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Summer Harvests Can Turn Into Summer Meals for Kids

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

“Kids in NY find enjoying the farm’s bounty is a perfect summer activity.” Photo Credit Lindsay Morris

Summer is the season when harvests of healthful foods are most abundant: gardens overflow with zucchini and berries, trees are laden with sweet, ripe fruit, and farmers tend and harvest crops from dawn until dusk. Despite the seasonal abundance, many children go hungry when school is out and the food programs that fed them during the year are no longer part of their daily routine.

Bringing summer’s bounty to hungry kids is “just common sense” according to Cathy Rogers, School Food Service Director for Pipestone Area Schools, located in a small city of 4,000 in the southwest corner of Minnesota. Every day during the summer months, she serves fresh foods from local producers to 400 of her students. Read more »

Advances Help Assure Olive Oil Authenticity

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.

When you plunk down $17.99 for a bottle of your favorite premium olive oil, you’d like some assurance that what you just bought actually is top-quality olive oil.  Sadly, there’s a possibility that your high-priced olive oil might be watered down with other, less expensive vegetable oils, such as those from safflower or canola.

Fortunately, the scientists of the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are helping ensure that what you get is what you paid for. Read more »

USDA, Helping Small Rural Businesses Grow and Create Jobs

Last month, I joined Secretary Vilsack in announcing National Small Business Week on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Louisiana. In support of rural small businesses, USDA announced several funding opportunities across the country for business owners to increase their capacity to hire new workers and expand their businesses. Small Businesses are the lifeblood of every community, but in a rural town one small business can mean the difference between a thriving main street and empty windows. This is why the work that USDA does on behalf of rural America is so important.

The state office for Rural Development is located in Central Louisiana where I met State Director Clarence Hawkins and his staff before we headed out to visit local businesses. The first stop was Consolidated Energy Holdings in Pollock. A variety of waste sources is produced by the company. Later, I had the opportunity to speak at the Cenla Small Business Appreciation Luncheon at the Central Louisiana Business Incubator in Alexandria. I was so inspired by the business incubator, which the city started as a workforce training facility for those with the desire to grow and expand their businesses. The incubator provides business owners with growth strategies, financing options, resources, and administrative support to name a few. There is an industrial kitchen available to use for food based business opportunities and specialty food producers. This incubator is the epitome of what small communities across rural America should be doing, making investments in their own citizens to foster job growth. Read more »

USDA Grant Funding Boosts Public Safety in an Indiana Town

USDA Rural Development staff visited with Jasonville, Indiana town officials earlier this month during a ceremony celebrating the town’s purchase of a new flex fuel police vehicle.

Utilizing an Economic Impact Initiative (EII) Grant to fund 75 percent of the vehicle purchase price, Assistant Police Chief James E. Gadberry talked about how pleased the department was in working with USDA Rural Development.

He also noted three days after the vehicle arrived, it played an instrumental role during a high speed chase involving a suspected methamphetamine distributor.  The vehicle performed perfectly during the pursuit and ultimate apprehension of the individual. Read more »

Veterans Restore Historic Site on North Carolina’s Uwharrie National Forest

Military veteran Tyler Price, left, of the Student Conservation Association, and Josh Carr of Historicorps scrape lead paint off of historic window sashes of a Thornburg Farm historic building during a restoration project on the Uwharrie National Forest. (Photo courtesy Michael Salisbury)

Military veteran Tyler Price, left, of the Student Conservation Association, and Josh Carr of Historicorps scrape lead paint off of historic window sashes of a Thornburg Farm historic building during a restoration project on the Uwharrie National Forest. (Photo courtesy Michael Salisbury)

Under a new program to help veterans re-enter civilian life and find career-oriented employment, eight military veterans visited the Uwharrie National Forest near Asheboro, N.C. as part of their summer program to gain experience in developing historic preservation skills, they restored a historic site of farm buildings on the forest.

“I recognized the importance of preserving these buildings for generations to come and am grateful to be just a small part of the process,” said Tyler Price, a veteran and history and anthropology student at California University at Fresno. Read more »

Reducing Wildfire Risk and Protecting Our Drinking Water in a Changing Climate

Cross-posted from the White House Council of Environmental Quality blog:

Americans are all too familiar with the devastation catastrophic wildland fires can wreak on the landscape. Fire takes lives, destroys homes, impacts wildlife, and devastates millions of acres of valuable forests and grasslands every year. But what is lesser known is that these fires also severely damage watersheds—the very lands that provide clean and abundant drinking water for millions of Americans every day.

To address this problem, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell this week announced an historic agreement between the Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service and the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation to focus on proactively restoring forest lands around important watersheds and preventing costly, destructive wildfires in these areas. Read more »