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Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas Begins Longleaf Pine Restoration Efforts

Finished baskets made with longleaf pine needles.

Finished baskets made with longleaf pine needles.

In years to come, members of the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas won’t have to travel far to gather the treasured longleaf pine needles used to make their traditional handmade baskets. Read more »

Rural Veterans and the Tyranny of Distance

Cross posted from the White House blog:

At the Department of Veterans Affairs, Secretary Shinseki often talks about the tyranny of distance – the distance that often separates Veterans from care at their nearest VA medical facilities. For about 3.3 million Vets, or 41 percent of the total enrolled in VA’s health care system, distance is more than a challenge. Distance can mean rural Veterans don’t have access to the care and services they’ve earned.

Secretary Shinseki made it clear – this summer, he wanted to hear from Veterans in the hardest to reach places. “I know from previous experience that sitting in Washington with a 2,000-mile screwdriver trying to fine tune things at the local level never works,” he said. So, we hit the road to learn firsthand. Read more »

USDA’s Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Visits a North Carolina Interfaith Food Shuttle Project

As Associate Administrator of USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), one of my duties is to lead all-employee meetings with the Agency’s field offices across the country. During my travel, I often visit local projects and success stories in agriculture that have connections with USDA projects.  Recently, I visited one of RMA’s outreach partners in Raleigh, North Carolina— the Longview School and Inter-faith Food Shuttle.

RMA is funding this unique urban agriculture project through a current partnership agreement with the North Carolina Farm Transition Network.  The project,  in  coordination with Patrick Faulkner, Longview FFA Chapter, and Sun Butler of Inter-faith Food Shuttle, provides hands-on training for students and the community on managing risks associated with gardening and horticulture, improving health, building collaborations, reducing hunger, and potentially,  enhancing career skills related to the local food system and the food value chain.  As a part of this project, Mr. Faulkner has taken students to on two field trips for educational purposes: A national workshop on growing food at Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wis., with Will Allen, and a trip to Washington, D.C., for the National FFA Leadership Conference. Read more »

USDA Dedicates Community Garden at Common Bond Communities Torre De San Miguel homes in Minnesota

Even though they are surrounded by busy city streets and apartment buildings, fresh vegetables and fruits are only a few steps away for Pakou Yang and Pahoua Vue. Yang and Vue grow onions, tomatoes, peppers, beans and cilantro in the USDA’s community garden at the Common Bond Communities Torre De San Miguel Homes in St. Paul, Minnesota

USDA officials dedicated the garden during a morning ceremony under the warm summer sun on a Friday last month. Several gardeners and community organizations also were recognized for their work in making the garden an overwhelming success. Read more »

Puerto Rico Agricultural Market Expansion Conference a Success

Puerto Rico’s agriculture has been steadily declining and imports total 85 percent of the food consumed on the island. Additionally, almost all of the $11 million per year that USDA purchases for use in Puerto Rico’s school meals are purchased from companies in the continental United States.  What’s more, each year the island’s School Food Authority purchases about $80 million in food to be served in school.  We saw these as opportunities for local farmers and decided to do something about it.

The Market Expansion Conference, held June 23-24 in San Juan, teamed seven U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies and other Commonwealth and federal partners to show over 250 farmers how to sell food to local schools, expand their businesses and increase their participation in USDA programs.  Puerto Rico’s milk farmers, cattle ranchers, pineapple growers and many others eagerly listened to USDA experts explain grading and licensing, and provide information in the areas of funding and procurement. Read more »

Pesticide Residue Detection in National Science Lab Beeswax

As part of the People’s Garden Initiative for Gastonia, North Carolina, the National Science Laboratory (NSL) built two beehives to produce honey without the use of pesticides.  If insect control was needed, we planned to use only what was allowed for use in organic products. When Varroa mites were discovered in the hives, we used thymol, a natural oil, to control them.

Several weeks ago, we collected honeycomb samples from each of our hives to test for about two hundred different pesticides.  The NSL has built a reputation for quality pesticide residue analysis. Many members of its staff have performed this work for over 20 years.  The equipment we use for analysis is the latest and greatest, producing detection limits of 1 part per billion—the equivalent to one drop of water diluted into 11,008 gallons, or about three seconds out of a century. Read more »