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Category: Education

A Conversation with USDA Leader Lanon Baccam

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison

Lanon Baccam, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services and USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison, helps connect veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture.

Lanon Baccam serves as the Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services (FFAS). Baccam oversees the domestic programs within FFAS, including Farm Service Agency and Risk Management Agency. Baccam also serves as the USDA Military Veterans Agricultural Liaison. Being an Army veteran, he connects veterans with opportunities in the field of agriculture, providing information to returning veterans about services available to them through USDA.

This interview took place at Arlington National Cemetery, where scores of service men and women lay at rest after giving the ultimate sacrifice to protect our country. Read more »

UC Sheep Shearing School Prepares Students for Gainful Employment

A flock of sheep

Unshorn sheep await their turn. Image courtesy of Jeanette Warnert

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the Smith-Lever capacity grant program. The Smith–Lever Act established the cooperative extension services program administered through land-grant universities. Today, a guest blog from Jeanette Warnert, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells us how this program supports a unique rural economic opportunity:

Sheep shearing is like a dance. It requires strength, flexibility, a tender touch, and the right moves. Once mastered, the skill can open the door to gratifying and high-paying seasonal work.

Sheep shearers will never be unemployed and never be poor. They can earn $50 to $100 per hour and can start a business with a $3,000 investment in equipment, says John Harper, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) natural resources advisor in Mendocino County. Read more »

FAS Capacity-Building Efforts in Central America Yield Benefits There and at Home

Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer

Pablo Chacón, a Guatemalan farmer, takes notes at the CATIE dairy farm and research center in Turrialba, Costa Rica, where he is studying agroforestry on an FAS-funded scholarship.

Pablo Chacón, a young Guatemalan farmer who is studying agroforestry at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE) in Turrialba, Costa Rica, can now show the people in his home community how livestock grazing and hardwood forests can co-exist and prosper. Earlier this month, he told me and other Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) visitors to CATIE that the education he gained from his FAS-funded scholarship to CATIE has equipped him to be a change maker.

“CATIE’s research in the tropics shows that degraded lands can be restored using combined forest and pastoral production systems,” Chacón said. “The benefits of trees in pastures are clear: The shade helps reduce stress in animals during the dry season, keeps moisture in the soil and retains the strength of pastures during the dry season.” Read more »

“Climate Change and the Water Cycle” – USDA’s Southwest Climate Hub Launches Education Unit for 6-12th Graders

Students participating in a “Climate Change and the Water Cycle” module exercise

Students participate in a “Climate Change and the Water Cycle” module exercise. Photo from the Asombro Institute for Science Education home of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park

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.

USDA has created a curriculum for teaching today’s students about climate change and educating tomorrow’s farmers, ranchers, and decision makers.  The Department’s Southwest Regional Climate Hub has partnered with the Asombro Institute for Science education to build “Climate Change and the Water Cycle,” a scientifically rigorous education unit for 6th -12th grade students.  Intended for both formal and informal educators, the unit includes 9 activities which can either stand alone or be taught over 10 instruction hours.  These hands-on activities are designed to help the students understand the scientific concepts behind different elements of the water cycle, climate change, and how to analyze data and communicate results.  Here’s a list of the activities: Read more »

USDA Partners With the Department Of Defense to Fight Climate Change

A natural cycle of the Earth's climate

The climate change science and modeling education module explaining natural cycles of the Earth’s climate. Image by the USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center

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 Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense have an extensive relationship coordinating land management activities, and are now working together to cope with the pressures of climate change.  The USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) and the USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub (NFCH) are partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) to present information on climate change and ecosystem response during environmental and natural resource training courses to better enable DoD mission success through practical approaches to climate adaptation. Read more »

Hawaii’s Women in Technology Program Cultivates the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

Girls building their Geodesic Dome

Middle and high school girls at MEDB'S 4-H TECH CONNECT engaged in an activity called Geodesic Domes. Students worked in competitive teams to build the strongest geodesic dome using toothpicks and gumdrops! Whose engineering design is the strongest?

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If America is to maintain its role as a global leader, it needs to develop more world-class talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), especially among underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities.

This need is especially true in rural Hawaii, where developing renewable and sustainable energy is vital due to the isolation of island living and high energy costs. Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation and is more dependent on imported fossil fuels than any other state. Preparing students for entry into the renewable energy industry could help the state’s economy and overall economic sustainability. Read more »