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Category: Education

Helping Small Farmers in the South Go Organic

A man leading a workshop

The NCAT sound and sensible project focused on educating farmers and ranchers in the Gulf States region about organic production, as well as helping facilitate organic certification.

Rock Woods, Gulf States Regional Director for the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), knows the importance of persistence. Rock wanted to help more farmers in the southeast learn about organic certification, but he also knew that farmers are busy. That’s why Rock and NCAT launched a sustained engagement and outreach effort to reach potential organic farmers, and his persistence paid off!

NCAT is one of 13 organizations that the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) National Organic Program (NOP) partnered with to create educational materials that support the sound and sensible initiative to make organic certification more affordable, accessible, and attainable. Read more »

Congrats to the Student Diversity Program Winners, See You at the 2016 Agricultural Outlook Forum

A group of 30 university students, announced by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will get a head start to a career in agriculture as winners of USDA’s Agricultural Outlook Forum Student Diversity Program.  Twenty university juniors and seniors were chosen based their essays on “Agriculture as a Career.”  Additionally, 10 graduate students were chosen in response to “The Greatest Challenge Facing Agriculture over the Next Five Years.” Read more »

Looking Ahead: Adding Seats to the Table to Diversify the Agricultural Workforce

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with ADM Chief Human Resources Officer Mike D’Ambrose and students Nicole Ashley Holden and Dara Robertson at the Agriculture Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden with ADM Chief Human Resources Officer Mike D’Ambrose and students Nicole Ashley Holden and Dara Robertson at the Agriculture Diversity and Inclusion Roundtable in Washington, D.C.

From the field to the fork, we need diversity in agriculture.  I’m proud to say that here at USDA, we are doing our part to make sure young people have access to the wide array of opportunities available. Over the next five years, we can expect to see an average of 57,900 jobs become available annually in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment. However, only 35,400 students will graduate with the specialized degrees and expertise to fill those jobs, leaving 39 percent to be filled by young people with talent in other areas. We need to expand the talent pool and change the dialogue to show agriculture as an attractive, meaningful career path.

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in a roundtable discussion with leaders from industry, higher education, and the nonprofit sector to share best practices on how we can come together to grow a diverse pipeline of talent for U.S. agriculture. Together, we were able to discuss what’s working, and where we can improve to create opportunities for young people of all backgrounds to ultimately strengthen the ag workforce. Read more »

Fun New eBooks Help Kids Discover MyPlate

Mobile devices showing "Discover MyPlate, Two Bite Club and A MyPlate Meal"

Team Nutrition’s free MyPlate eBooks make learning about new foods fun for kids.

The recently-released Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 highlights how many Americans need to shift their dietary patterns to include more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, dairy, seafood, and oils and eat fewer refined grains, added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium.  Perhaps your family has also set some new year’s resolutions to try some new vegetables or whole grains or choose fruit as snacks.

To help your family embrace these small changes towards a healthier lifestyle, the Food and Nutrition Service provides a variety of recipes, tips, and materials for kids through its Team Nutrition initiative.  Our latest resource is a collection of eight eBooks that teach young children about MyPlate and the types of foods found in each food group.  It’s nutrition education that’s fun and easy to use right from your mobile device! Read more »

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

Students in the STEP UP program taking part in a short course in environmental soil science

Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »

Honoring a Legacy of Service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Secretary Vilsack thanked the employees of USDA for their work in support of Dr. King’s life and legacy of service to the American people. You can read his letter below:

On Monday, we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a man whose legacy in support of a unified and equal America gives profound meaning to what our efforts in public service can and should look like. Dr. King believed we are each stronger when we lift up our neighbors. He lived his life advocating on behalf of the idea that we are better as a nation when no one is left behind.

As we enter the final year of this Administration and I begin to look back on the progress we’ve made as a Department, I’d like to reflect on the ways the dedicated employees of USDA have honored Dr. King’s dream by creating opportunities for—and upholding the unalienable rights of—every American. Read more »