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What Are You Doing For National Farmers Market Week?

National Farmers Market Week August 3-9 is a perfect time to make a trip to your local market.  Share your favorite part of the farmers market experience by tagging your photos with #FarmMktWk @USDA.

National Farmers Market Week August 3-9 is a perfect time to make a trip to your local market. Share your favorite part of the farmers market experience by tagging your photos with #FarmMktWk @USDA.

Every time I explore a farmers market I become a kid again. It brings back memories of snacking on sun-ripened figs from my backyard with dad or squeezing for perfectly ripe tomatoes at the neighborhood farm stand with mom. The existence, uniqueness and vibrancy of farmers markets can be a positive experience full of exploration and deliciousness for any age. It sure is for me.

USDA is committed to helping all of America’s children, families and communities not only have access to healthy affordable food, but form positive associations with these healthy foods. Visiting a farmers market offers a unique learning environment where you can be introduced to fresh, local produce; a variety of sights, tastes and smells; as well as meet neighbors, farmers and vendors. Read more »

Conservation Work Restores Habitat for At-Risk Wildlife and Plants on Hawaiian Island

NRCS Soil Conservationist Jessica Ludgate with Molokai Land Trust Executive Director Butch Haase monitor growth of native plants at Hui Ho'olana's nursery. NRCS photo. Photo used with permission.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Jessica Ludgate with Molokai Land Trust Executive Director Butch Haase monitor growth of native plants at Hui Ho'olana’s nursery. NRCS photo. Photo used with permission.

The Molokai Land Trust (MLT) is a partner of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in its efforts to restore native landscapes on the Island of Molokai in Hawaii. MLT and NRCS have partnered together on many projects, including the one highlighted in this post. Justin Fritscher, NRCS.

The endangered wedge-tailed shearwater and other at-risk plant and wildlife species find sanctuary in the coastal dune ecosystem of Hawaii. But like many native ecosystems in the state, this one suffers from the effects of human development and invasive plants and animals.

In an effort to restore ecosystems in the region, the Molokai Land Trust, or MLT, on the Island of Molokai, is working to restore and replant native vegetation and remove threats from invasive species. Read more »

Hawaiian Canoe Carries Pledge of Conservation Around the World

Representatives from multiple conservation groups aboard the Hokule’a, a double-hulled voyaging canoe. The Hokule’a will carry a signed pledge promoting world conservation to its 26 ports of call. (Courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance)

Representatives from multiple conservation groups aboard the Hokule’a, a double-hulled voyaging canoe. The Hokule’a will carry a signed pledge promoting world conservation to its 26 ports of call. (Courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance)

On May 30, the double-hulled voyaging canoe Hōkūle‘a set sail from the Hawaiian Islands on a more than 50,000-mile, 26-country journey around the world. The crew’s mission: to spread the word about the importance of world conservation.

The dual-masted, 62-foot Hōkūle‘a, along with her escort the voyaging canoe Hikianalia, will travel to Tahiti, New Zealand, Indonesia, South Africa around Cape Horn, Brazil and Florida, and through the Panama Canal before heading to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). At Rapa Nui, younger crewmembers will take the helm and sail back to Hawaii. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Making the Business Case for Rural America

These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.

Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schoolsthat improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments. Read more »

Longleaf Pines Flourish on an East Texas Ranch

Simon Winston and his family recently won the national Leopold Conservation Award for their conservation work.

Simon Winston and his family recently won the national Leopold Conservation Award for their conservation work.

In deep East Texas, pine trees are king. Towering pines line the roads and blanket the rolling countryside and national forests. Loblolly and slash pine dominate the landscape in contrast to the area’s historic longleaf pine trees that once reigned.

The reduced number of longleaf pines has not gone unnoticed by landowners and conservationists. In response to the striking loss of longleaf pine trees from Texas to Florida, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) launched the national Longleaf Pine Initiative, which provides technical and financial assistance for conservation practices that help restore longleaf pine forests and enhance existing pine stands. Read more »

Homeowners Struggle in Midst of California Drought

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry.  On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed.  In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well.  The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.

“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?” Read more »