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Category: Education

In Their Own Words: Secretary Vilsack, Students Reflect on the Future of American Agriculture

During this year’s Agricultural Outlook Forum, Secretary Vilsack sat down with college students participating in the Forum’s Student Diversity Program. Many former participants have gone on to achieve great things in the field of agriculture, which will come as no surprise after you hear what this year’s students told Secretary Vilsack about the future of agriculture and their role in it: Read more »

Keep Striking from the Top: Inspirational Words for 2015 Florida A&M University Graduates

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of providing the commencement address for Florida A&M University’s spring 2015 graduates. As a designated 1890 historically black land-grant university, FAMU plays a critical role in teaching students to meet the high quality, innovative research needs that are vital to the well-being of our nation and the world. The ever-increasing need to feed the growing world population has made it more important than ever to train the next generation of policy makers, researchers and educators in the food and agricultural sciences.

With FAMU’s foundation and mission rooted in agriculture, engineering and technology, science and mathematics, it is paramount that the school’s graduates recognize the importance of the contributions they can make as leaders in science and agriculture. These graduates will be a part of the next generation that uses the power of their passion, potential and creativity to develop innovative solutions to some of the world’s present-day challenges. Read more »

USDA Strengthens Partnership with 1890s Universities

Marcus Brownrigg, Pathways Officer, Phyllis Holmes, Acting Director, 1890’s National Program, Dr. Moses Kairo, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Dr. Gregory Parham, Assistant Secretary for Administration, Beattra Wilson, Co-Chair of the USDA/1890 Executive Committee, Carolyn Parker, Director, Office of Advocacy and Outreach and Chief Tom Tidwell, U. S. Forest Service observe Dr. Juliette Bell, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, Chair of 1890 Executive Committee and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack sign a memorandum of understanding

The USDA and the Council of 1890 Universities today renewed their memorandum of understanding that reaffirms and sustains the partnership between USDA and the historically black colleges created under the Second Morrill Act of 1890 for an additional five years. Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Chair of the Council of 1890 Universities of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, signed the agreement with Secretary Vilsack. This year celebrates 125 years of the signing of the second Morrill Act, which led to the creation of 19 historically black land-grant colleges and universities. (USDA Photo by Bob Nichols)

Congress enacted the Second Morrill Act, creating a group of African-American land-grant universities, in the year 1890.  Today – 125 years later – USDA maintains a close, supportive and cooperative relation with these 19 schools located in 18 states that are commonly known as “1890 Universities.”  

This morning in a ceremony in his office, Secretary Vilsack signed an agreement extending USDA’s commitment to the 1890 Universities for another five years. Also signing the agreement was Dr. Juliette Bell, President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES), acting on behalf of the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities’ (APLU) Council of 1890 Universities.  Secretary Vilsack spoke of the importance of extending the partnership between these universities and USDA, saying it was “more important than ever to train the next generation of policy makers, researchers and educators in the food and agricultural sciences.” Read more »

1890 Land Grant University Transform City Kid into Ag School’s Research Leader

Dr. Carolyn Brooks portrait

Dr. Carolyn Brooks had little exposure to agriculture while growing up in the city but, thanks to a love for biology nurtured at a 1890’s Land Grant University, she knows plenty now and even served as dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, MD.

Like many city kids growing up in Richmond, Va., Carolyn Brooks didn’t know much about agriculture and had never heard of 4-H. That changed quickly, however, as she was the first in her family to graduate from college—earning a B.S. and then a M.S. in biology from one of the foremost agricultural schools in the country, Tuskegee University, where she said, many people “helped me, guided me, and cared about my success.”

Brooks said that before moving to Tuskegee, Ala., she “knew nothing about the South. I had never been in that kind of environment – in a predominantly black community.” Read more »

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way from the Summit: How REE is Using New Strategies to Reach Even Newer Poultry Handlers

USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan

(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.

During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”   

The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do.  The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »

Arizona 4-H Director Earns Awards for Leadership in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, traveled to Nepal to teach a train-the-trainer program that led to Nepal’s first 4-H national organization. Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program, won both the Volunteer of the Month and Volunteer Spirit of the Year awards from Winrock International for his efforts. (Photo from the Kirk Astroth archives)

With more than 6.5 million American youth actively involved in 4-H, it’s not unusual to think of 4-H as an “All-American” tradition – and that’s OK, but there’s more to the story.  The fact is, it is estimated that more than 7 million youth in 80 countries around the world are 4-H’ers.  Now, thanks to the efforts of a man from Arizona, the mountainous Asian nation of Nepal has joined the 4-H family.

Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program within University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spent August and September 2014 in Nepal teaching local youth development professionals the finer points of creating a 4-H program and laying the groundwork for three members of the Nepal National Youth Federation to attend the 1st Global 4-H Summit in South Korea.  As a result, the group in January received official government recognition for the Nepal 4-H national organization. Read more »