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Egg-ucating the Chefs of Tomorrow

AMS’ Mark Perigen with a chef

AMS’ Mark Perigen observes as a future chef at Delta College’s Culinary School puts his egg quality knowledge to the test.

When embarking on their culinary careers, great chefs recognize that the key to creating delicious food is staying true to their ingredients.  At the heart of these truths is, “Good in; good out.”  If they put the best ingredients into cooking, they’ll get the best food out of them.  But with so many product and ingredient choices at their fingertips, how can they be sure they’re picking the best quality ingredients available?

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) takes the guesswork out of that process by developing, maintaining and interpreting specific measurements of quality through U.S. standards and grades for a wide variety of agricultural products.  AMS also offers voluntary services to producers and suppliers to certify products to those standards. Read more »

Big Impact from a Small Kitchen

Executive Chef Jason Johnson explaining his preschool menu to Administrator Starmer

Executive Chef Jason Johnson explains his preschool menu to Administrator Starmer. Most of the children he cooks for have not had a lot of experience with fruits and veggies, but Chef Jason says that each week their plates come back cleaner. Photo credit: Heather Hartley, USDA

I recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio with Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and stopped by Southside Roots Café, Market and Kitchen for lunch. The restaurant makes delicious food from locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, but what really sets it apart is how it charges customers for that food.

Southside Roots Café uses a pay-what-you-can approach that allows everyone to eat nutritious, delicious food, regardless of their income. Housed in a former school building owned and operated by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, the café and an adjacent fresh food market provide fresh, affordable, nutritious food to the local community. Weekly community meals, along with a kids’ meal program for students at a nearby development center and visitors to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, round out the food bank’s creative approach to serving families and children in need. Read more »

People’s Gardens, Farmers Markets & CSAs at USDA and Across Government

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, GSA Regional Administrator Julia Hudson and AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (center), GSA Regional Administrator Julia Hudson (left) and AMS Administrator Elanor Starmer (right) officially open the VegUcation tent at the USDA Farmers Market opening. This new feature at the market will help visitors learn how to pick, prepare and store seasonal fruits and vegetables they find at the Farmers Market. USDA photo by Ken Melton.

We celebrated a few “firsts” today when Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack opened the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market located outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

The Secretary announced the first-ever partnership between USDA, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the General Services Administration (GSA) to better support agencies and Federal employees who want to incorporate gardens, farmers markets and community supported agriculture programs (CSAs) into the Federal workplace.

OPM provides Government-wide guidance on health and wellness policies for Federal employees and GSA manages Federal property and offices.  By working together, we can more effectively exchange ideas about how to engage thousands of employees and improve employee health and wellness in the workplace. Read more »

USDA Supports Rural Small Business in Missouri

Central Missouri Meat and Sausage in Fulton, MO

Central Missouri Meat and Sausage in Fulton, MO used USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant to expand and market its retail operations.

In Fulton, Missouri lies a hidden gem, a meat-lover’s dream to say the least. Starting out as a small processing center, the Brinker family expanded their business, Central Missouri Meat and Sausage, into a retail store and food court. Filled with the aroma of smoked pork, tender beef and a large assortment of specialty sausages, this small business is making a big impact on the central Missouri meat market.

Co-owner Kenny Brinker says what makes them stand out from their competitors is their local approach and the fact that all the meat is processed and packaged on-site in their processing center. Since the beginning, the Brinkers have been looking for ways to continue expanding to eventually reach a larger market. Read more »

Climate Change and Agriculture in the Americas

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico

Plantains growing in Gurabo, Puerto Rico, where farmer Duamed Colón is using a legume cover crop (Canavalia ensiformis) to increase organic matter, improve soil health, and reduce erosion and herbicide use. Colón is collaborating with the Caribbean Hub to educate other farmers on sustainable land management practices for climate change adaptation and mitigation through the ADAPTA project. Photo by Duamed Colón.

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

The effects of climate change are putting farmers throughout the Latin American Caribbean to the test.  From Guatemala to Puerto Rico, rising global temperatures and powerful El Niño oscillations have contributed to patterns of drought and intense rainfall, resulting in crop losses.

In response to these and future crises, the USDA Caribbean Climate Hub in Puerto Rico is helping build more resilient food systems by educating about climate change risks and adaptation and mitigation strategies.  Established in 2014, the Caribbean Hub was as a part of a nationwide U.S. network designed to help farmers and managers of working lands adapt to increasing climate risk by translating climate science into workable decision support tools and information for farmers and land managers. Read more »

Where the People and Prairie Restore Each Other

Bison grazing near a trailhead

Bison grazing near a trailhead on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

Meandering along a rustic trail surrounded by towering prairie grasses and blooming flowers, you feel a sense of simplicity as you come to a quiet overlook that slopes onto a bench where you can observe the activity of birds and small mammals surrounding a still pond. This beautiful prairie landscape leaves the viewer with an appreciation for nature’s wide open spaces.

And, amazingly, you’re in the middle of one of America’s most populated regions because this could only be the Midewin (mi-Day-win) National Tallgrass Prairie, the largest piece of contiguous open space in the Chicago metropolitan area, located just an hour’s drive from the heart of the Windy City. Read more »