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Winyan Toka Win Garden Evolves Into Micro Farm

Winyan Toka Win Garden

Winyan Toka Win Garden is a two-acre organic garden supporting the Cheyenne River Youth Project, in Eagle Butte, South Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

When the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) first began its organic garden in 1999, staff members at the 26-year-old not-for-profit youth organization scarcely could have imagined where that little garden would take them. Now, 16 years later, the thriving two-acre Winyan Toka Win (“Leading Lady”) garden located in Eagle Butte, South Dakota is the beating heart of the youth project — and it’s quickly becoming a veritable micro farm.

Today, sustainable agriculture at CRYP supports nutritious meals and snacks at the main youth center for children four to twelve and at the Cokata Wiconi teen center.  It also provides fresh ingredients for the seasonal Leading Lady Farmers Market. To continue pursuing the long-term vision for the initiative, CRYP has invested in a new irrigation system, a composting system and a garden redesign. Read more »

Countdown to Thanksgiving

Woman shopping

Planning ahead is key for a food safe Thanksgiving.

The holiday countdown has begun.  In only a few weeks the holiday season begins, so now is the time to start thinking about Thanksgiving. USDA’s Meat and Poultry Hotline is ready to assist by offering some sure-fire ways to beat the clock to ensure a safe and delicious holiday dinner. Read more »

Go Local – Promoting Healthy Habits and Boosting Local Communities

Local bakery owner Susan Murray with freshly baked local muffins

Local bakery owner Susan Murray with freshly baked local muffins for school breakfast in Providence schools.

The following guest blog highlights Providence, Rhode Island school district’s exemplary commitment to purchase and source local food into the school meal programs. Going local economically supports RI farms and small businesses and provides opportunities for students to consume healthy, fresh foods and learn how their food is grown and promote healthy food choices.

By Providence Public Schools, Rhode Island

Providence Public School District (PPSD) is the largest school district in Rhode Island, serving 24,000 students.  In the heart of New England, PPSD has had historical ties to locally grown agriculture and food for centuries.  For the past few years, PPSD requires that RI-grown products compose at least 15% of all food purchases annually, helping to economically support the RI food system with local dollars, while promoting the environmental benefits of local land stewardship. Read more »

USDA Makes First Visit to Cuba Since 1961

“Today I had the opportunity to meet with Cuban fruit and vegetable farmers in the Antero Regalado Agricultural Cooperative in Güira de Melena, and hog and sheep producers in the Niceto Pérez Livestock Cooperative. They talked openly about the membership structure of their cooperatives, and they share many of the same concerns that face American farmers, such as climate change and pests, in addition to their own unique challenges with irrigation and equipment. I look forward to seeing more Americans have the opportunity for conversations and exchanging of ideas with their Cuban counterparts like I have had over the past few days. Throughout history, agriculture has served as a bridge to foster cooperation, and I have no doubt that agriculture will continue to play that powerful role as we expand our relationship with the Cuban people in the coming years.” – Secretary Vilsack

Last week, I was part of the first USDA team to visit Cuba since U.S. Government offices were closed there in 1961, and I was the third U.S. Cabinet official to visit the island since President Obama announced his intent to resume relations with Cuba late last year. Food and agricultural goods are the dominant U.S. exports to Cuba, and it is my firm belief—and one that appears to be shared by the Cuban people and government officials—that agriculture can serve as a bridge to foster cooperation, understanding and the exchange of ideas. Read more »

Sowing Gardens, and Growing Kids Who Love Them

Cherokee Central Schools students participating in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden

Cherokee Central Schools students participate in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden, which is planted with traditional varieties of vegetables grown for generations by the Cherokee people.

In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, guest blog writer Katie Rainwater, also a FoodCorps Service Member, shares her remarkable experience at Cherokee Central Schools, a 2014 USDA Farm to School Grantee.

Guest blog by Katie Rainwater, FoodCorps

Imagine this: A bright, sunny fall day in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Fresh, organic greens, lovingly raised in Cherokee Central Schools’ garden, and harvested that same day. Now add 22 elementary students proudly waving signs and banners they decorated the day before, boasting the beauty of their garden bounty, and advertising their Fall Greens Sale. If you ever bought into the idea that “kids don’t like vegetables,” our elementary schoolers could have changed your mind that day. Stationed in front of the school during after-school pick-up time, every car and person within reach received a glowing description of the wondrous greens the students helped grow, the most popular being a local native variety called Creasy Greens. Bedecked in fruit and vegetable costumes, these kids were convincing adults that they should eat their veggies! As a genuine testament to their enthusiasm and love for their harvest, they sold almost all of the 321 pounds of greens harvested that day. Read more »

Wildland Fires Recognize No Borders

Australia and New Zealand fire managers are provided instruction prior to a practice fire shelter deployment

Australia and New Zealand fire managers are provided instruction prior to a practice fire shelter deployment. (Photo credit: National Park Service / C. Boehle)

An uncontained forest fire burning in Greece, Germany, or the U.S. looks basically the same: they are all destructive. For this important reason, the U.S. Forest Service has a well-established international leadership role in wildland fire management.

The Fire and Aviation Management or FAM’s international program coordinates Forest Service leadership in wildland fire through three main efforts starting with support for international disasters. The next effort is mobilization of fire suppression resources in support of established bilateral arrangements, coordinated by the National Interagency Fire Center and finally through FAM’s international activities coordinated with the Forest Service’s International Programs Office. Read more »