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Honoring my Teachers, Sharing Traditions on the San Carlos Apache Reservation

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer is all smiles with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders as they hold up their Every Kid in a Park passes. Smokey Bear got in on the fun, too, and provided the kids with a special packet of information about wildfire prevention. (U.S. Forest Service)

With more than 40 years of professional experience working in the field of natural resources, I am sometimes asked to share the personal outdoor experiences I had as a tribal member growing up on my reservation. When the request involves children, and those children are Native American, I am especially honored because in my culture the elders share traditional teachings of how we are connected to nature, both through stories and traditional songs.

As we celebrate Earth Day 2016, I am reminded of a recent invitation from the U.S. Forest Service Tonto National Forest and Smokey Bear to speak at a career day on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. I had an audience of 180 tribal fourth graders from Rice Elementary School to share my experiences growing up on a reservation and the lessons I learned about the outdoors. Read more »

NIFA Collaborates Internationally to Help Countries Improve Food Security

Farmers in Haiti participating in new agriculture classes

Farmers in Haiti participate in new agriculture classes taught by one of the new vocational agriculture schools. (Photo by Patricia Fulton)

Food security, having a reliable source of safe and nutritious food, is a cornerstone of good human health.  In many poor countries around the world, achieving and maintaining food security is a challenge, but it’s a challenge that USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) can help countries meet through its Center for International Programs (CIP).

Patty Fulton, NIFA national program leader for international programs, traveled to Dondon, Haiti, where she served as a mentor to Haitian administrators and teachers at a newly opened vocational agricultural school.  The project, managed by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service in collaboration with the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture, is implemented by a team of agricultural educators from the University of California – Davis (UC Davis).  The UC-Davis team created a curriculum and trained school administrators and teachers at the vocational agriculture school in Dondon. Read more »

Every Family Needs A Farmer

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food badge

Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food. Every family needs a farmer. Photo: Virtual Panorama of Reiter Berry Farms, in Watsonville, CA.

Since the beginning of April 2016, USDA has celebrated the success of small and mid-sized farmers in conjunction with local and regional food systems.  USDA officially kicked off Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food (KYF2) Month by not only announcing a number of new initiatives, but also highlighting the vast array of accomplishments achieved by our stakeholders, grantees, employees and more.

KYF2 Month is soon coming to a close.  However, we still have a few announcements up our sleeves.  Today we’re rolling out the revamped Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food website.  The site was redesigned to offer a more user-friendly experience that makes it easier to navigate the wealth of USDA and partner resources. Using updated web standards and visuals to optimize the user-experience, we’ve reorganized the information and gathered new content.  In short, the KYF2 website has become an even better a one-stop-shop for information on USDA’s local and regional food systems work. Read more »

Job Corp Youth Saving America’s Garden Heritage

Boxelder instructors Jerry Hood and Rae Rowell, along with student Seth Brand-Tindale admiring the flowers and vegetables in the Center’s greenhouse

Boxelder instructors Jerry Hood and Rae Rowell, along with student Seth Brand-Tindale admire the flowers and vegetables in the Center’s greenhouse during the 2015 harvest celebration. Photo courtesy of Bonnie Fuller.

It’s spring! And while gardeners typically scrutinize seed catalogs for what crops to plan, Boxelder Job Corps Civilian Conservation Center students are working to save America’s diverse, but endangered, garden and food crop heritage for future generations by collecting, saving and sharing heirloom seeds.

The center, connected to the Black Hills National Forest, is one of 27 Job Corp Centers operated by the U.S. Forest Service. Read more »

Transitioning to Organic Certification

Conner Voss on his farm

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. Pictured is Conner Voss.

More and more farmers are entering the organic market. Just last year, the number of certified operations in the U.S. grew by almost 12 percent – more than double the growth rate of 2014. So how do farmers, ranchers, and food processors make the transition to organic? We talked to one farming family about their experience, learning how they used USDA programs to help with the transition process.

Conner Voss got his family farm certified organic in 2015. Diggin’ Roots Farm is a diversified fruit, vegetable, and livestock operation in Molalla, Oregon, midway between Portland and Salem. “We sell our product direct – through a CSA, at a local farmers market, and direct to restaurants – and our customers kept asking about our growing practices,” said Conner. “We wholeheartedly believe in the practices and philosophy of organic production, and certification offers a quick and easy starting place for our conversations with our community. Beyond that, being certified is a way for our small farm to actively engage in the larger organic movement by helping define and shape what organic is.” Read more »

NIFA Supports Annual Science, Engineering Festival to Spur Future Scientists

Victor Villegas educating young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture

Victor Villegas also known as the ‘Drone Singer’ educates young participants on the many uses of drones in agriculture, including crop surveillance.

The link between agriculture, science, and engineering is quite simple. Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, those three components work together to make a more sustainable environment. Thousands of students had the chance to learn about that and more, April 15-17 at the 4th Annual Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

Several members of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) participated in the festival to encourage children to become the next generation of agricultural professionals. Read more »