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ARS Employee Volunteers Time, Expertise to Iowa Community Garden

Agricultural research science technician Fred Engstrom (left), a parent volunteer and two Central Elementary students measuring out lumber

Agricultural research science technician Fred Engstrom (left), a parent volunteer and two Central Elementary students measure out lumber for building raised beds at Noah’s Garden.

As an agricultural research science technician at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) North Central Regional Plant Introduction Station in Ames, Iowa, Fred Engstrom’s responsibilities are wide-ranging. They include tasks from managing the station’s nursery and field plots to modifying research equipment and collecting yield data for critical projects such as the Germplasm Enhancement of Maize program.

But the ARS station isn’t the only beneficiary of Engstrom’s versatile contributions. His time and technical know-how have also been praised by members of Central Elementary in Nevada, Iowa, where Engstrom helped to build the raised beds and irrigation system for the school’s community garden, dubbed “Noah’s Garden.” Read more »

The Cost of Fighting Wildfires is Sapping Forest Service Budget

Heavy helicopter drops fire retardant

U.S. Forest Service photo by Kari Greer.

Cross-posted from the Seattle Times:

Wildfires are now burning in Washington and across the West, in a year that may become the hottest on record. As our forests go up in flames, so too does the budget of the U.S. Forest Service, putting at risk lives, property, clean air and water, and jobs for thousands.

The number of fires the Forest Service and its partners fight every year is staggering: There have been more than 36,000 fires this year alone. And although we are successful at suppressing or managing 98 percent of fires when they start, the 1 to 2 percent of fires that escape are expensive, constituting 30 percent of annual costs. Read more »

Cover Crops and No-Till Help South Dakota Lamb Farmer

NRCS employee works with farmer

NRCS helps farmers and ranchers to better understand and use soil data and analysis –from traditional soil testing to the new Haney Soil Test.

Demand for fresh lamb from ­five star restaurants drives Bob Corio’s use of cover crops and better forages that provide feed but also build organic matter in the ­fields he farms in Union County, South Dakota.

“We needed something else for our sheep to eat other than hay,” says Corio, who has a flock of Dorper sheep and a herd of Dexter heritage breed cattle on their farm outside of Jefferson.

“I’m always concerned about the animals. I want something for them to graze all of the time. And, I want my sheep to graze at least until the snow hits. They grazed all Winter last year, but I started supplementing with hay and baleage in mid-January,” says Corio. Read more »

Partnering with Faith-Based and Community Organizations to Better Serve People in Need

At USDA we work through partnerships to provide opportunities to people in need.  Through relationships with both faith-based and secular community organizations, we are able to achieve our shared goals representative of America’s core values of caring for each other, including making sure that every family and every child is healthy and hunger free. Our partners serve thousands of Americans each day, providing emergency food assistance to families and nutritious meals to kids in the summer when school is closed.

Partnerships with community organizations are critical; fidelity to constitutional principles is equally important.   So we have worked to develop regulations that will ensure that we can continue to partner with faith-based organizations in the delivery of USDA-supported services, while ensuring that the religious liberty of those organizations as well as families and taxpayers is respected. Read more »

Food Safety is Everybody’s Business

A plate of hamburgers beside vegetables on skewers, ketchup, mustard and a pepper shaker

Consumers should be vigilant about handling and cooking food properly—food safety is everybody’s business.

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.

USDA’s summer road trip may have come to an end, but many folks are still firing up the grills as summer winds down. With that, consumers still need to be conscious of food safety—from checking temperatures of grilled meat to discarding perishables that have been sitting out too long. A quick U-turn on our road trip explores USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) food safety research program, which addresses complex food safety challenges by developing scientific information and new technologies to control foodborne contaminants. Read more »

Healthy Babies Grow Up To Be Healthier Kids

A peer counselor with a mother

Peer counselors undergo training to provide mother-to-mother support in group settings and one-to-one counseling.

WIC works.  But don’t just take it from us.  For more than four decades, WIC has helped produce better pregnancy results, such as increased birth weights and fewer premature births for our nation’s most vulnerable.  And it’s these critical outcomes at the start of life that shape a healthier future for millions of the program’s beneficiaries.

Officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, WIC continues to serve as the nation’s most successful, cost-effective and important nutrition intervention program. It provides nutritious foods, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and referrals to health care and social services for millions of low-income families.  And extensive research confirms its success.  Studies find that participating in WIC leads to healthier babies, more nutritious diets and better health care for children.  Participation has even been linked to higher academic achievement for students! Read more »