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From Granddad’s Garden to Global Food Security

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.

As a boy, Steven Cannon helped his grandfather in the garden grafting fruit trees, all the while developing an interest in plants. As an adult, Cannon has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, working with USDA as a scientist—but only after first taking a different, though ultimately, complementary career path.

After graduating college, Cannon worked various jobs, including one as an educational software designer that used his knack for computing.  In 2000, he rekindled his early interest in plant biology, earning a PhD and practical experience as a postdoctoral researcher assigned to a genome mapping project. In 2006, he accepted a position as a plant geneticist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, Iowa. Read more »

Year’s First National Water Forecast Predicts Limited Supply West of the Continental Divide

NRCS Oregon hydrologists Melissa Webb and Julie Koeberle measure snow on Mount Hood, Ore. (NRCS photo)

NRCS Oregon hydrologists Melissa Webb and Julie Koeberle measure snow on Mount Hood, Ore. (NRCS photo)

A limited water supply is predicted west of the Continental Divide, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) data in its first forecast in 2014.

The NWCC also predicts normal water supply east of the Continental Divide and will continue to monitor, forecast and update water supplies for the next six months.

Monitoring snowpack of 13 western states, the center’s mission is to help the West prepare for spring and summer snowmelt and streamflow by providing periodic forecasts. It’s a tool for farmers, ranchers, water managers, communities and recreational users to make informed, science-based decisions about future water availability. Read more »

From Small Potatoes to 36,000 Pounds of Carrots: Farm to School Grows

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

On January 15th, Growing Power’s Will Allen joined Chicago Public School, Aramark, FarmLogix and USDA staff to celebrate 36,000 pounds of carrots grown locally and served to Chicago students.

In the past few years I’ve seen an increasing number of news stories about successful farm to school programs. As reflected in the first USDA Farm to School Census, farm to school programs are thriving from Alaska to Florida and in every state between.

I attended a recent event that demonstrates just how quickly—and by what lengths—farm to school is growing. On January 15th, students in all Chicago Public Schools (CPS) were served sliced carrots grown at a farm only 90 miles away in Milwaukee. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: The Building Blocks for a Healthier America

At USDA, we are working hard to ensure that America’s next generation has access to the healthy foods they need to grow, learn, achieve, and eventually to compete and succeed on a global stage.

We are focused on feeding a healthier future, but we are also learning that the country as a whole is making the shift towards a more health-conscious society. USDA recently released a study that shows that the diets of American adults are improving. More people are reading nutrition labels and using that information to make healthier food choices at the grocery stores. We are eating out less and sitting down around the supper table with family more. Read more »

Organization Honors Farmers for Outreach Efforts, Innovation

Alphonse and Martha Dotson worked with NRCS to conserve water and improve soil health on their Texas vineyard.

Alphonse and Martha Dotson worked with NRCS to conserve water and improve soil health on their Texas vineyard.

The National Organization of Professional Black Natural Resources Conservation Service Employees recently honored three farm families at their annual outreach and agricultural education exposition.

The Lloyd Wright Small Farmer Award is named after the organization’s founder. The award is given to producers who share a passion for improving awareness and development in the field of agriculture. The organization selected Kentucky rancher William E. Boulden, Jr. for first place, Texas grape growers Alphonse and Martha Dotson for second, and Mississippi ranchers Percy and Emma Brown for third. Read more »

Celebrate the Chinese New Year While Being Citrus Smart

If you are sending citrus gifts, learn how to do it responsibly by visiting www.saveourcitrus.org

If you are sending citrus gifts, learn how to do it responsibly by visiting www.saveourcitrus.org

Out with the snake, in with horse! January 31 marks the start of the Chinese New Year. Many people will be enjoying the rich cultural traditions of this holiday such as food, parades and exchanging gifts. One traditional Chinese New Year gift is citrus fruit, such as mandarin oranges and tangerines. This fruit is said to bring luck, wealth and prosperity.

However, without proper precautions citrus can also bring something else that may not be so favorable—the Asian citrus psyllid. This pest carries citrus greening disease, also known as Huanglongbing (HLB), a disease threatening the commercial citrus industry and homegrown citrus trees alike. Although it is not harmful to humans or animals, the disease is fatal for citrus trees and has no known cure. Read more »