Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

One Pumpkin Seed Was Start to Educating a Community

It all started with a little red wagon and six pumpkins.

Growing up on his family’s farm in Suamico, Wis., Brian Gronski’s family had a large garden and five acres of pick your own raspberries. One year, Gronski’s father provided his sons with a small spot to grow their own vegetables, which resulted in six pumpkins. The boys decided to load their bounty into a little red wagon and haul it down to the end of the driveway. Selling just two of those pumpkins inspired the boys to only grow pumpkins the following year. That resulted in a much larger wagon load of pumpkins and the successful sale of most of them.

With that small start, the Gronski family moved from growing raspberries to growing pumpkins and becoming The Pumpkin Place on Briter’s Farm. Read more »

Future Forest Service Leaders Learn About Agency History

Elers Koch was a U.S. Forest Service forest ranger. He often patrolled the Lolo National Forest in New Mexico while armed with a weapon. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Elers Koch was a U.S. Forest Service forest ranger. He often patrolled the Lolo National Forest in Montana while armed with a weapon. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Imagine men mounted on horses, armed with rifles and sidearms, patrolling millions of acres of public land. These men were typical U.S. Forest Service rangers over a century ago. This is how the Forest Service first approached forest management.

Forest Service historian Dr. Lincoln Bramwell recently shared the history of the Forest Service to the agency’s Class of 2011 Presidential Management Fellows, a federal government leadership development program. Read more »

An Open Look at How FSIS Enforces the Humane Handling of Livestock

Last week, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service posted on the agency’s web site copies of recent letters that were sent to plants facing enforcement actions for inhumanely treating animals. Posting these humane handling enforcement letters on the web enhances the transparency component of this process and provides the public a clearer understanding of the types of behavior and conditions that warrant enforcement action by FSIS.  This effort is part of a commitment made last year by FSIS to implement new measures to ensure the humane treatment of animals at establishments we regulate.

These letters can be accessed in the agency’s online FOIA reading room and are categorized according to each plant’s designated establishment number, which can be found inside the USDA mark of inspection on food packages at the grocery store. When inhumane handling conditions are encountered, FSIS personnel continue to take action until plant management resolves the problem, often through employee training and facility improvements. Any follow-up correspondence sent to plants also can be accessed in the online FOIA reading room. Read more »

Fort Valley Experimental Forest: First in the Nation to Discover the Effects of a Changing Climate on Pines

Back when Arizona was designated a U.S. territory, scientists had already been exploring its vast landscapes which start from nearly sea level and climb to over 12,000 feet. They were paying particular attention to Arizona’s diverse vegetation and climate.

In 1889, biologist C. Hart Merriam traversed northern Arizona and found six of the seven world life zones he would later describe by latitude and elevation. The existence of such varied life zones across a short distance, and often with just a few hundred feet of elevation change, fascinated scientists. One particular life zone, the extensive stands of ponderosa pine growing at higher elevations from west of Flagstaff, AZ, eastward into New Mexico was particularly interesting to scientists and foresters. Read more »

An All-of-the-Above Approach to Energy in America

America needs and is developing a reliable, sustainable, fuel supply. If we are able to produce more of it here at home – rather than relying on foreign oil – we’ll generate good, middle-class jobs and strengthen our economy in the long run.  That is why USDA and the Obama administration are working with private industry to pursue an ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy to promote American-produced renewable energy coupled with oil production.

Today, biofuels are being developed using not just corn, but corn stover, soybeans, switchgrass, wood, camelina, energy cane, municipal solid waste, yellow oils, algae, and a host of other non-food feedstocks growing across the country. Read more »

University of Georgia Research Sheds Light on How Plant Cell Walls May Impact Biofuel Production

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

One of the keys to improving biofuel production is to understand how plants are made and function. Two researchers from the University of Georgia (UGA)  have made strides in understanding how plant cell walls are made, opening a new door to converting plants to biofuels and other carbon-based products.

UGA researcher Debra Mohnen and her team discovered that two proteins (GAUT1 and GAUT7) come together in an unexpected way to make a carbohydrate, or a chain of sugar molecules, in plant cell walls. The work was funded through USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Read more »