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Category: Education

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 »

Serving Rural America’s Kids and Families

Every parent’s wish is for their children to thrive and prosper. Yet, too many of our nation’s families still live in poverty, despite doing their best to make ends meet. Rural families and children have additional challenges as schools, healthcare services, healthy food choices, jobs, and other opportunities are often miles away in a different town, county or even state. The Obama Administration is committed to these families, and believes that all children — no matter where they live —  should have an opportunity to succeed.

Today, President Obama and I met with eight members of the National 4-H community in the Oval Office. Each one of them had an inspiring story about how they are opening up new doors for kids in their hometowns, and how this work is building stronger communities where they can learn, play and grow.

We wanted to take a moment to introduce you to these young leaders and tell you about the projects that encouraged President Obama to invite them to the White House to say “thank you”.  Investing in kids like these is an investment in America’s future. Read more »

EFNEP: Delivering Nutrition Education to Limited-Resource Families

EFNEP provides food and nutrition information to limited-resource families, including how to understand the nutrition information provided on food labels. (iStock image)

EFNEP provides food and nutrition information to limited-resource families, including how to understand the nutrition information provided on food labels. (iStock image)

Educators from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories recently met in Arlington, Virginia to discuss local implementation of the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), one of the nation’s largest nutrition education programs.

Through nutrition education, EFNEP helps limited-resource families and children gain the knowledge and skills to change their current attitudes and behaviors when it comes to choosing nutritionally sound diets and improve their health and well-being.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers EFNEP and provides national program leadership.

“The 2015 EFNEP Conference brought together about 170 representatives from 1862 and 1890 land-grant universities (LGUs) to coordinate, collaborate, and receive training that they can take back and implement in their respective university programs,” said Stephanie Blake, NIFA EFNEP program coordinator. Read more »

On the Right Side of the Promise

As a school kid during the first years of desegregation in the public schools of Austin, Texas, much of my experience of the world around me was shaped by color. I saw and experienced firsthand how discrimination and inequality can stunt and hold back too many Americans–not only through violence, but the more subtle, life-altering trauma of discrimination.

I’ve also seen how inclusion and understanding have the power to lift up individuals and communities and help them heal. Read more »