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Meet the Experts: USDA’s National Agricultural Library Launches New Online Food Safety Video Collection

USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) microbiologist Monifa Peterson demonstrates the addition of reagents for an E. coli non-O157:H7 analysis.

USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) microbiologist Monifa Peterson demonstrates the addition of reagents for an E. coli non-O157:H7 analysis.

Food is necessary and can be quite enjoyable, but it must also be safe to eat. Unfortunately, about one out of six Americans gets sick from eating contaminated food at some point during the year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Scientists from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) work for one of the federal agencies that conducts research to help make the foods we eat safer. To help the public more easily access USDA food safety research information, the department’s National Agricultural Library’s Food Safety Research Information Office (FSRIO) has launched a new “Meet the Experts” online video collection available on the NAL website. Read more »

Hacking Away at Common Agricultural Issues

 

The first place winners of the Apps for Ag Hackathon were the team Giving Gardens whose app help community gardeners post their surplus produce and "trade" with others. They also plan to have local chefs offer suggested recipes based on their postings - sort of like a Craigslist for community gardeners.

The first place winners of the Apps for Ag Hackathon were the team Giving Gardens whose app help community gardeners post their surplus produce and "trade" with others. They also plan to have local chefs offer suggested recipes based on their postings - sort of like a Craigslist for community gardeners.

Hackathons aim to solve real problems and USDA, along with the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the California State Fair, hosted a competitive one this past July. Software developers, designers, entrepreneurs, farmers, farm consultants, marketers and others in the agricultural industry participated in the Hackathon, which was held at the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources building in Davis, California. Participants competed for cash prizes at a “pitchfest” in front of a live audience at the California State Fair on Sunday, July 17, Prizes were awarded to the top three apps: first place won $5,000, second place $3,000 and third place $1,500. People who work in agriculture brought with them ideas for problems that technology may help solve.

“Apps for Ag” Hackathons have already resulted in multiple startups and we want to see this momentum continue to grow,” said Robert Tse, USDA California Rural Development chief strategy officer for agriculture technology and innovation. “There was no better place than the State Fair in the Capitol to showcase the ingenuity of California’s Ag tech community.” Read more »

Aviation History Month: Aircraft and Paratroopers in the Forest Service

Airplane fire patrol circling Mt. Jefferson in the Cascade Range. (Credit U.S. Army Air Service 1920.)

Airplane fire patrol circling Mt. Jefferson in the Cascade Range. (Credit U.S. Army Air Service 1920.)

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the U.S. Forest Service relies heavily on fixed wing and rotary aircraft to accomplish the agency’s mission. Employees take to the skies for forest inventory surveys, prescribed fire support, firefighting or to get to remote locations. Since 1919, aircraft has been an invaluable resource for the agency.

There are differing accounts as to when the Forest Service first put aircraft to use. But, it wasn’t until 1919 when Forest Service leadership talked about the use of aviation resources. In April, Forester Coert du Bois told Chief Forester Henry Graves that aerial fire patrols would begin on the Angeles and Cleveland National Forests. These patrols, supported by military pilots from the Air Service of the U.S. Army, continued through 1927, after which the Air Service could no longer support the agency. Read more »

Artisan Cheese Makers Embrace Voluntary Conservation at Award-Winning Vermont Dairy

Cheesemakers left to right: Creamery Manager and Head Cheesemaker Leslie Goff (center) with Consider Bardwell owner Angela Miller (right) and cheesemaker Anastasia Barrett. Photo: Amy Overstreet, NRCS Vermont.

Cheesemakers left to right: Creamery Manager and Head Cheesemaker Leslie Goff (center) with Consider Bardwell owner Angela Miller (right) and cheesemaker Anastasia Barrett. Photo: Amy Overstreet, NRCS Vermont.

The story behind Vermont’s Consider Bardwell could be the plot for a great movie. The lead characters are Russell and Angela, two New York City executives who decide in their fifties that they want to buy a farm, raise goats, and be artisan cheesemakers. The setting is a 300-acre dairy farm and cheese operation in West Pawlet, Vermont. And the twist…they had no previous farming experience.

What could have been a comedy is an inspiring story of dedication and perseverance. This is the true tale of an architect and a literary agent who pursue a dream to farm sustainably through a voluntary conservation approach, and create a unique farm-to-plate product. Their partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping to ensure the health of the natural resources on their farm. Read more »

How to Safely Thaw a Turkey

While frozen, a turkey is safe indefinitely. As soon as it begins to thaw, bacteria that may have been present before freezing will begin to grow again. There are three safe ways to defrost a turkey: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in a microwave oven.

3 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

3 Ways to Thaw a Turkey

Refrigerator Thawing (Recommended)

The USDA recommends thawing your turkey in the refrigerator. This is the safest method because the turkey will thaw at a consistent, safe temperature. This method takes some time, so allow one day for each 4 – 5 pounds of weight. If your turkey weighs 16 pounds, it will take about four days to thaw. Once thawed, the turkey is safe for another two days, so you can start thawing it six days before thanksgiving (the Friday before Thanksgiving). Read more »

Food Hub, Food Truck and Food Education: Northern Colorado School District Takes Farm to School to the Next Level

Lunch at a Weld County School District 6 elementary school featuring local products: grass-finished beef, pinto beans, local certified organic apples and greenhouse tomatoes & cucumbers

Lunch at a Weld County School District 6 elementary school featuring local products: grass-finished beef, pinto beans, local certified organic apples and greenhouse tomatoes & cucumbers

A bin of acorn squash sits on a pallet at the Weld County School District 6 central kitchen, right next to a bin of yellow onions and a 1,000 pound tote of russet potatoes – all locally-grown. A walk through the facility is enough to convince anyone that Weld County School District 6 is committed to scratch-cooked, locally-grown food for its 22,000 students at 35 schools.  In this rural Colorado school district, where over 40 languages are spoken at home and 66 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced price meals, fresh, tasty food is the norm – even down to the green chili, a southwestern favorite roasted in-house, using three varieties of local peppers.

About a quarter of the central kitchen is dedicated to processing fresh fruits and vegetables.  Mushrooms are sliced, carrots are shredded and onions are diced. With funding from a USDA Farm to School Grant in 2013, this food hub portion of the kitchen was furnished with tables, wash stations and equipment to process local food for Weld County’s own meals and for other districts in the area. Read more »