Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Agua Gorda Co-op Provides Latino Farmers with Means to Acquire Land

Members of the Agua Gorda Cooperative growing organic produce

Members of the Agua Gorda Cooperative are growing organic produce for the Minneapolis market. Photo courtesy Latino Economic Development Center.

October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. Jaime Villalaz, a business development specialist with the Latino Economic Development Center in Minneapolis, Minn., provided us with a glimpse into how USDA funds are being used to promote agriculture and cooperative development in the Latino community in Minnesota. 

In 2011, staff from the Latino Economic Development Center (LEDC) in Minneapolis met with about 30 residents of Long Prairie, Minn., to discuss starting a farmer cooperative that would improve their income and promote economic development. After meetings throughout that winter, the cooperative became a legal entity in April 2012. The eight original members each contributed $250 to start the Agua Gorda Cooperative. Read more »

Top Chef’s Carla Hall Supports a Healthier Next Generation. See How!

Baked parmesan fish, butternut squash with black beans, honey lemon chicken… No, these aren’t items on a high-end restaurant menu.  They’re delicious dishes being offered in America’s school lunchrooms! This National School Lunch Week, we’re celebrating school meal programs around the country and renewed efforts to provide nutritious and appetizing meals featuring more fruits and vegetables and whole grains with less calories, sodium, and trans fats.  As a result of school nutrition professionals’ hard work, our kids’ meals are healthier than ever before.  And USDA research confirms that children who participate in the National School Lunch Program are more likely to consume fruits, vegetables, milk, and other important components of a healthy diet than their peers. Read more »

New Toolset Helps Identify Key Water Conservation Options

ARS soil scientist Mark D. Tomer and technician Sarah Porter reviewing a map showing results from a new toolset

Along Beaver Creek in central Iowa, ARS soil scientist Mark D. Tomer and technician Sarah Porter review a map showing results from a new toolset that analyzes conservation data from this watershed. Photo by Jim Ascough.

A free computer-based toolset developed by USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists was launched this month.  The toolset can help conservation planners, landowners and researchers better manage watershed runoff, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, while also supporting agricultural production.

Excess nutrients from watershed runoff—from sources that include farming—affect the ecological quality of aquatic environments. A watershed is an area of land from which all of the water that runs off its surface flows to the same location, typically a stream or river, but lakes and ponds also have watersheds. There are thousands of watersheds of varying sizes that cover the continental United States. Read more »

A Conversation on Housing Development in Missouri

There’s power in unity and it’s always a great thing to see small communities come together to discuss ways of improving the places they call home. If we join forces, a lot can happen – and it all starts with a vision.

Speaking with the individuals of rural areas and creating solutions to further advance their communities is what I truly enjoy. As the Administrator for USDA Rural Housing Service, listening to the voices of people in small communities and making their vision become a reality is something I strive to achieve. Read more »

STEM Grows from SEEDS at San Diego College

SEEDS scholars at Mesa College in San Diego participating in an Iron Chef-inspired team building exercise

SEEDS scholars at Mesa College in San Diego participate in an Iron Chef-inspired team building exercise. SEEDS encourages Hispanic students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics-related fields. (Photo courtesy of Leticia Lopez)

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.

Educators at Mesa College, in San Diego, Calif., are developing future leaders in agricultural sciences and related fields by providing them with a solid background in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education.

The STEM Engagement for the Enrichment of Diverse Students (SEEDS) program is a four-year effort to encourage underrepresented students, primarily Hispanic, to pursue graduate degrees.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture is supporting the project with a $290,000 grant. Read more »

During National Farm to School Month, USDA Celebrates Grantees’ Accomplishments and a New Office

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serving up a local lunch, including kale

Food service staff at a Delaware high school serves up a local lunch, including kale from the school farm.

Along with brilliantly colored hard squash, crisp apples, and hearty greens, October ushers in National Farm to School Month, a time to raise awareness about and celebrate the impact of farm to school programs on children, producers, and communities. Since 2012, I have directed USDA’s Farm to School Program, guiding the work of a small but enthusiastic team at the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). Each October, we have more to celebrate: more USDA funds awarded to schools, agencies, and organizations to advance these programs; more money ending up in the pockets of local producers; more school gardens in which students can learn and grow; and more healthful school meals that feature local foods.

A new report, announced by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack earlier this month, helps quantify our celebration. An analysis of grant-making over the last three years reveals that USDA has awarded $15.1 million through 221 grants in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fifty percent of funded projects included expanding healthy menu options offered in the cafeteria; 46 percent included training for food service staff about menu planning, meal preparation, and cooking with local and regional foods; and 65 percent included nutrition education activities. These funds have helped 12,300 schools improve nutritious meal options made with local ingredients for 6.9 million students, while expanding market opportunities for family farmers and ranchers in their communities. Read more »