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Reapers and Creepers Give Rave Reviews for Fall Harvest and Halloween Stats!

An infographic highlighting facts and figures about Fall harvests and Halloween trends. Click to see a larger version.

An infographic highlighting facts and figures about Fall harvests and Halloween trends. Click to see a larger version.

Whether its an abundance of fresh farm crops at the local grocery store, farmers market or fall festival, the fruits (and vegetables) of the growing season are all around us. About 158 million Americans will get into the Halloween spirit this year, spending an estimated $7 billion to celebrate Halloween.

Just over 44 percent will carve pumpkins for the holiday, but that won’t be the only starring role the big orange squash will play this season. To meet the demand for all things pumpkin, U. S. farmers produced more than one billion pounds of pumpkins last year. That’s a lot of pumpkin pies, flavored coffee drinks and Jack-O-Lanterns.

While less than half of American adults will dress up in costumes, 13.8 percent plan to dress up their pets. Read more »

RISE Volunteers Mentor Young Gardeners

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

RISE Volunteers with the People’s Garden national leadership team at Grandview Elementary School

In 2011, Washington State University won a USDA People’s Garden School Pilot Project grant. The University used the funds to start the “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” project, a multi-year research project that engages elementary students in creating edible gardens in schools across the country.  School gardens are an effective way to introduce kids to healthy foods and create a passion for agriculture and Washington State is helping lead the way.  We’re excited to provide an update on how the project is going. The following post was written by Brad Gaolach, the Project Director for the program.

Guest post by Brad Gaolach, Project Director, Washington State University Extension

Grandview Elementary School in Monsey, NY is one of 50 schools across the U.S. taking part in USDA’s People’s Garden School Pilot Project – “Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth” (HGHY). This research and education project aims to understand the impact of school gardens on fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, science and math learning, and other outcomes.

Grandview Elementary also enjoys a unique partnership with another research project: “Retirees in Service to the Environment,” or RISE. Created by Cornell’s Institute for Translational Research on Aging, RISE provides opportunities for older adults to become involved in local environmental projects.  Research has shown there are greater mental and physical health benefits from environmental volunteering compared to other types of service. As environmental stewards, older adults not only gain from being engaged in civic issues, they also contribute their knowledge and passion to sustaining the environment for future generations. Read more »

Former California Governor Schwarzenegger Cited for Work on Climate Change, Named Honorary US Forest Service Ranger

(left to right) Chief Tom Tidwell, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Smokey Bear at today’s ceremony. (Photo by Bob Nichols, USDA)

(left to right) Chief Tom Tidwell, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Smokey Bear at today’s ceremony. (Photo by Bob Nichols, USDA)

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger received a U.S. Forest Service badge and jacket during a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., naming him an Honorary Forest Ranger for his work on climate change issues.

“I know you understand what we need to do as a nation to reduce the level of carbon in the atmosphere — after all, you have helped lead the way,” U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell said to Schwarzenegger during the ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We look forward to having your help in educating communities on the devastating impacts of climate change on our forests and grasslands.”

Schwarzenegger said the honor “truly touches my heart” and expressed high praise for the agency and highlighted his respect for the thousands of Forest Service firefighters, especially as climate change effects have contributed to hotter, longer fire seasons. Read more »

A Commitment to Humane Handling in the Food Safety and Inspection Service

The recent multistate outbreak of Salmonella has served as yet another reminder of the importance of a modern, effective food safety system in the United States. That’s why USDA has undertaken a comprehensive effort to modernize poultry slaughter inspection in ways that will reduce the risk for American families.

A recent story in the Washington Post shared claims by some that this new effort would compromise humane handling. The fact is, this proposal will better position our inspectors to ensure humane handling standards are being met – all while protecting American families from illness caused by Salmonella and Campylobacter. Read more »

Arkansas Poultry Farmer Cuts Costs & Reduces Carbon Footprint

Stanley Lee has put more efficient light bulbs in his chicken houses and made other updates that lower his carbon footprint.

Stanley Lee has put more efficient light bulbs in his chicken houses and made other updates that lower his carbon footprint.

It can take a lot of energy to raise chickens as farmers have to control the temperature and lighting in houses, meaning high costs and high energy use.

But with help from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, poultry producers can cut their costs while conserving energy.

One Benton County, Ark. producer is cutting his gas and electric bills while decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Stanley Lee did this by installing radiant heaters, light-emitting diode light bulbs, or LEDs, and attic insulation in his six chicken houses that shelter 890,000 chickens each year. Read more »

USDA Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Visits Colorado’s USDA Employees and Tours Flood Impacted Areas

Undersecretary Robert Bonnie (second from left) is briefed by NRCS Soil Conservationist Don Graffis.  Graffis discussed  NRCS recovery efforts in the wake of a 2013 flood near Lyons Colorado. NRCS photo.

Undersecretary Robert Bonnie (second from left) is briefed by NRCS Soil Conservationist Don Graffis. Graffis discussed NRCS recovery efforts in the wake of a 2013 flood near Lyons Colorado. NRCS photo.

Recently, Undersecretary for Natural Resources and Environment Robert Bonnie visited Colorado to connect with USDA employees in the wake of the government shutdown.  On the morning of Wednesday, October 23rd Undersecretary Bonnie traveled to Fort Collins to host a USDA “family meeting” and listen to nearly 100 employees as they shared comments, asked questions, and voiced concerns. The Undersecretary fielded numerous questions during the structured event, while after several employees shared their appreciation for the chance to hear from and interact with leadership within the Department.

Later in the afternoon the Undersecretary participated in a tour that helped provide a hands-on account of the impact and devastation resulting from the recent flood which was only compounded because of the 2012 wildfires.  The first leg of the tour was led by Donald Graffis, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) soil conservationist in Longmont, Colo., while Sylvia Clark, Forest Service (FS) district ranger in Boulder coordinated the second half.  Phyllis Ann Philipps, NRCS State Conservationist in Colorado and Dan Jiron, FS Regional Forester were also on hand during the tour. Read more »