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Minnesota Farm Uses Conservation to Make Each Acre Count

Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm

Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm

When studying abroad in France and Spain, Sarah Woutat developed a love for organic farming after working on farms in both countries. The love was so strong, she retired from her New York City life working for an environmental publishing business and returned to farming.

After an apprenticeship at Fort Hill Farm in Connecticut, she returned home to her native state of Minnesota to run Uproot Farm.

Uproot Farm is a small vegetable farm just one hour north of the Twin Cities. This farm turns a profit on just five acres. The farm sells community supported agriculture, or CSA, shares to people in nearby Cambridge, Minn. as well as Minneapolis. When a person buys into a CSA, they’re guaranteed a certain amount of the farm’s harvest and the farm receives financial support up front. Read more »

Teaching Kids Food Safety Tips for a Healthy Next Generation

US Department of Agriculture’s mobile Discovery Zone is a hands-on vehicle that travels the nation educating children and parents about the four main principals of home food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill.  For more information see www.fsis.usda.gov/foodsafetymobile/

US Department of Agriculture’s mobile Discovery Zone is a hands-on vehicle that travels the nation educating children and parents about the four main principals of home food safety – clean, separate, cook and chill. For more information see www.fsis.usda.gov/foodsafetymobile/

The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) ensures that America’s meat, poultry, and processed egg products are safe and wholesome. Educating the public on proper food handling practices is a core agency mission as well. It’s even more important when one considers the impact safe food handling practices have on children.

With a generation of children brought up relating the word “celebrity” to chefs just as readily as they do to athletes, food safety education has a more receptive audience among teens and young adults than ever before. With the help of parents and guardians, the current generation of children could have fewer preventable cases of foodborne illness than ever before. Read more »

Summer Food for Children Demonstration Projects: Finding New Ways to End Childhood Hunger

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe wants to make sure that children and teens have access to healthy meals in and out of school.

USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator Audrey Rowe wants to make sure that children and teens have access to healthy meals in and out of school.

When school lets out, millions of children look forward to camps, pools, and blockbuster movies.  However, many children will also experience hunger.  When school is in session, low-income students receive free or reduced-price school meals that help families stretch their food budget.  When the school year ends, those school meals are no longer available to those students and some families will struggle to fill this gap.

We here at the USDA have been working hard to reduce childhood hunger when school is out.  One way we are accomplishing this goal is through the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) for Children demonstration project.  The project, funded by Congress in 2010, has shown clear results in reducing very low food security among children, the most severe form of childhood hunger.  A rigorous evaluation indicated that Summer EBT for Children: Read more »

Wetland Provides Sanctuary for People, Wildlife

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.

But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.

In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Produce Safety University: Supporting a Healthier Next Generation through School Food Safety!

PSU students interact with a local farmer during one of the program’s field trips.

PSU students interact with a local farmer during one of the program’s field trips.

Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children.  To reinforce that value, USDA is constantly working to ensure that kids are only being served safe, high quality meals.   That’s why we launched Produce Safety University (PSU) in 2010, to address the food safety issues related to fresh produce, particularly as it pertains to school food service.

A joint venture between USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and the Agricultural Marketing Service, PSU conducts five week-long classes each year to instruct school nutrition professionals and State Agency program directors.  The sessions focus on facts about the produce industry, produce safety, and produce use in school foodservice.  Last week we wrapped up our first session of 2014, at this highly informative event in Fredericksburg, Va. Read more »

Expanding Opportunity in Indian Country

Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.

Secretary Vilsack speaks to National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit in Washington, DC on March 13.

Earlier today, Secretary Vilsack published an op-ed in Indian Country Today discussing USDA’s efforts to improve access to capital for Tribal citizens. You can read the original op-ed here.

Last week, I spoke to several hundred tribal leaders at the National Congress of American Indians Tribal Nations Legislative Summit here in Washington, DC. The conversation was wide ranging, but boiled down to two key topics: what have we achieved, and how can USDA programs better support sustained economic growth in Indian Country?

USDA and our partners in Indian Country have made significant improvements to critical infrastructure over the past five years. In the past year alone, USDA invested more than $625 million in Indian Country through our Rural Development programs. We have worked with Tribes to bring new and improved electric infrastructure to Tribal lands and financed Tribal community facilities, including schools, medical facilities and Tribal colleges and universities. Read more »