Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Maryland: America in Miniature

Maryland isn’t chicken to talk about its agriculture – it ranks 8th in broilers sold in the USA.  Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state’s results from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Maryland isn’t chicken to talk about its agriculture – it ranks 8th in broilers sold in the USA. Check back next Thursday as we spotlight another state’s results 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.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture results are out, and it is clear that here in Maryland, we have a little bit of everything. Although our state is small, the geography is diverse, providing suitable environments for a variety of agricultural commodities. From the Atlantic shore, to mountainous terrain, and from a diversity of livestock to an array of crops, Maryland truly is America in miniature.

In the Free State, about 69 percent of land in farms is cropland. We have 435,646 acres of corn for grain, 1,936 acres of oats for grain, 475,615 acres of soybeans for beans, and 210,354 acres of wheat for grain. In fact, 31.5 percent of the total market value of agriculture products sold comes from grains, oilseeds, dry beans, and dry peas. We also have almost every fruit and vegetable in the Census. The sandy environment near the shoreline is conducive to growing watermelons, of which we have 3,278 acres; and, the higher altitudes provide opportunities for producing grapes and peaches, of which we have 681 acres and 999 acres respectively. Read more »

The Power of Partnerships

Through the CIA Healthy Kids initiative, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) works to provide culinary strategies and resources to school foodservice professionals, to help them continue serving tasty, appealing, nutritious food to our nation's children. Photo Credit: The Culinary Institute of America.

Through the CIA Healthy Kids initiative, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) works to provide culinary strategies and resources to school foodservice professionals, to help them continue serving tasty, appealing, nutritious food to our nation's children. Photo Credit: The Culinary Institute of America.

In today’s post, Amy Myrdal Miller describes an array of activities being implemented by the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), as part of their broad commitment to child nutrition.  I have had the opportunity to participate in some of the CIA’s school nutrition events over the past few years and can attest to the quality of presentations and excitement of the audience. Read more »

Another Step Forward in Food Safety – What You Need to Know About Grinding Logs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is proposing a requirement for official establishments and retail stores that grind raw beef products to keep detailed and in-depth log record systems.

The proposed grinding log rule is now available for public review at http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulations/federal-register/proposed-rules. Read more »

Social Media, Online Resources Help a Minnesota Rancher Succeed

Keith Johnson checks the latest from NRCS Minnesota and the other people and groups he follows on Twitter on his phone.

Keith Johnson checks the latest from NRCS Minnesota and the other people and groups he follows on Twitter on his phone.

To Chisago County, Minn. farmer Keith Johnson, triathlons, swimming in clean water and conservation have a lot in common. They’re his passions, and he’s in constant pursuit of information on these topics.

Years ago, when printed publications and brochures were the norm, Johnson would find himself taking any piece of information he could get his hands on. Life-long learning was something he took a great deal of pride in.

Johnson relates his love for “information gathering” to that of a “treasure hunt.”  Over the years, since Johnson started farming, he found that he simply couldn’t learn enough.  With the advent of the Internet, smartphones and social media, his game of the “treasure hunt” has adapted. Read more »

Bringing the Promise of Healthy School Meals to More Children This Fall

Cross-posted from the Huffington Post:

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 enabled the U.S Department of Agriculture to make historic changes to the meals served in our nation’s schools. Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks sold during the school day are now more nutritious than ever, with less fat and sodium and more whole-grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and low-fat dairy. For many kids, the meals they get at school may be the only nutritious meals they receive that day — and when children receive proper nourishment, they are not only healthier, but they also have better school attendance and perform better academically. It’s not enough, though, to make the meals healthier — we must ensure that children have access to those healthier foods.

The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act authorized a program, known as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), that can help schools achieve their educational goals by ensuring that children in low-income communities have access to healthy meals at school so they are ready to learn. In this program, schools agree to offer breakfast and lunch for free to all students, and cover any costs that exceed the reimbursements from USDA. Designed to ease the burden of administering a high volume of applications for free and reduced price meals, CEP is a powerful tool to both increase child nutrition and reduce paperwork at the district, school, and household levels, which saves staff time and resources for cash-strapped school districts. Read more »

Rocky Mountain Wetland Provides Fen-tastic Habitat for High Altitude Plants, Wildlife

Plant data is collected from a fen that sits at 11,000 feet near Mount Emmons on the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. (U.S. Forest Service)

Plant data is collected from a fen that sits at 11,000 feet near Mount Emmons on the Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. (U.S. Forest Service)

Sloshing through a wet meadow in ankle deep water, I am surrounded by thick mats of sedges, rushes and some beautiful wildflowers. This saturated meadow lies in the shadows of the 13,000-foot Sheep Mountain peak near Trout Lake, Colorado. It is a scenic spot, rich in plant diversity, but also a unique habitat in Colorado.

I am visiting this lush, high-altitude wetland with the Grand Mesa Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests’ lead hydrologist, Gary Shellhorn who explains that this wet meadow is called a fen. Fens are peat-forming wetlands, created when wetland plants die leaving mats of dead and decaying plant matter. Fens are sustained by mineral-enriched groundwater, which is less acidic.  For this reason fens support a more diverse plant and animal community. In southern Colorado, it takes about 2,000 years to accumulate eight inches of peat at a fen. This suggests that most fens are 4,000 to 10,000 years old. Read more »