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Powered by Diversity and Healthy Soil, an Organic Iowa Farm Flourishes

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.

In many respects, Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann’s “Farm Sweet Farm” is a typical Iowa farm. The Rosmann’s grow corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.

But that’s where the similarities with traditional farming operations end.  A certified organic producer since 1994, the 700-acre farm near Harlan, Iowa is home to a remarkable amount of diversity — above and below the ground.

“Last year, we planted 26 different species of seeds, and this is typical,” Ron said. Read more »

Bill Gates, Computerized Plant Breeding and Contending with Hunger

Bill Gates learns to pollinate wheat from Cornell University assistant professor Jessica Rutkoski, while ARS geneticist Edward Buckler looks on. Photo credit: Robert Barker, Cornell University.

Bill Gates learns to pollinate wheat from Cornell University assistant professor Jessica Rutkoski, while ARS geneticist Edward Buckler looks on. Photo credit: Robert Barker, Cornell University.

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 profile.

Bill Gates, once simply of Microsoft fame, is now as famous for his dedication to reducing hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa and other goals that drive the work of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  He recently visited Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Plant, Soil and Nutrition Research Unit in Ithaca, NY, to learn what two geneticists are doing to improve crop breeding decisions that could be used in that part of the world.

At the research unit, ARS geneticist Edward Buckler is turning the encyclopedic amount of genetic information he has developed about corn into helping the crop yield the kind of improvements in Africa that have been made in North America. Varieties bred for North American climates simply do not work in Africa where they currently produce only about one-fifth the harvest they do in this country. Millions of hungry and extremely poor people can’t afford the hundred years it would take for conventional breeding that was once the path taken in the United States. Read more »

We Are the Bridge: Rural Development Carries Forward Civil Rights Legacy

Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.

Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.

On my first trip as the Under Secretary for Rural Development, I visited Alabama and Mississippi. It seemed fitting for me to begin my trip in Selma, Alabama given the historical significance of the location. The march from Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., embodied our most human desires: to be treated fairly, to be heard, to be treated with decency-to not be denied access and opportunities due to the color of our skin, our gender identity, our gender expression or our political identity.

I was raised in Oregon by my father, an immigrant from Ghana and my mother, an Iowa farm girl. Standing there in Selma, the sacrifices made by those before me came into focus. As an African-American woman, I’m now very honored to be at an agency that plays an important role in bringing new investments to rural America. Read more »

Cooperative Extension Programs Help Strapped Rural Communities

A farmer in Navasota, Texas uses modern technology to navigate a harvester through his wheat sorghum crop.

A farmer in Navasota, Texas uses modern technology to navigate a harvester through his wheat sorghum crop.

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 profile.

Low prices for commodity crops are never good for agricultural producers. But for small farmers, many of whom already depend on off-farm income, this is not a good scenario.

Navigating this uncertain financial terrain is not for the faint of heart; fortunately, at-risk residents in rural communities have the Cooperative Extension Service (CES) on their side to provide them with the information they need.  Land-grant universities (LGU) provide research-based information through non-formal, non-credit to residents in their state. Read more »

What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl: A Collection of Recipes for Schools and Child Care Centers

Girl holding sandwiches

Many of the quantity food service recipes found in the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl have been taste-tested and student-approved!

This is the third installment of the What’s Cooking? Blog Series. In honor of the Let’s Move 5th Anniversary, and the commitment USDA shares with Let’s Move to promote healthy eating and access to healthy foods, this month-long series will high­­light the various features of the What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl recipe website.

USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services is excited to have an interactive website that can help Child Nutrition professionals expand their portfolio of recipes.  The newly released What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl Web site is a searchable database of recipes that can be used by school nutrition and child care center professionals in their foodservice operations.

The What’s Cooking? USDA Mixing Bowl includes more than 1,000 mouth-watering recipes that are scaled for large quantity foodservice.  Most recipes for school nutrition yield 50 or 100 portions per recipe, while most recipes for child care centers yield 25 or 50 portions per recipe.  So that these popular dishes can be shared with parents and prepared at home, many of these recipes are available in the household search with fewer portions per recipe. Read more »

USDA Continues to Modernize International Food Safety Program

Each year, America imports over 3.5 billion pounds of meat, poultry, and egg products. As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, it is important to continually strengthen our regulatory programs to ensure that the food on your family’s table is safe. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is the agency that verifies these products are safe, wholesome, and correctly labeled and packaged, whether they are produced in the U.S. or abroad.

Over time, we have taken a number of steps to ensure that domestic and international facilities are delivering only the safest possible product to store shelves. In the past year, FSIS created the Office of International Coordination (OIC) as part of our effort to strengthen our agency’s focus on international issues. This is the office I oversee. This week, to facilitate determinations of initial and ongoing equivalence, we launched our improved and web-based Self-Reporting Tool (SRT) to allow foreign countries to submit their equivalence responses and documentation through an efficient and secure online portal.  This new tool saves time previously spent sifting through paperwork and allows us to focus our efforts on upholding FSIS’ strong food safety standards. This consolidated web-based version is yet another advance made possible by the Public Health Information System (PHIS) that helps us collect, consolidate, and analyze equivalence and import data more efficiently. Read more »