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Refugee Farmers Set Down Roots, Honor Traditions in Vermont

A beginning farmer, Janine Ndagijimana (left), leasing land from Vermont farmer Gene Button (center), and working with NRCS Soil Conservationist Danny Peet (far right) to improve soil health

A beginning farmer, Janine Ndagijimana (left), leases land from Vermont farmer Gene Button (center), and works with NRCS Soil Conservationist Danny Peet (far right) to improve soil health and protect water quality through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. Photo: Amy Overstreet

Rwanda native Janine Ndagijimana, her husband Faustine and their children moved to Burlington, Vermont in 2007 after living in a refugee camp in Tanzania for 13 years. Now a U.S. citizen, she works closely with Ben Waterman, the New American Farmer Program coordinator at the University of Vermont Extension Service (UVM) Center for Sustainable Agriculture. He manages the Land Access and Assessment Program that helps Vermont’s resettled refugee and immigrant farmers obtain access to the resources they need to pursue their goals as farmers and to link common threads between their new home in America the culture of their homelands.

Janine was one of several farmers who recently attended a meeting of the Association of Africans Living in Vermont to learn about USDA programs and services. Farmers from Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo learned about land acquisition, insurance programs, loans to support farming, and technical and financial assistance for implementing conservation farming practices. Read more »

The Organic Industry Continues Double-Digit Growth with INTEGRITY

2015 United States Certified Organic Operations map

As in past years, the most organic businesses can be found in California and the upper Northwest, the upper Midwest and Northeast, Pennsylvania, New York, and Texas.

Earlier this month, my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – released data showing that there are now more than 21,000 certified organic operations in the United States, and more than 31,000 around the world.  These numbers represent an increase of almost 12 percent between 2014 and 2015, continuing the trend of rapid growth in the organic sector as consumer demand grows.

It’s not just the numbers themselves that are exciting, though.  The announcement also marks the first time we released the data through the recently launched Organic Integrity Database, a modernized system for tracking certified organic operations.  In the past, AMS’s National Organic Program (NOP) published the number of certified organic operations once a year, using data submitted annually by accredited organic certifying agencies. Read more »

USDA Engages Public through Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science

CitizenScience.gov homepage screenshot

Check out CitizenScience.gov to learn about crowdsourcing and citizen science projects in your area, and get involved.

Recently, USDA participated in the White House launch of the Federal Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science (CCS) Toolkit. By providing federal employees with information about developing CCS activities, the Toolkit will eventually allow the Federal government to design more programs that ask citizens to help us in solving both simple and complex problems.

Now, USDA is excited to announce our role in helping to harness “the power of the crowd” with the official release of CitizenScience.gov. Read more »

More than a Pretty View for rural America

Buildings nestled into a forest

America’s national forests and grasslands are part of the strategy to tackle some of our lagging rural economies. Photo credit: Doug Berry, istockphotos.com

This may sound like a cliché, but our job at the U.S. Forest Service is to do something every day to make your life better. And we mean it.

Our work safeguards clean air, clean water, and beautiful, resilient and productive forests and grasslands. These effects of healthy national forests and grasslands are nowhere more felt than in rural communities where wildlands play a huge role in generating economic activity. Read more »

Ready to have Market Data as Close as your Smartphone? Here We Go!

MARS logo

MARS allows for more data availability, better analysis, and improved information availability sooner for more agricultural markets in one easy-to-use tool.

Earlier this week, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) hosted a webinar on an exciting new initiative to provide unbiased market data to users digitally. Called the Market Analysis & Reporting Services (MARS), this dynamic, innovative technology will assist USDA Market News in collecting and distributing information electronically from remote locations, by combining reporting from all commodity areas (Livestock, Cotton, Specialty Crops, and Dairy) into a single platform.

This modernization effort will improve the transparency, speed, accuracy, and flexibility of this vital service and allow Market News to continue to expand its services to agricultural market participants.  To ensure that our changes meet your needs, we are conducting focus groups and welcome you to participate.  Your input will enable Market News to speed data flow from the agricultural markets, to agency analysts, and to the public, allowing users to create unique content. Read more »

New Quarter Showcases the Shawnee National Forest

Children displaying the new quarters

Children displaying the new quarters. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

The Shawnee National Forest is one of few places in Illinois where you will find large open spaces to explore and be immersed in nature. One of its special places is the Garden of the Gods Recreation Area. Each year several hundred thousand visitors are drawn to the strange and beautiful rock formations found at Garden of the Gods. One of the most famous formations is Camel Rock.

This special place was recently celebrated through the launch of the latest America the Beautiful Quarter, featuring the Shawnee’s unique Camel Rock formation. More than 1,300 people came out to celebrate; forever placing the beauty of the Shawnee into pocket change. Read more »