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It’s ‘Rockets to the Rescue’ During National 4-H Week

Millions of youth around the country became “aerospace engineers” for a day on Wednesday, as 4-H National Youth Science Day’s “Rockets to the Rescue” took center stage during National 4-H Week, Oct.  5 – 11.

National 4-H Week is the time when America’s 4-H clubs showcase their 6 million members and the programs in which they participate.  Studies indicate that youth who engage in 4-H’s research-driven programming are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, make healthy life choices, and strive to finish college. Read more »

Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council:

As part of the Obama administration’s commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year. Read more »

“True Food” and True Fun in Minneapolis

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.

What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest.  We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race.  Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!

Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »

Texas Agriculture, Bigger in More Ways Than You Might Know

It’s no bull, and no fairy-tail (tale) – Texas cattle production alone is worth more than the total agricultural production of all but 6 states.  Check back next Thursday for more details on another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

It’s no bull, and no fairy-tail (tale) – Texas cattle production alone is worth more than the total agricultural production of all but 6 states. Check back next Thursday for more details on another state from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Nearly a quarter of a million farms covering more than 130 million acres of land, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, means Texas has more farms and land in farms than any other state in the U.S.  Texas has about 72,000 more farms and 4 million more acres of farm land, than in Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma combined.  Not a surprise to some, but let’s consider the vastness of Texas agriculture from a few other perspectives.

Texas women operated 38,452 farms, a farm count greater than total farms in 28 states.  Farms operated by Texas women cover over 12 million acres, more than total land in farms in 27 states. Read more »

Harvest Time in the People’s Garden: A Labor of Love

Executive Master Gardeners Tanya Brown USDA-FSA (right) and Lee Cliburn USDA-AMS pick okra from the USDA People’s Garden on the corner of Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

Executive Master Gardeners Tanya Brown USDA-FSA (right) and Lee Cliburn USDA-AMS pick okra from the USDA People’s Garden on the corner of Jefferson Drive and 12th Street, SW. Photo by Annie Ceccarini, USDA.

All summer, visitors to the National Capitol Region have been seeing monuments, public buildings, works of art and experiencing music and theater; however, many were unexpectedly surprised by the brilliant hues of purple, red and green emanating from USDA’s People’s Garden.

But those colors didn’t just pop up on their own. USDA has a cadre of friendly and knowledgeable employee volunteers who plant, maintain and harvest as well as interact and answer questions from hundreds of people who stop by to admire the garden. Read more »

Rural Manufacturer “Legend” Rides into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame with USDA Backing

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

The 74th Annual Sturgis Bike Rally roared through South Dakota the first part of August with a week of activities and events. One noteworthy event was Jesse Jurrens, owner of Legend Suspensions, being inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame at the 14th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast held at the Lodge in Deadwood, SD.

Rural Development Area Director Tim Potts was on-site on my behalf to represent the agency and congratulate Jesse on this major milestone.  The mission of the Hall of Fame is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of motorcycling, honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the sport and lifestyle, and pay tribute to the heritage of the Sturgis Rally.  Jesse definitely has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally and is inspiration for future generations. Read more »