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UPDATE: A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (fifth from right) cutting the ribbon for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Chief Steve Pego

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner (fifth from right) cuts the ribbon for the Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market with Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribal Chief Steve Pego.

To update you on a story featured previously, I was honored to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market. We broke ground on this project in June, and it is great to see the pavilion completed in time to share this summer’s produce. 

Tribal Chief Steve Pego sang a ceremonial song and a traditional offering of medicine was made to commemorate the occasion.  He noted that the response had been overwhelming and hoped it would lead to revival of interest in growing traditional crops and also improve the diet of tribal members, moving them away from processed food to fresh, locally-grown produce. Read more »

Gopher Tortoise Habitats Thrive along Alabama’s Gulf Coast

Gopher tortoise

Private landowners in Alabama and elsewhere in the Southeast are playing a crucial role in restoring habitat for gopher tortoises.

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the Southeast. But over the past two centuries, many of these forests have disappeared along with the wildlife that called them home. Recent efforts to enhance longleaf forests on private lands are helping the ecosystem rebound as well as wildlife like the gopher tortoise.

The gopher tortoise is a keystone species of the longleaf forest, known for their deep burrows that provide vital habitat and shelter for not only itself but many other species. The gopher tortoise is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in the western part of the longleaf range, including parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Read more »

Support Healthy Markets this National Forest Products Week

A warehouse of forest products

A warehouse of forest products. Photo credit: Joel Prince courtesy National Association of State Foresters.

The following guest blog is part of a series featuring the Forest Service’s work with partners on restoration across the country.

By Scott Bissette, Assistant Commissioner of the North Carolina Forest Service and chair of the National Association of State Foresters Forest Markets Committee 

Our forests are renewable and vital resources when sustainably managed. From paper products such as food packaging and tissue paper, to lumber used for our homes and furniture, trees in our forests provide items we use every day.

Strong markets for these forest products are needed to restore many of our forests and ensure they continue to be managed and are healthy for future generations. That’s why all Americans should support National Forest Products Week from October 18-24, 2015. Read more »

South Florida Drought: Mobile Irrigation Labs to the Rescue

A person testing an irrigation system

Nurseries can take advantage of the free irrigation efficiency test. Photo: Gail Hendricks.

Widespread drought in California and other parts of the western United States has been widely covered, but earlier this year,  drought conditions in southeast Florida were  “extreme” and are still considered “abnormally dry” according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. This heavily populated area of Florida – which is home to more than eight million people and includes the cities of Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach – is also a major agricultural area.

Even though Florida is in its rainy season, lasting from May until October, the South Florida Water Management District reports that May and June rainfall totals were well below average across most of the region. District weather records show that this May and June period was the driest since 2004 and the ninth driest since recordkeeping began in 1932. Of course, a tropical disturbance or hurricane that contains significant rainfall, like the one experienced last month, can make up at least some of this deficit, but waiting for weather isn’t something to rely on to fix the problem. Read more »

Colorado Team Nutrition Makes School Wellness a Success

Two kids writing on paper

As part of their wellness training, CDE educated 111 participants on local school wellness policies and how to include students in their wellness activities.

The following guest blog describes how one state education department used a USDA Team Nutrition grant to develop training to help schools implement programs that promote student wellness and to meet updated meal standards.

By Heather Hauswirth, RD, Program Specialist, Office of School Nutrition, Colorado Department of Education  

In September 2014, our office, the Colorado Department of Education Office of School Nutrition, was awarded a Team Nutrition Training Grant from the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to implement statewide school wellness training. Read more »

Organic on the World Stage: Expo Milan 2015

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row, third from right) with panelists and Expo Ambassadors at the "Women Leading the Organic Way" panel at the USA Pavilion at the Expo Milano 2015

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (first row, third from right) with panelists and Expo Ambassadors at the "Women Leading the Organic Way" panel at the USA Pavilion at the Expo Milano 2015.

Across the country and around the world, more people are looking for organic options at their local markets.  Thanks to the remarkable growth in the number of USDA certified organic operations, which now number more than 27,800 worldwide, consumers have more choices than ever.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), includes the National Organic Program, which plays a critical role in advancing the organic sector by developing clear standards for use of the USDA Organic seal, enforcing a level playing field, and expanding trade opportunities to create new markets for U.S. organic businesses.

Just last week, I had the privilege of highlighting the success of American organic agriculture on the world stage at the Expo Milan 2015 USA Pavilion, where the theme was “American Food 2.0:  United to Feed the Planet.”  During the “Women leading the Organic Way” panel discussion, I shared USDA’s vision for organic agriculture and all the ways in which USDA is supporting organic farmers and businesses.  I also emphasized the important role of women in agriculture – women farm 301.4 million acres in the U.S., and a relatively high proportion of organic farms are operated by women. Read more »