the last several weeks, you should be able to cook a food safe feast.  So put your knowledge to the test with these Hispanic treats for Día de Reyes, this January 6th. Read more »

Florida Family Farm Adopts Conservation Practices, Helps Gulf of Mexico

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

A center-pivot irrigation system uses low pressure-high uniformity to water a cover crop mix that includes Daikon Radish on Mitch Holtzclaw’s farm in O’Brien, Fla. NRCS photo by Doug Ulmer.

For three generations members of Mitch Holtzclaw’s family has farmed land in Suwanee County, Florida. Today, Holtzclaw grows more than 1,000 acres of peanuts, corn and small grains.

His farm is about three miles from the historic Suwannee River, which flows directly into the Gulf of Mexico. The sandy soil types and karst limestone topography on Holtzclaw’s farm are characteristic of the watersheds in the middle Suwannee River Basin and cause for concern over increased nutrient concentrations that can be found in the area’s ground and surface water. Read more »

2014 in Review: New Farm Bill Allows Kansas Family to Purchase Home

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.

2014 will soon be in our collective rear view mirrors, and USDA Rural Development has had an incredibly productive year. This week we are looking back on stories from the year that illustrate the impact our programs have on rural communities. Here’s a story out of our Kansas State Office from June.

Megan Estrada and her three children are excited to spend time on their new home’s porch – a home they just moved into this summer. Prior to purchasing their own home, Estrada and her children had spent the last nine years in an apartment in Dodge City, Kansas. Read more »

World Accessibility in Rural America

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.

Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.

In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »