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Looking to the Future and Learning from the Past in our National Forests

A column of smoke rising from a forest fire

A massive column of smoke rises from a forest fire. Today’s rapidly changing conditions present challenges for forest managers when determining what plant species to replant after a disturbance like a wildland fire. Photo credit: US Forest Service

Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate, exotic diseases and pests are present, and landscapes are fragmented by human activity often occurring at the same time and place.

The current drought in California serves as a reminder and example that forests of the 21st century may not resemble those from the 20th century. When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment? Read more »

Military Family Makes Healthy Eating a Priority: Meet Rocio and Her Family

Rocio's family

Rocio and her family sit down to enjoy a healthy dinner together. Eating meals together as a family is one of her MyPlate, MyWins healthy eating solutions.

Making healthy meal choices for your family, especially when you’re on the go like Rocio and her military family, can be rewarding and fun if you have the right tools.  The MyPlate, MyWins video: Meet Rocio features a real-life military family sharing their tips for success. Rocio shows how she and her husband teach their four boys the value of nutrition by preparing meals that feed their sons’ minds and bodies.

Rocio plans ahead and gets the kids involved in the dinner process.  Not only do they enjoy being involved in the meal preparation, but it helps them to know what they are eating, and teaches them the value of nutrition and eating together. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Katina Hanson

Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs for the Farm Service Agency

Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs for the Farm Service Agency

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. This month, we hear from USDA’s own Katina Hanson, Chief of Staff to the Associate Administrator for Policy and Programs at the Farm Service Agency (FSA).  In addition to her duties as Chief of Staff, Katina led the successful implementation of the Biofuel Infrastructure Partnership (BIP), a multimillion dollar investment to make renewable fuels more available to consumers across the country. She is also an active member of USDA’s Women in Ag network, serving as co-chair of the FSA chapter and on the USDA Women in Ag Executive Committee. She has a Bachelor of Science in Rangeland Ecology & Management from Texas A&M University and a Master of Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Katina grew up on the Gulf Coast of Texas, living on a sailboat until she was 6 and later in a house located between two bayous. Read more »

Louisiana’s Secret Ingredient

Judges deliberating during the Central Louisiana Farm to School Iron Chef Competition

Judges deliberate during the Central Louisiana Farm to School Iron Chef Competition.

On October 22, the newest celebrity chefs of Alexandria, La. gathered at the Inglewood Farm’s Harvest Barn Market to celebrate National Farm to School Month. Their purpose: emerge victorious from the Farm to School Iron Chef Competition.

This competition challenged contestants to create a dish using a “secret ingredient,” in this case sweet potatoes – a fall favorite and regional staple. Each of the four teams sourced sweet potatoes from local farmers in central Louisiana. Students worked alongside parents and teachers to prepare and present their dishes at the market on the day of the competition. The event was organized by the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance (CLEDA). Consisting of economic development entities from ten parishes across Louisiana, CLEDA’s mission is to help people prosper in vibrant, thriving communities. Read more »

Meeting the China E-Commerce Challenge

A Chinese e-commerce site

Digital strategies help promote U.S. food and agricultural products online to Chinese consumers. Since becoming the world’s largest e-commerce market in 2013, online shopping in China has continued to thrive.

In the United States, farming and technology go hand-in-hand in production agriculture. Technology helps improve productivity, efficiency and safety. Now, we’re discovering new ways that technology and digital strategies can offer similar benefits when marketing U.S. farm and food products overseas.

I recently led a group of women agricultural leaders on a trade mission to Shanghai and Hong Kong in China. One of the most interesting things we saw and learned was how e-commerce is paving the way for Chinese consumers to gain quick and easy access to high-value U.S. food and agricultural products. As a young, Chinese shopper explained to me, he purchases nearly 80 percent of his groceries online – skipping the trip to a traditional wet market or Western-style grocery store. Read more »

USDA Foods’ Local Roots: DoD Fresh Connects the Farm to School

Royal Food Service sign

Royal Food Service in Atlanta brings the farm to 1,900 schools through the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

What do the military’s logistical network, peaches and peppers, and school children have in common? The first delivers the second to the third through a unique partnership between the Department of Defense (DoD) and USDA.

October is National Farm to School Month and the perfect time to celebrate the DoD Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, which connects schools with fresh and often local produce using their USDA Foods entitlement dollars. Schools order local foods from a variety of sources, and according to the 2015 USDA Farm to School Census, 29 percent of districts participating in farm to school are receiving local foods through DoD Fresh. Read more »