Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Eat It to Beat It – 2014 Garlic Mustard Challenge

A Petersburg (West Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

A Petersburg (West Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)

Spring is often associated with ramps, rain, flowers and frogs, but on the Monongahela National Forest, the season of rebirth is focused on protecting our woods from garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant first brought to America by European settlers in the 1800s. They enjoyed eating it because of its zesty garlic-like flavor. They just had no idea that this plant would become one of the biggest threats to the diversity of plants and animals found in our eastern forests.

In an effort to fight the spread of this invasive species, the Monongahela, along with several partners, hosts an annual Garlic Mustard Challenge to increase public awareness about the threat of non-native invasive species and to achieve boots-on-the-ground results.  Last year, elementary school students in Grant County, West Virginia, removed more than 13,000 pounds of garlic mustard from the Monongahela. Read more »

APPlying New Strategies to Nip Invasive Species in the Bud in New Jersey

NRCS Partner Employee Elizabeth Ciuzio Freiday, certified wildlife biologist, in a field of the vine kudzu, which is highly threatening to native communities. Photo by New Jersey Audubon Society, used with permission.

NRCS Partner Employee Elizabeth Ciuzio Freiday, certified wildlife biologist, in a field of the vine kudzu, which is highly threatening to native communities. Photo by New Jersey Audubon Society, used with permission.

The New Jersey Invasive Species Strike Team is working to prevent the spread of emerging invasive species across New Jersey, and they’ve created a smartphone app to help.

Using part of a 2013 Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the team has released an app that can help you identify and report sightings of new invasive species.

The new app, called New Jersey Invasives, can help farmers, forest landowners and outdoor enthusiasts quickly identify newly discovered and localized invasive species and get information on how to combat them before they become a larger and more costly problem. Read more »

Florida Discovers the Cover and Grows Soil Workgroup

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

Cheryl Mackowiakl strolls through rye on the Fulford Farm adjacent to Brock’s property.

It started as an informal gathering of interested extension agents, agronomists, farmers and staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, who came to Gainesville, Fla. to attend an Internet-based conference sponsored as part of this year’s soil health campaign.

But much of the information was based on Midwestern experience.  Everyone knows Florida is different, with sandy soils and a longer growing season.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising when the Gainesville group suggested taking the discussions further.  In a flurry of emails, the follow-up meeting evolved into a small tour of cover crop practitioner Kirk Brock’s farm, and then grew to include neighboring Fulford Farms. Read more »

Charles E. Bessey Nursery Showcases its ‘Babies’ – Seedlings That Will Become ‘Forests of the Future’

Richard Gilbert, Bessey Nursery Manager talks with students from Sandhills Public Schools about the seed collection process, growing process and replanting. (U.S. Forest Service/Tim Buskirk)

Richard Gilbert, Bessey Nursery Manager talks with students from Sandhills Public Schools about the seed collection process, growing process and replanting. (U.S. Forest Service/Tim Buskirk)

Two million seedlings will grow up one day to become the forests of our future.

The vision for all of those trees is part of the mission of the Charles E. Bessey Nursery, part of the Nebraska National Forests and Grasslands, and the oldest federal seedling nursery in the nation.

Working with the Bessey Ranger District and the volunteer group Friends of the Nebraska National Forests, the nursery recently invited the public in for a rare opportunity to see the nursery in full production; growing, packing and shipping hundreds of thousands of seedlings to U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, conservation districts and other government agency locations. The seedlings are used for reforestation following fire and insect infestations, wildlife/habitat plantings, wind breaks, conservation plantings, and general planting. Read more »

USDA Rural Development Assistance Helps Massachusetts Family Afford Home

Pictured above are Heidi Richards and her daughter in their newly constructed Habitat home with Deputy Under Secretary, Patrice Kunesh.

Pictured above are Heidi Richards and her daughter in their newly constructed Habitat home with Deputy Under Secretary, Patrice Kunesh.

Recently, I visited the Habitat for Humanity homes on Cape Cod, Massachusetts in celebration of National Homeownership Month, a time to recognize the important role that housing plays in the economy. The construction of these homes was made possible through loans from USDA Rural Development (RD).

The partnership between USDA Rural Development and the Cape Cod Chapter of Habitat for Humanity continues to help provide numerous low-income families with safe, affordable, and well-built homes. USDA Rural Development and the Cape Cod Chapter of Habitat for Humanity first partnered in 2011. In FY 2013, USDA Rural Development financed four out of five of the Habitat homes built on Cape Cod, and they are currently on track to finance eight more Habitat homes being built on Cape Cod in FY 2014. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Record Trade Supports Strong Rural Economies

Agriculture is one of the brightest spots in our economy, and the American brand of agriculture is surging in popularity worldwide. Trade and market access support good-paying jobs and drives economic growth. A strong rural economy is critical to the overall economic health of the United States.

The past five years represent the strongest in history for agricultural trade with U.S. agricultural product exports totaling $619 billion over five years. Agricultural exports in fiscal year 2013 alone reached $140.9 billion, the highest level on record, and supported nearly one million jobs here at home. Read more »