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USDA Reaches Out to Farmers with Sweet Conservation Incentives

Pineapples are an iconic crop in Puerto Rico, and they’re emerging again as a popular farming enterprise on the island.

Pineapples are an iconic crop in Puerto Rico, and they’re emerging again as a popular farming enterprise on the island.

NRCS staff members visit with Puerto Rico pineapple farmers in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

NRCS staff members visit with Puerto Rico pineapple farmers in Lajas, Puerto Rico.

Pineapples are emerging again as a popular farming enterprise in Puerto Rico because of a new variety that packs more sweetness and boasts stronger harvests. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is working with pineapple farmers to prevent erosion, improve soil health and keep water clean downstream by encouraging them to use conservation practices.

The new variety is the golden pineapple, or Ananas Commosus vra MD2, which produces so much more fruit than the traditional Cabezona pineapple that farm acreage planted in pineapples on the island has doubled from 250 acres in 2011 to 500 acres this year.  Read more »

USDA Partners with Community, Farmers Market in Eastern Kentucky: To Feed Kids and Help Farmers

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

This week marks the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week and USDA is celebrating the achievements of the more than 8,700 markets across the county. In rural eastern Kentucky, over the summer, a remarkable thing happened in the small community of Whitesburg. Local, state and federal officials all worked together to create the first-ever USDA “Summer Feeding Site” for children to be held at a local farmers market in Kentucky.

The Summer Feeding Site project that was launched in Whitesburg is part of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program that provides free meals to children from low-income households. Over the summer break, many of these kids and teens are in danger of not eating properly or going hungry because they don’t have access to school meals. Read more »

USDA Conservationist Recognizes Iconic Microsoft “Wallpaper” from Field Work

Microsoft used this photo titled “Bliss” for the default wallpaper on its XP operating system. Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Microsoft used this photo titled “Bliss” for the default wallpaper on its XP operating system. Photo by Charles O’Rear.

Windows XP was recently retired along with the iconic photo of a verdant green field on rolling hills that was the operating system’s default wallpaper.

This photo, called “Bliss,” had puzzled me for some time as it looked so familiar. Read more »

’68 Olympians return to Echo Summit

John Carlos breaks the tape and sets a world record of 19.7 seconds in the 200-meter final during the Olympic Trials in September 1968. Tommie Smith (right) placed second, and Larry Questad (red shorts and white jersey) was third. (Courtesy Track & Field News/Rich Clarkson)

John Carlos breaks the tape and sets a world record of 19.7 seconds in the 200-meter final during the Olympic Trials in September 1968. Tommie Smith (right) placed second, and Larry Questad (red shorts and white jersey) was third. (Courtesy Track & Field News/Rich Clarkson)

On June 27, 11 members of the 1968 U.S. Olympic men’s track and field team returned to the Eldorado National Forest to commemorate the site that helped catapult them to 24 medals — including 12 gold — in the Summer Games that year.

Nearly 46 years ago, Echo Summit, on the forest 10 miles west of South Lake Tahoe in California, was the site of a high-elevation training facility. At an elevation of 7,377 feet, the 400-meter oval track, carved out of a stand of pine trees, was designed to prepare athletes for high-altitude conditions that were similar to those in Mexico City, where the Games would be held. The site was later declared a California historic landmark. Read more »

It’s National Wildflower Week! Get a Little Wild with Flowers on National Forests and Grasslands

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Birdseye (Hiawatha) Bird’s-eye primrose (Primula misstassincia) is found on the Hiawatha National Forest’s Pointe Aux Chenes Natural Area. It is the only true primrose native to the region with concentrations found near the shores of the Great Lakes. Inland, it is found in local fens, calcareous banks and sandstone cliffs. (U.S. Forest Service/Sara Davis)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Hyacinth (Hoosier) The wild hyacinth are native perennial wildflowers that love full sun to slight shade and moist, rich soil. (U.S. Forest Service)

Walking along the peaceful Hunter Creek Road in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness, in the Hoosier National Forest, you catch a glimpse of beautiful periwinkle flowers swaying in the warm spring air. A short hike uphill and you are immersed in the full bloom of wild hyacinth, along with other delightful wildflowers such as twinleaf and trout lily.

While getting caught up in the beauty and serenity of this colorful scene, you may observe a white-tailed deer, raccoon, fox squirrel, red-shouldered hawk or scarlet tanager. This enchanted corner of the Hoosier National Forest is its only congressionally designated wilderness. It boasts plentiful spring flora thanks to its proximity to a geologic feature known as the Mount Carmel Fault. And, this is just one of 82 Wildflower Viewing Areas in the Forest Service’s Eastern Region

Read more »

With 20 Years of Leadership and Vision, Tribal Water Project Heralds New Opportunities for Prosperity

Ninety-four year old former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member Marcella Le Beau celebrates the final stages of a major project underway to bring abundant and safe water to the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Ninety-four year old former Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member Marcella Le Beau celebrates the final stages of a major project underway to bring abundant and safe water to the Cheyenne River Reservation.

Over 20 years ago, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Council Member, Marcella Le Beau had a vision for her community. She was part of the initial planning process to bring abundant, safe drinking water to her tribe in north central South Dakota. It has been a multi-year undertaking beginning with a new water intake on the Missouri River. Today, the second phase is underway to increase the undersized water treatment plant. On Earth Day last week, I had the honor of gathering with Marcella, Senator Tim Johnson, and others on the ground where the new plant and trunk line from the Missouri River will be built.

“It is a momentous day for our Cheyenne River Sioux family,” Marcella told me, “We have worked a very long time, with many dedicated people involved, to make this happen.”

Read more »