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The Sun Shines on an Illinois Farm as Secretary Vilsack Highlights Conservation Efforts

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Our trip to the Erickson farm in Milan, Illinois involved a three hour drive through pouring rain. But once we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun made a partial appearance. Because we had about 40 partners, guests, and several media reps invited, I called it divine intervention.

Secretary Vilsack was here to announce the national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, using a multi-generation Illinois farm as a fitting and picturesque backdrop. The family took the Secretary on a short driving tour to show all they’ve done to protect their 100 year-old farm. Read more »

Liberal High School Develops Second Chance Breakfast Program

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

The “Grab-n-Go” breakfast station is in Liberal High School hallways after first period, so kids can pick them up on their way to the next class. The concept has increased breakfast participation (and students’ overall nutrition) significantly.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

More than 70 percent of Liberal High School’s student population qualify for free or reduced meals. Yet, only 11 percent of the entire student population was taking advantage of the school’s breakfast program.  While we would like to believe that all kids eat a healthy breakfast at home and come to school ready to learn, that’s not reality.  Additionally, most high school kids would rather stay in bed as long as possible or choose to socialize with friends before school instead of taking the time to eat breakfast. For some students, buses don’t arrive at the school early enough for them to participate in the breakfast program and for others, they simply aren’t ready to eat until they’ve been awake for a while. Whatever the case, Liberal High’s breakfast program participation was too low and too many kids were turning to vending machines for snacks to get them through the day.

Knowing that something needed to be done, the school nutrition staff secured the support of the principal and a grant from the Midwest Dairy Council to find a way to increase breakfast participation. Staff knew that whatever they did, it had to be fast (kids only had five minute passing periods), would have to be fuss-free and easy to handle since kids would be taking their breakfast to class, would have to include food items that were appealing to students and included yogurt or cheese every day, and were available in a location that was easily accessible to students. Read more »

How EDEN can help YOU prepare for disasters

With the annual hurricane season brewing and potential winter storms on the horizon – not to mention the ever-present tornadoes, earthquakes, drought and fire – federal agencies are joining forces this month to help Americans prepare for and survive disasters.

 September is National Preparedness Month and America’s PrepareAthon! is a national awareness campaign to get families and communities thinking about how to respond in the event of a disaster or other emergency.  Saluting the “Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare” theme, the month’s events conclude on September 30 with National PrepareAthon! Day.  Are you getting involved? Read more »

North Dakota Agriculture: One Word – Diversity

North Dakota farmers don’t have to be Meek – they can brag about leading the nation in the production of Durum and spring wheat, as well as honey, pinto beans, canola, and other crops as well.  Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

North Dakota farmers don’t have to be Meek – they can brag about leading the nation in the production of Durum and spring wheat, as well as honey, pinto beans, canola, and other crops as well. Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Even before Lewis and Clark explored the Northern Plains in 1804 and 1805, agriculture was very prevalent in the area that later became North Dakota and it is still widespread today. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that farms and ranches occupy 39.3 million acres of land in North Dakota, which is an amazing 89-percent of the total land in the state.

North Dakota is a very diverse state when it comes to the number of commodities produced, especially for crops. In 2012, our farmers led the nation in the production of all dry edible beans, navy beans, pinto beans, canola, flaxseed, honey, Durum wheat, and spring wheat. North Dakota was also the second leading state in barley, lentils, oats, dry edible peas, sunflowers, and all wheat production. We also were in the top five for the production of multiple other crops. So as you can see, the state’s producers are varied in what they produce and the amount that they produce. Read more »

Organic Trade in the Americas: Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Representatives from Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, United States, Paraguay and Argentina met in Panama City, Panama to discuss topics that included international organic trade arrangements, as well as organic production and handling.

Over the past decade, the production and market share of organic agriculture has increased globally, with significant growth in South and Central America. In 2008, the Inter-American Commission for Organic Agriculture (ICOA) was founded to support organic agriculture in the Americas and facilitate the trade of organic products. 

ICOA consists of agriculture officials from 18 member countries in Latin America and aims to harmonize organic standards, strengthen control systems and support market development in Latin America. The United States sources many organic products from Latin America including bananas, apples, pears, wine, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, coffee, mangoes, papayas, winter vegetables and more. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Investing in Conservation Innovation

Earlier this week, USDA announced $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to 47 organizations that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to help farmers and ranchers continue to improve conservation practices on their operations.

More than half of this year’s awardees focus on preserving and improving soil health, which leads to improved water quality, increased soil water availability, enhanced resilience and nutrient cycling, captured carbon, among many other vital natural resource needs. Read more »