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Keeping #AgStrong

Look for more facts, figures, and farmer insights on the @USDA_AMS Twitter feed or the #AgStrong hashtag.

Look for more facts, figures, and farmer insights on the @USDA_AMS Twitter feed or the #AgStrong hashtag.

The strength of America’s farmers and ranchers is undeniable. I knew that strength firsthand growing up in a rural community that depended on agriculture. And I see it in so many ways as I meet folks from across the country in my role at USDA—in their work ethic, in their dedication to their crops and animals, and in their commitment to feed their communities and the world. They are all #AgStrong—an old truth in a new format, celebrating the common agricultural roots among farmer and rancher, family business and rural community.

Through these commonalities, many family-owned farms find strength in numbers, in pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their family businesses.  For many of them, ag boards—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—are vital to their success, increasing business opportunities and mapping out a long-term future for their industry. Read more »

Land Conservation Strengthens Rural Communities: Examples of the Land and Water Conservation Fund at Work

A canoe on the shoreline of Pond of Safety in the Randolph Community Forest in Randolph, NH. White Mountains National Forest, Ammonoosuc River watershed. Photo: Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography.com. Used with permission

A canoe on the shoreline of Pond of Safety in the Randolph Community Forest in Randolph, NH. White Mountains National Forest, Ammonoosuc River watershed. Photo: Jerry and Marcy Monkman/EcoPhotography.com. Used with permission

The Forest Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund investment in national forests and grasslands has ripple effects that extend far beyond the Forest Service and the land that is protected.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund, created by Congress in 1964, provides resources to federal, state and local governments for the conservation of important lands, waters and historical sites.  Using no taxpayer dollars the Fund uses earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help preserve our history, protect our lands and strengthen our economy. Nationwide, over 7 million acres have been protected. Read more »

Dirt, Fire and Road: My First Season as a Wildland Firefighter

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

Michaela Hall, a Job Corps alumna, challenged herself to learn firefighting skills as part of the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, stationed at Schenck Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center on the Davidson River on the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina. (U.S. Forest Service)

For the second time, I spilled burn mix on my clothing as I reached to replace a drip torch, a wildland firefighting tool used to ignite fires for controlled burns.

After three days of working with the Davidson River Initial Attack Crew, I was getting used to how things worked – except for the drip torch.

I’d spent the first seven years of my career buried behind papers and computers in the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C. When I heard of a job to improve firefighting training skills for Job Corps students, I jumped on it. As a Job Corps alumna, and someone who’s still passionate about the program, I felt that I was the perfect candidate. Read more »

In Colorado, Partnerships Bloom in Support of Regional Food Systems

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need.  One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF).  SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.

Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically.  The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference. Read more »

Food Banks Compete in Membership Drive for the U.S. Food Waste Challenge

Today, the USDA is joining with Feeding America to launch a friendly competition among the nation’s food banks to sign up the most participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge.  The food bank that registers the most donors as participants in the U.S. Food Waste Challenge will be honored in an event hosted by the Department of Agriculture.  The competition runs from July 22 to August 30.

Food Banks can get their donors and partners to join the competition by signing up for the U.S. Food Waste Challenge on Feeding America’s website. Read more »

Studies Find Widespread Student Acceptance of New Healthier School Lunches

School meals play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people. FNS photo.

School meals play a major role in shaping the diets and health of young people. FNS photo.

With nearly 31 million students now participating in the National School Lunch Program each day, sound nutrition at school plays an essential role in supporting a healthier next generation.  But when the new standards were developed by pediatricians and other child nutrition experts, USDA was also looking for students to enjoy the healthier offerings they receive.

And according to a new report, the majority of our nation’s children are accepting these new school meals.  This great news is part of a just-released study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that finds 70 percent of elementary school leaders nationwide reported that students like the healthier school lunches that rolled out in fall 2012.  Other highlights of the research include: Read more »