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Raymore Peculiar Achieves Salad Bar Success with “Rainbow Days”

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

Every year the schools in Missouri’s Raymore Peculiar R II district celebrate their salad bars during “Rainbow Days.”  Thanks to the staff’s efforts to use local farmers markets, students throughout the district see fresh peppers, squash, onion, zucchini, tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, green beans, corn on the cob, peaches, apples, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and more.

“Whatever’s in season, they’ll try it,” said District Food Service Director Colleen Johnston, “our kids are good experimenters.”

Missouri schools hold Rainbow Days celebrations and feature the abundance of bright colors at their salad bars as a way of encouraging students to eat a variety of foods.  To help promote the events, schools can qualify for a $200 stipend. Read more »

USDA Smokey Bear Paintings on Display for First Time

Nature's Gold Medal Winner, Rudy Wendelin painting, 1988.

Nature's Gold Medal Winner, Rudy Wendelin painting, 1988.

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.

If you hear a deep resonant voice and the words, “Only YOU…,” you probably could complete the iconic words, “…can prevent forest fires.” More than seven in ten adults in the United States would recognize Smokey Bear and know his message, according to a 2011 Ad Council survey.

Now some of the illustrations that helped create the image we most associate with Smokey, who celebrates his 70th anniversary as spokesbear for the U.S. Forest Service (FS) this year, are on display for the first time. Nineteen original paintings by Virginia artist Rudolph Wendelin from USDA’s National Agricultural Library (NAL) Smokey Bear history collection are being featured in an exhibit at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Read more »

A Kentucky Professor Works to Improve Irrigation Efficiency, Soil Health in High Tunnels

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff  view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

The University of Kentucky is using a Conservation Innovation Grant to improve the efficiency of seasonal high tunnels. NRCS and UK staff view a water line with a high tunnel in the background. NRCS photo.

Seasonal high tunnels have emerged in the past few years as an important tool for farmers wanting to extend their growing seasons. Right now, thanks to a Conservation Innovation Grant from USDA, a University of Kentucky professor is studying them – and how they can be made more efficient.

Krista Jacobsen, an assistant professor of horticulture, is studying the soil inside of high tunnels and the possibilities of catching rainwater to irrigate crops inside of them. High tunnels are plastic-covered structures that enable farmers to have crops ready earlier or later in the season. Read more »

Grains, Trains and Global Success

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Asia-bound grains, including soybeans, are commonly shipped by rail to ports in the Pacific Northwest. The cost to ship by ocean is the main driver for the choice of port for export, because inland barge transportation to the Mississippi Gulf is usually more efficient and less expensive than rail. Photo courtesy Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Fall is harvest time and our rural communities are bustling with activity.  For American soybean farmers the days start in the early dawn, and they stay until the last light is gone, tending fields that seem to stretch to the end of the world.  But success for them relies on more than just growing a good crop.  Their soybeans must also move efficiently from the fields to the far corners of the world.

Helping farmers understand the importance and impact of transportation trends is one of the services provided by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).  AMS helps growers and exporters by gathering agricultural transportation data for a wide array of publications that are available to everyone on our agricultural transportation website. Read more »

What is Wilderness? Experience Exceeds the Definition

A fall dusting hints that winter is coming to the high country at Charlia Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the Olympic National Forest. The pass offers breathtaking views of Mt. Constance, Del Monte Ridge and Charlie Lake. (U.S. Forest Service)

A fall dusting hints that winter is coming to the high country at Charlia Pass in the Buckhorn Wilderness on the Olympic National Forest. The pass offers breathtaking views of Mt. Constance, Del Monte Ridge and Charlie Lake. (U.S. Forest Service)

As I reach the pinnacle of this stretch of trail my heart is racing, my calves are burning, and my face is dripping with perspiration. I feel strong. I remove the pack from my aching shoulders and grab my water bottle. I am refreshed as I gulp it down. This is sweet mountain water that will eventually trickle down to taps in the city below. Up here, it’s clear and icy cold and the only type of water I have consumed during my five-day wilderness experience.

I lower the bottle from my mouth to admire my accomplishments. The top of the mountain pass has rewarded me with spectacular views of surrounding peaks. I feel alone, but not forlorn. I unravel the contents of my pack and begin to set up my final camp. Read more »

USDA Plant Experts Help Cemetery Tame Slope with Native Grasses

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

Pristine landscaping covers the 355 acres of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.  On a day where caretakers dutifully trim the grass and care for the about 200,000 headstones marking the final resting place of veterans and their families, three plant specialists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) begin work in the southeast portion of the cemetery.

They are returning a hilly slope overlooking the Mississippi River to its native landscape with native warm-season grasses. In stark contrast to the recently laid turf just inches from the edge of the slope, the native grasses will provide functionality while also restoring a small plot of land to its native species. Read more »