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More than a Pretty View for rural America

Buildings nestled into a forest

America’s national forests and grasslands are part of the strategy to tackle some of our lagging rural economies. Photo credit: Doug Berry, istockphotos.com

This may sound like a cliché, but our job at the U.S. Forest Service is to do something every day to make your life better. And we mean it.

Our work safeguards clean air, clean water, and beautiful, resilient and productive forests and grasslands. These effects of healthy national forests and grasslands are nowhere more felt than in rural communities where wildlands play a huge role in generating economic activity. Read more »

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

MARS logo

MARS allows for more data availability, better analysis, and improved information availability sooner for more agricultural markets in one easy-to-use tool.

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content. Read more »

New Quarter Showcases the Shawnee National Forest

Children displaying the new quarters

Children displaying the new quarters. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Shawnee National Forest is one of few places in Illinois where you will find large open spaces to explore and be immersed in nature. One of its special places is the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. Each year several hundred thousand visitors are drawn to the strange and beautiful rock formations found at Garden of the Gods. One of the most famous formations is Camel Rock.

This special place was recently celebrated through the launch of the latest America the Beautiful Quarter, featuring the Shawnee’s unique Camel Rock formation. More than 1,300 people came out to celebrate; forever placing the beauty of the Shawnee into pocket change. Read more »

Celebrating the New Face of Agriculture

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms

(Left to right) Dr. Craig Morris, Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Angie Snyder, Associate Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry, and Seed Program; Administrator Starmer; and Jamie Mitchell from Fair Oaks Farms.

At the Agricultural Marketing Service and across USDA, we often talk about the fact that the face of American agriculture is changing. The ranks of our farmers, especially young and beginning farmers, include a growing number of women, people of color, veterans or folks in their second careers. So-called “traditional” agriculture defies the term as it pursues new strategies, new products, and new markets. Across the country, agriculture is diversifying and evolving to meet changing consumer demands.

I saw the new face of agriculture last week during travels to Illinois and Indiana. My first stop was a roundtable on Women in Agriculture held at FarmedHere in Bedford Park, Illinois, about 15 miles from Chicago. Twenty or so women gathered to talk about their farming goals and to hear about how USDA could support them. This topic is close to my heart – I’m a New Hampshire native, a state with the second highest percentage of women farmers in the country. The women around the table with me represented the new face of ag, but so too did the setting – an indoor, vertical farm that produces basil and microgreens in a facility designed to reduce energy costs and shrink the carbon footprint of growing food.  FarmedHere is managed by Megan Klein, an attorney by training who found her calling in urban agriculture and became part of this “new face.” Read more »

Next Crop of Farmers and Soil Scientists Cultivated on Working Farm/Outdoor Classroom

NRCS Resource Soil Scientist Jeannine Freyman using a soil profile to highlight differences in soil types and their suitability for agriculture and other uses at a workshop on the New River Hill Farm

NRCS Resource Soil Scientist Jeannine Freyman uses a soil profile to highlight differences in soil types and their suitability for agriculture and other uses at a workshop on the New River Hill Farm. Photo: Tracy Goodson.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating National Volunteer Week April 10-16, 2016, by thanking and honoring its Earth Team volunteers for their service to conservation.

When Otis Donald Philen, Jr. decided to combine his working farm operation with an outdoor classroom, he knew just the group to help―the New River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Philen, director of the SWCD, and other conservation professionals partner with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve agricultural education and natural resource protection. In September 2014, New River became the first District in Virginia to own a working farm when Philen deeded a 143-acre tract to the district. Read more »

4-H, Be SAFE Helps Develop Youth/Adult Partnerships to Help Prevent Bullying

A man working with youth

Research shows that adults working with youth strengthens bullying prevention efforts. Photo courtesy of 4-H.

(4-H’ers from across the country, U.S. territories, and Canada are converging on Washington, DC, for the 4-H National Conference, April 9-14.  4-H National Conference is the premier citizenship and civic engagement opportunity for 4-H members.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provides funding and national program leadership for 4-H and is the home of 4-H National Headquarters.  This blog has also been published at StopBullying.gov.)

Every day, many young people feel unsafe, disconnected, unsupported, and harmed because of bullying, harassment, and other forms of violence. Be SAFE: Safe, Affirming, and Fair Environments is a Michigan State University Extension initiative that helps communities learn about and address these issues. Be SAFE taps the wisdom and resiliency of young people and invites youth and adults to work in partnership to create relationships and settings that are physically and emotionally safe. Read more »