Virginia State University used a NIFA grant to purchase facilities where they teach aquaponics and urban farming. The operation allows them to both raise fish and grow vegetables in a symbiotic environment. (iStock image)
Money’s tight in Petersburg, Va., and sometimes it’s difficult to put nutritious food on the table. Like many other cities in America, Petersburg has found its way onto USDA’s list of food deserts – meaning that residents have limited access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food.
Virginia State University has found a way to fill the void with a hands-on program that teaches students how to successfully sustain urban farming operations and helps put affordable nutritious food on the tables of community residents. Read more »
The garden at Andrew’s school!
This post was written by Andrew, a Wisconsin seventh-grader and Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador. Fuel Up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program launched by National Dairy Council and NFL, in collaboration with USDA, to help encourage young people to lead healthier lives.
Guest Post by Andrew, a Wisconsin 7th Grader
I am a student ambassador (for Fuel Up to Play 60) at my middle school in Wisconsin. I live in a dairy state. We have a lot of farms. In the short six mile drive from my house to school, I go by seven farms! There are also some green thumb farmers in our school. That is why we have our very own school garden. Our gardens have 22 garden beds that are planted with different fruits and vegetables in them. With those fruits and vegetables, we can harvest them for our schools so we can eat them! Read more »
Jonathan Cobb says that with a new focus on soil health, "We got rid of all of the tillage equipment, and just dove in,” with cover crops. Photo: Ron Nichols.
NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American. For these reasons and more, America’s Harvest Heroes deserve our thanks.
Texas Producer Changes his Mind about Leaving the Farm
Jonathan Cobb had made up his mind. He was leaving the farm.
“I was disillusioned with farming in general because we were just pushing long days and chasing acres and it didn’t seem like there was very much reward,” Cobb said. “That quality of life was not very good. My wife was having to work a lot of hours full time and really support the family. Twenty-five hundred acres really didn’t support two families, and we weren’t living extravagant lifestyles by any means.” Read more »
Lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus in the desert Southwest. Photo: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International
What images enter your mind when you think of caves or bats? Many people’s initial thoughts center around small spaces, dark places and the misleading myths surrounding the world’s only flying mammal. Both caves and bats are part of a fascinating story found in your national forests and grasslands.
“Natural caves are some of the most unique and complex resources managed by the Forest Service,” said Cynthia Sandeno, a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “Caves are also home to many living things like bats that play a vital role in our everyday lives, by controlling insects and pollinating plants like agave.” Read more »
School districts have until Friday, November 20, to update or submit new Farm to School Census data!
What can $598 million buy you these days? A lot of local food!
This week, USDA announced early results from USDA’s second Farm to School Census indicating that school districts across the country invested more than half a billion dollars in local foods in the 2013-2014 school year. That represents an increase of $212 million (or 55 percent) over final results from the last census, conducted two years ago. Read more »
“The GroupGAP framework enabled very small farms to access wholesale markets by providing an umbrella of expert and peer-to-peer technical support,” said Jeff Farbman, Sr. Program Associate at Wallace Center. This distributed the administrative burden of recordkeeping, and making the most effective use of resources on and off the farm.” Photo courtesy of the Upper Peninsula Food Exchange.
In the spring of 2016, USDA will add the GroupGAP Audit Program to the list of third-party auditing services provided by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) Audit Program, performed by the agency’s Specialty Crops Inspection Division, verifies that operations are following industry-recognized food safety practices as well as recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
By rolling this program out to groups, rather than individual farms, this new program will increase market opportunities for farmers and buyers alike. The expansion of the GroupGAP certification follows the completion of a multi-year pilot, the fruits of a cross-cutting collaboration between USDA, small and mid-scale producers, nonprofit organizations, and diverse food system stakeholders across the nation. Read more »