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Category: Education

From Boots to Roots: Helping Women and Hispanic Vets Earn Ag, STEM Degrees

A graphic of a soldier's boots and a plant side-by-side

Texas State University’s “Boots to Roots” program guides women and Hispanic veterans towards agriculture and STEM degrees. (Image by Stephanie Engle)

A professor in the Lone Star State is counting on two underrepresented groups to play a major role in the future of agriculture.

Ken Mix, assistant professor of agriculture at Texas State University (TSU), is the project director of a new program called “Boots to Roots,” a program that helps female and Hispanic military veterans to earn bachelor’s degrees in agriculture and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degree programs. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Jennie London

Jennie London at Sostenga Farm, which she managed in Española, New Mexico for two years.

Jennie London at Sostenga Farm, which she managed in Española, New Mexico for two years.

As we look towards the Holiday season, here at USDA, we would like to give thanks to all of our farmers and ranchers, men and women alike, who provide us with a safe and affordable food supply. Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading our industry and helping other women succeed along the way. Last month, a man by the name of D.H. Strongheart commented on the USDA blog asking if he could share his wife’s story. Below you will find Jennie’s story, as written by her husband, on how her passion for food and agriculture has evolved and why she is inspiring other women in agriculture to pursue their dreams.

Jennie’s farming career has been an inspiring example of how agriculture can be combined with education, career development training, equity and empowerment. She has worked at a diversity of farms from New York, Vermont, New Mexico and Oregon, usually in a small to mid-scale setting (3-30 acres) and has become a leader of her generation, a generation in which smaller scale organic agriculture has become a dignified and ever-more popular career choice. Anyone who has ever worked with her knows that she is a real embodiment of leadership, hard work and inclusiveness.  Read more »

Rural Veterans, Thank You for Your Service

Today is Veterans Day, and I’d like to take a moment to honor the men and women of our military. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security in order to keep us safe. America’s veterans embody the values that stand at the heart of rural America: hard work, a love of their country, and a sense of duty and sacrifice to give back to the land that has done so much for us all.

To the USDA employees who have served America in uniform, and to those who support family members and loved ones who serve, I offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you. USDA’s staff across the country now includes more than 11,000 veterans. In recent years, we’ve expanded our commitment to bringing on board more former service members, participating in a wide variety of veterans’ hiring efforts coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. We’ve also created a USDA Veterans Employment Program office, through which any veteran who contacts us has access to counseling, career help, and consideration for employment.  Read more »

Investing in Opportunity in Indian Country

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack presented with a blanket from the Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is presented a blanket from the Pine Ridge Reservation, S.D., from left to right, Kye Wientjes, Cheyenne River Sioux, Nitara Cheykaychi, Pueblo of Santo Domingo, Jess Begaye Oldham, Navajo Nation, at the “Better the Future” An Indian Agriculture Symposium, hosted by the Intertribal Agriculture Council (IAC) and the Indian Nations Conservation Alliance (INCA), in Las Vegas, NV, on Wednesday, December 7, 2011. USDA photo.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

Earlier today, I met with leaders from the 566 federally-recognized Native nations who participated in the White House Tribal Nations Conference. This was the seventh of such conferences hosted by the Obama Administration, and built upon the President’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Indian Country and to improve the lives of American Indians and Alaska Natives, with an emphasis on increasing opportunity for Native youth.

All told, over the course of the Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture alone has invested nearly $3 billion in rural development projects that have helped Tribal members achieve the dream of homeownership; improved community facilities in Tribal communities; made critical upgrades to electric, water and telecommunications infrastructure that serve Tribal communities and members; and invested in the Tribal businesses and entrepreneurs who drive economic growth in Indian Country. Read more »

UGA, Italy Develop Dual Graduate Degree Program

Camilla Borgato crouching on the grass near a lake

Camilla Borgato participated in the NIFA-funded graduate student exchange program. She conducted her thesis research at the University of Georgia’s Tifton Campus and received her master’s degree from Italy’s Università degli Studi di Padova. (Photo courtesy of George Vellidis)

The world will have many more mouths to feed in the next few decades – projected to be more than 9 billion by 2050 – but the amount of arable land is not getting any larger, droughts are taking their toll on fresh water, and there are fewer experienced farmers to do the work.  How will food get on the table?

By globalizing precision agriculture education – the art of gathering and using data to make sound, timely decisions for agricultural production, such as when and how much fertilizer, water, or other resource to add.  Precision agriculture allows growers to maximize yield while minimizing waste.  The result is more food to feed the hungry, a reduced environmental footprint, and greater profits for producers. Read more »

Gardens Bring Learning to Life in North Dakota Tribal Community

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

What we teach our children about food can shape how they eat, learn, grow and live. While I was on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, I saw firsthand how a community garden can bring learning to life.

Planting a garden near their school, elementary students in Cannon Ball created a hands-on, outdoor classroom where they are taught how to grow their own food, a skill that will last a lifetime. The garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it improved the students’ behavior and performance at school and developed their appreciation for the environment. Read more »