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Early Warning and Detection System to Help New Mexico Communities

Buck Mountain precipitation gage with solar panel, radio stand, and electronics—Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire, N.M.

Buck Mountain precipitation gage with solar panel, radio stand, and electronics—Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire, N.M.

New Mexico experienced in June two catastrophic wildfires—the Whitewater Baldy Complex Fire and the Little Bear Fire. One consequence of those fires has been flash flooding. Water runs off more quickly during rainstorms in areas where fires have stripped the landscape. These floods can happen with very little notice, endangering communities downstream. Read more »

USDA Official Encourages Female Students to Pursue STEM Education and Careers During “Latina Day”

On September 26, 2012, I addressed a group of 8th grade female students and their mothers at the conference luncheon held by the University of Texas-Pan American. The event was part of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) week.

During Latina Day, participants discussed the opportunities for women and girls to advance academically by entering science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. There were activities that included participation from hundreds of mother/daughter teams.  One key theme and highlight of the event was to celebrate women in the STEM fields, hear their success stories, and to encourage children to continue their education.

Earlier in the week, the Obama Administration announced the Equal Futures Partnership, which is a new collaboration with private and non-profit stakeholders to reverse the historic underrepresentation women in STEM education and careers and promote public leadership. Read more »

More Than 30,000 Pounds of Watermelon Collected and Donated By Earth Team Volunteers

Volunteers unloading the gleaned watermelons at a food bank in Missouri.

Volunteers unloading the gleaned watermelons at a food bank in Missouri.

What do the National Resource Conservation Service , Farm Service Agency, Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), and 16 tons of watermelons have in common? These USDA agencies have joined together in Southeastern Missouri to donate literally tons of watermelon to the food banks in Sikeston and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. This massive donation is the result of gleaning, which is the act of collecting excess foods from farmers markets, farms, stores, restaurants, gardens and elsewhere and donating that food to those in need. Read more »

World Food Day’s Scientific “Call to Action”

On October 16, World Food Day, it is hard to not be struck by how lucky we are in the United States. We have abundant food that costs us less to produce, on a per unit basis, than almost any other country in the world. Our farmers and ranchers produce more than we need, allowing us to be a powerhouse in global exports. And our food supply is among the safest of all the world’s nations.

All that abundance and security has been underpinned by science and know-how.  Between the 1940s and the 1970s, agriculture science blossomed in what has become known as the Green Revolution. Thanks to the research done by Norman Borlaug, the “Father of the Green Revolution,” working with researchers around the world, developed high-yielding varieties and modern production practices that helped save untold numbers of people from starvation. Read more »

U.S. Forest Service Wants You to Get in Where You Fit In!

Maples show a variety of colors on the Superior National Forest. Photo: Steve Robertsen, District Interpreter, Tofte Ranger District of the Superior National Forest

Maples show a variety of colors on the Superior National Forest. Photo: Steve Robertsen, District Interpreter, Tofte Ranger District of the Superior National Forest

Every fall, nature puts on a dazzling show across America’s great outdoors for all of us to see.

Whether you’re an adventurist or someone who just likes a good road trip, national forests are the places to be this time of year. Read more »

In Oregon, Forest-based Economic Development Can Grow Faster than the Trees Themselves

Susan Curington of North Woods Figured Woods (left) shows State Director Vicki Walker (right) how the family business “upcycles” burls, stumps and small, odd-shaped, or difficult-to-use wood pieces to be sold at premium prices to carvers and other hobbyists. USDA photo.

Susan Curington of North Woods Figured Wood (left) shows State Director Vicki Walker (right) how the family business “upcycles” burls, stumps and small, odd-shaped, or difficult-to-use wood pieces to be sold at premium prices to carvers and other hobbyists. USDA photo.

At a recent expo held by the Oregon Woodland Cooperative (OWC), I had the opportunity to meet with a number of family forest landowners who are cultivating additional commercial ventures thanks, in part, to USDA’s Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) program.

At the event, OWC President Neil Schroeder introduced me to cooperative members who have sprouted new businesses and created local jobs as a result. The terrific part of all this is that USDA’s VAPG program provided funds needed to conduct the in-field assessments, feasibility studies, business planning, and marketing activities needed to identify, process and sell new, non-lumber products harvested from Oregon’s family forests. Read more »