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A Phenomenal Day for #KYF2 and Local Foods at USDA and Online

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (at table, center), and White House Office of Public Engagement Director Jon Carson (at table, left) conducted a Know Your Farmer Compass event that utilized twitter social media to continue the National Conversation on Local and Regional Food projects and how they offer economic opportunities to local farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs. Using the new web-based Know Your Food Compass, the conversation covered many aspects about food, such as infrastructure, stewardship, local meat and poultry, Healthy food access, careers in agriculture and local food knowledge. The virtual conversation took place at the White House, and twitter was used to expand the conversation worldwide, from Washington, D.C., on Monday, March 5, 2012. Unlike most events where mobile communication devices are asked to be turned off, here it was asked that they remain on allowing people to have social media conversations.  USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (at table, center), and White House Office of Public Engagement Director Jon Carson (at table, left) conducted a Know Your Farmer Compass event that utilized twitter social media to continue the National Conversation on Local and Regional Food projects and how they offer economic opportunities to local farmers, ranchers and food entrepreneurs. Using the new web-based Know Your Food Compass, the conversation covered many aspects about food, such as infrastructure, stewardship, local meat and poultry, Healthy food access, careers in agriculture and local food knowledge. The virtual conversation took place at the White House, and twitter was used to expand the conversation worldwide, from Washington, D.C., on Monday, March 5, 2012. Unlike most events where mobile communication devices are asked to be turned off, here it was asked that they remain on allowing people to have social media conversations. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Yesterday, I had my first-ever “virtual conversation.” It included Jon Carson, Director of Public Engagement for the White House; Sam Kass, Senior White House Advisor on Food Policy, and 60 other local food practitioners. We came together to talk about the new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass and were joined “virtually” by hundreds of others using the Twitter hashtag #KYF2.  The result?  An exciting and inspirational conversation about USDA’s work on local and regional food systems involving people from around the country. Read more »

SNAP – A Bridge to Success

It’s no secret that participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has experienced significant growth over the past 10 years.  In fact, the December 2011 participation showed that 46.5 million people received SNAP benefits.

What has caused these increases?  During 2011, the increases were primarily due to unemployment and more people in need as well as those recovering from natural disasters such as Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee who are receiving SNAP disaster benefits.  SNAP was designed for just such situations.  It expands to meet needs of families during tough economic times and contracts as circumstances improve.  As the economy continues to improve and add jobs, families who are now struggling to put food on the table will no longer need assistance. Read more »

USDA is set to Turbo-Charge Telework Week 2012

Did you know that the average DC commuter spends an average of 5.5 hrs each week stuck in traffic and that Americans around the country who commute to work emit approximately 1 ton of pollutants each year?

Telework helps to keep our skies blue and our roads open- all while still continuing to perform the important work we do each and every day at the Department of Agriculture.

And how important that is for all of us as USDA employees who work so hard to support the conservation of our natural resources, the preservation of our National forests and wildlife- not to mention to sustain our country’s agricultural production.  By virtue of our commitment to USDA, to the American public who we serve and to our families and communities- we should all be committed to finding effective and efficient ways to work. Read more »

Rock Keyboardist and Grammy Winner Chuck Leavell Becomes an Honorary Forest Service Ranger

Chuck Leavell, a strong champion of sustainable forest management, has received many accolades for his support of forestry and conservation issues. He has turned his Charlane Plantation into a textbook tree farm. Photo credit:  Photo provided courtesy of Chuck Leavell

Chuck Leavell, a strong champion of sustainable forest management, has received many accolades for his support of forestry and conservation issues. He has turned his Charlane Plantation into a textbook tree farm. Photo credit: Photo provided courtesy of Chuck Leavell

Chuck Leavell may be known as the legendary keyboardist for the Rolling Stones and the Allman Brothers Band, but he’s just as proud of being a champion for tree stewardship and sustainable forest management.   His conservation ethic, his forest advocacy and his personal stewardship of Charlane Plantation near Macon, Ga., were recognized Feb. 27 when the U.S. Forest Service proclaimed him an honorary forest ranger. Read more »

Welcome to National Nutrition Month! And Start Marking your Calendar!

Katherine Tallmadge, DCMADA President, and Sarah Fisher, DCMADA PR Representative and the elementary students from DCPS schools (District of Columbia Public Schools), on Food Day.

Katherine Tallmadge, DCMADA President, and Sarah Fisher, DCMADA PR Representative and the elementary students from DCPS schools (District of Columbia Public Schools), on Food Day.

Join Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on March 8th in celebrating “What’s on My Plate?” Day and help raise public awareness of the importance of choosing nutritious foods for a healthy meal. If you haven’t already joined the network, become one of almost 6,000 of USDA’s MyPlate Community and National Strategic Partners, all of which are committed to promoting a diet that reflects the latest recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and highlights the message behind the new MyPlate food icon. Be sure to put MyPlate into action by taking a photo of your healthful plates to share on Twitter with the hash-tag #MyPlate. Read more »

New Farmers Benefit from Ag Census

Renee Picanso, NASS Census and Survey Division Director

Renee Picanso, NASS Census and Survey Division Director

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.

This is National Agriculture Week, an annual event that gives us a chance to honor the 3 million plus farmers and ranchers across the United States who work hard each day so that we have healthy and nutritious food on our plates. From the last Census of Agriculture in 2007, we learned that the number of farmers is actually growing. But how do we know that USDA is keeping pace with their needs? Read more »