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The Future is Here … and it’s Made of Wood

The Federal Center South in Seattle makes extensive use of wood. (Federal Center South – Building 1202; ZGA Architects; photo Benjamin Benschneider, WoodWorks 2014 Commercial Wood Design Award). Used with permission.

The Federal Center South in Seattle makes extensive use of wood. (Federal Center South – Building 1202; ZGA Architects; photo Benjamin Benschneider, WoodWorks 2014 Commercial Wood Design Award). Used with permission.

It’s a good time for building with wood products. More architects and contractors are returning to this renewable, sturdy, all-purpose material after decades of what some might consider an undue reliance on concrete and steel.

In furthering that message, I was pleased to join WoodWorks, a nonprofit organization supported by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Forest Service, to host more than 350 architects and builders this year at the Wood Solutions Fair in the District of Columbia.

The fair promoted the use of wood in commercial buildings in helping maintain sustainable forest management, addressing wildfires, droughts, extreme storms and insect epidemics. Wood buildings store tremendous amounts of carbon and reduce the fossil energy needed for construction over alternatives like concrete, steel and aluminum. Read more »

A New Revenue Source for Virginia Farmers Reduces Erosion and Improves Water Quality in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack speaking at a press conference in Fairfax, VA. USDA photo by David Kosling.

USDA has a long history of helping farmers, ranchers and forest landowners maintain their bottom line while improving soil health and reducing runoff into streams and rivers.  For nearly 80 years, USDA has offered funding and technical assistance for farmers to implement conservation practices through the conservation title of the Farm Bill. In recent years, however, USDA has also supported new, innovative approaches to voluntary, private lands conservation.

An announcement today by USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, and Administrator Gina McCarthy of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in northern Virginia highlights an innovative approach called water quality trading. Farmers like John Harrison of Appomattox County are taking advantage of private investments to implement conservation practices on their land. These practices help reduce erosion and nutrient runoff into local bodies of water, generating nutrient credits that can then be sold to regulated entities looking to offset nutrient losses for compliance purposes. Read more »

Winter Food Fun for Kids of All Ages

You’re never too old to play with your food! This winter, while the kids are home from school and family and friends gather together, you can experiment with ways to make healthy foods festive and fun. This blog shows how we created a snowy scene using foods from all five of the MyPlate food groups.

We will continue to share ideas throughout the season on the MyPlate Facebook page, @MyPlate Twitter, and ChooseMyPlate.gov, and we want you to join in the fun. Get creative in the kitchen and find ways to make healthy foods the main attraction at your winter celebrations! Read more »

Get the Most Out of Your Holiday Roast

Roasting is the recommended method for cooking tender meats. To roast, meat is placed on a rack in a shallow, uncovered pan and is cooked by the indirect dry heat of an oven.

Roasting is the recommended method for cooking tender meats. To roast, meat is placed on a rack in a shallow, uncovered pan and is cooked by the indirect dry heat of an oven.

The traditional centerpiece of many holiday meals served this time of year is the roast. Whether you use pork, beef, goose, turkey, or chicken, the most popular means to cook your meat of choice is in the oven.

The roasting recipe that was handed down to you from your great grandmother may need a little updating though. Whether it asks you to marinate at room temperature overnight, or cook until ‘the juices run clear,’ some instructions in heirloom recipes might be outdated. To help you make the dish your great grandmother intended, we pulled together a list of holiday roasting tips. Read more »

Rural America’s Pace of Recovery

In the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession, the economic picture in rural areas has been mixed, according to a recent Economic Research Service report.

In the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession, the economic picture in rural areas has been mixed, according to a recent Economic Research Service report.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

In the recession of 2007-09 and its aftermath, some areas of the United States fared better than others. In rural America as a whole, the pace of economic recovery has been slow, with attendant impacts on rural residents. Each year, USDA’s Economic Research Service provides a snapshot of the rural economy in a brief report, Rural America at a Glance.

The 2014 report shows that in several major respects, recent trends in rural America parallel those in the Nation generally. Read more »

Strategic Conversations, a Crisis Response at the Grass Roots Level

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

As Mark Twain once said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Recently, in Ohio, the staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), put that advice to work: rather than trying to communicate broadly, they took their message on the road, visiting with farmers face-to-face to talk about the importance of cover crops on improving water quality.

For two days this past summer, 400,000 Toledo, Ohio residents dependent on safe drinking water from Lake Erie could not use their water for drinking, bathing or washing. Toxins from algae contaminated their water, exceeding the city’s water treatment facilities capacity to remove it.  Boiling the water only concentrated the toxin. No one knew how long this would last. Read more »