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Restored Wetlands Provide Critical Habitat for Migratory Birds, Many Other Species

Lyn and Jim Des Marais

Lyn and Jim Des Marais of Brandon, Vermont, are committed to protecting the wetlands on their 1,250 acre farm in the Otter Creek watershed. Photo by Amy Overstreet.

Wetlands and wildlife – they’re made for each other. Wetlands provide critical habitat, shelter food and places to raise young.

Landowners across the country are voluntarily restoring and protecting wetlands on private lands. This not only provides high-value wildlife habitat but provides many other benefits, such as cleaner water (wetlands act as filters!) and reduced flooding risk (they store water!). Read more »

Kenyan Credits McGovern-Dole Program for Changing His Life

Peter Mumo of Kenya meets with Amy Harding, deputy director of the FAS Food Assistance Division

Peter Mumo of Kenya meets with Amy Harding, deputy director of the FAS Food Assistance Division, in Washington. Photo credit: Steve Taravella, United Nations World Food Program

As a young boy in eastern Kenya, Peter Mumo faced a life of poverty, hunger and illness. That is until he started receiving school meals at the age of nine through the USDA McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program. After that, his life turned around. He started to gain weight, his health improved and he began doing well in school.

And now, at age 28, he is in Des Moines, Iowa, to take part in a six-week business and entrepreneurship training program hosted by Drake University as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship. The Fellowship is the flagship program of the Obama Administration’s Young African Leaders Initiative that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training and networking. Read more »

Remembrance, Recovery, and Resilience: 9/11 Memorials in NYC Metropolitan Landscapes

A drawing placed at a hometown memorial by a child survivor of 9/11

A drawing placed at a hometown memorial by a child survivor of 9/11. Photo credit: US Forest Service

As we approach the 15th anniversary of September 11th, 2001 or 9/11, our thoughts return to that day and many of us will revisit public spaces designed to promote healing and emotional recovery from the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history. The memories of the victims are cemented in our minds and hearts. They were employees, friends, family members, and American and world citizens that touched us all through their stories that we’ve seen in memorials, through media, and personal experience.

The healing power of nature is recognized around the world, including by those who create living memorials.  Living memorials can be plantings in a special location, development of beautiful gardens, or enhancements to existing landscapes like a beachfront. Read more »

Agricultural Lands Key to a Healthy Chesapeake Bay

A farmer with a NRCS employee

To improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, farmers and forest landowners are using conservation systems that reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.

A vibrant and healthy agriculture sector is a critical component of restoring and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and I’m proud of the steps that our Bay-area agricultural producers are taking to protect this national treasure. Agricultural producers have implemented nearly $1 billion worth of conservation practices on 3.6 million acres – an area three times the size of Delaware – since 2009 with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

From coastal communities in Virginia and Maryland to the hills of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, farmers and forest landowners are voluntarily making conservation improvements to their land that reduce erosion, manage nutrients and protect stream corridors – all contributing to cleaner water downstream. We celebrated the accomplishments of producers today at Y Worry Farm in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, bringing together producers, agricultural groups, non-government organizations and others to celebrate these investments in cleaner water. Read more »

Chefs Move to Schools! How to Put on a Junior Chef Competition

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move blog:

Student culinary competitions are becoming a fun and popular learning tool utilized by many schools throughout the country to engage students in creating healthy, appealing meals. These events encourage students to eat more nutritious foods, as well as give students a voice about foods in schools, showcase school nutrition programs and stimulate interest in local agriculture.

To simplify the planning process and assist schools that may be interested in hosting a student cooking competition, the Institute of Child Nutrition, in conjunction with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, has developed the Chefs Move to Schools: Junior Chef Competition toolkit. Customizable based on the needs of the school, the toolkit includes how-to information as well as sample rules, forms, and guidelines for planning and pulling off a culinary competition at school. Read more »

Growing Farmers

Suraj Budathoki

Suraj Budathoki grew up farming next to a Bhutanese refugee camp. MFA’s Farmer Training Program helped him to pursue his passion for sustainable farming in MN. Photo by Laura Hedeen, employee at Minnesota Food Association.

Fresh. Local. Honest. This motto underscores the guiding philosophy of the Minnesota Food Association (MFA). To achieve its goals of promoting healthy food and regenerative agriculture, the MFA offers workshops for farmers and helps immigrants learn how to farm sustainably in local conditions.

The MFA manages Big River Farms, a 150-acre certified-organic teaching farm. Farmers can enroll in a three-year training program, during which they’re taught about local soils and growing conditions, trained in organic certification and farming methods, and provided a large plot of land to manage. Many of the farmers are immigrants and refugees.

“I thought America was all cities and buildings. I didn’t picture the farmland,” said Suraj Budathoki, a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. He is a recent graduate of Big River Farms. Read more »