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Working Trees for Islands Showcases Power of Agroforestry

A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants

A breadfruit tree owner poses in her home garden with ornamental plants (Photo by Diane Ragone, Breadfruit Institute)

Do you grow fruits and vegetables in your backyard or community garden? Do some of them come from trees?

Breadfruit, or ‘ulu, is an easy-to-grow, productive, nutritious, and starchy staple crop grown in many Pacific Islands, including Hawaii. It can be roasted, baked, boiled, fried or pounded into poi. In the past, many people grew breadfruit at home and in community gardens. However, many breadfruit trees have been cut down, especially in urban areas. Products such as breadfruit can have a helpful impact on Pacific islands such as Hawaii, imports about 85 percent of its food. Read more »

For the Love of Trails and Trout

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction

Sam Knob Trail restoration under construction. Photo courtesy of Ward Deaton, CASP

This post was submitted on behalf of the Pisgah Ranger District recreation staff and fire crew – Paul Ross, Forest Service Office of Communication

Accessed by the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounded by the Black Balsam Mountains, the Sam Knob Project is located in one of the most scenic and highly visited portions of the Pisgah Ranger District. As we celebrate National Trails Day and National Fishing and Boating Week, we are highlighting this location as a showcase of how recreational trail design can protect critical fish and wildlife habitat and enhance user experiences. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »

Louisiana’s “Teddy Bear” is Making a Comeback

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holding newborn black bears

NRCS employee Darren Boudreaux holds newborn black bears while collecting den location and data collection. Photo: NRCS.

On the brink of extinction in 1992, the Louisiana black bear was added to the threatened and endangered species list.

At the time of listing, more than 80 percent of suitable Louisiana black bear habitat was lost. The bottomland hardwood forests of the Louisiana Delta were cleared for row crop production; roads, homes and towns were built; and humans began encountering the shy, but curious, Louisiana black bear more often. The habitat fragmentation, or isolation of suitable patches of hardwood bottoms, affected the bears’ ability to travel for food, to find mates or simply to relocate to a more desirable spot to live.  Read more »

Deal Gives Back

Here at USDA, we believe in the power of community to make a difference. So when Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, DC, reached out to the USDA Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships to come visit for their annual day of service, we were eager to welcome over 100 seventh graders to our headquarters to talk about the importance of environmental awareness and conservation practices, their theme for this year. With seventy percent of the nation’s land under private ownership, the success of USDA’s partnership with landowners to clean the air we breathe, conserve and clean the water we drink, prevent soil erosion, and create and protect wildlife habitat will depend on developing a strong next generation of conservation leaders like the Alice Deal students. So too, will our ability to manage the public lands and waters, including our national forests and grasslands that we hold in trust for the American people.

After a day with these bright young students, we’ve learned that we’re in pretty good hands. Read more »

Rancher Weathers Drought, Restores Prairie Chicken Habitat at Same Time

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher

Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.

By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS

On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »