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Pennsylvania Landowners Helping Indiana Bat through ‘Spooky’ Declines

NRCS Chief Jason Weller with Tom Belinda and Rob Clauto

NRCS Chief Jason Weller (left) visited with NRCS District Conservationist Rob Clauto (center) and Blair County landowner Tom Belinda (right) to see some of the practices at work on the land.

When most people think of bats, images of dark caves, vampires and Halloween come to mind. But actually, bats get a bad rap, and we often don’t know how important they are for controlling insects, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and improving biodiversity.

Many of our nation’s bats are facing population declines to near-extinction levels, primarily because of disease and loss of habitat. One of those species is the Indiana bat, an endangered species that has experienced rapid declines since the 1960s. Read more »

Meet Carol & Brad: The Last Family in the #MyPlateMyWins Video Series

Brad and Carol

The MyPlate, MyWins video series shows how real families make healthy eating work for them. Meet Brad, a dairy farmer, his wife Carol, and their four children in our newest and final family video.

This year, our MyPlate, MyWins video series has introduced you to families sharing their solutions for incorporating healthy eating into their unique lifestyles. In the final family video, Carol and Brad share how they plan meals around foods they either produce themselves in their family garden or are on sale at the grocery store. For them, making sure their four children eat right and take care of their bodies is essential! Read more »

REAPing America’s Clean Energy Future

Administrator Sam Rikkers discussing the Central City Solar Garden Project

Administrator Sam Rikkers (left) discusses the Central City Solar Garden Project with (L-R) City Administrator Chris Anderson, Cliff Mesner of Mesner Development Company (with his back to the camera), and Bill Sheppard and Jeff Carpenter of USDA Rural Development’s Nebraska offices.

USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, commonly referred to as ‘REAP’, provides financial resources for rural agricultural producers and small businesses to help them improve their bottom line. REAP provides loan guarantees and small grants to support these producers and owners as they improve the energy efficiency of their operations and develop renewable energy sources.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced hundreds of new projects like the one I visited over the summer in Central City, Nebraska.  It exemplifies the strategic thinking our rural communities use daily to find new ways to prosper.  A community just shy of 3,000 residents, Central City is home to the first community solar garden project ever developed in Nebraska. Read more »

Celebrating Seasonal Variety at the USDA Fall Harvest Festival

2016 Peoples Garden Harvest Festival flyer

If you are in Washington DC, you come celebrate fall with us at the 7th annual USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the People’s Garden, at the USDA Farmers Market and along 12th Street right next to the market and steps from the Smithsonian Metro Stop Mall Exit.

Can you describe your favorite thing about fall? Would it be picking pumpkins, jumping carefree into a pile of crisp leaves, admiring the brilliant riots of color in our national forests and grasslands, eating fall vegetables, or something else entirely?

You can celebrate fall in all of these ways at the 7th annual USDA Harvest Festival on Friday, October 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the People’s Garden, at the USDA Farmers Market and along 12th Street right next to the market. Take advantage of the last opportunity this year to enjoy what’s in season from pumpkins to apple cider at the USDA Farmers Market located at the corner of 12th Street and Independence Ave, SW in Washington, D.C. Read more »

Join the Bat Squad and Pull for Bats during Bat Week

Jennifer Redell with a straw-coloured fruit bat

Jennifer Redell, a conservation biologist/cave and mine specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, gives a close up and personal look at a straw-coloured fruit bat, the most widely distributed of the African fruit bats. Bats fulfill many important ecosystem functions, such as pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds during their flights. (U.S. Forest Service)

Bats have quite the list of positive effects in our world, from the billions of dollars they save in pesticides to natural pollination and seed spreading. Bats eat about one-half of their body weight in insects each night.

We need bats.

In honor of our furry, flying mammal friends, consider pulling for bats during Bat Week from Oct. 24-31. You can make a difference, whether you get a group together to literally pull invasive plants to help improve habitat and food for bats or figuratively “pull” for bats by sharing why they are important to our ecosystem with your friends and family. And, the great news is that you don’t have to be an adult to help bats. Read more »

Colorado Proud School Meal Day Features Local Yak, Peaches, Potatoes and More!

Deputy Under Secretary Katie Wilson speaking with Denver Green School students

Deputy Under Secretary Katie Wilson speaks with Denver Green School students about their locally-sourced lunch during Colorado Proud School Meal Day.

From locally-raised yak burgers to school garden-grown zucchini, Colorado schools kicked off the school year with farm to school gusto! On September 14, an estimated 550 schools reaching 160,700 students celebrated Colorado Proud School Meal Day by featuring fresh, locally-grown food in their school meals. The annual event is organized by Colorado Proud, a program to promote local foods through the Colorado Department of Agriculture.

Students from the public Denver Green School celebrated with special guests including Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Deputy Under Secretary Katie Wilson and Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. Guests joined students for a delicious school lunch featuring homegrown zucchini, onions, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes. Students voiced their excitement for the fresh food, and guests headed outside to the school farm where the produce was grown. Read more »