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Tips for Starting an Organic Garden

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

Backyard organic gardening can be easier than you think – if you learn the basics. (Photo by Stephanie Engle)

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 portfolio.

Even though there’s still snow on the ground over much of the country, it’s about time to start thinking about the logistics of planting your garden later this spring.  And while you’re thinking about it, why not consider going natural?

Whether you’re an avid gardener or just starting out, the idea of creating a garden using organic methods can seem overwhelming at first. But organic gardening is less daunting than you may think if you understand some basic principles; it’s about creating a more holistic, natural ecosystem and can be done right in your own backyard. Read more »

Forest Farming Ramps

Ramps for sale at a local market. All parts of the plant are edible. Photo credit: Jim Chamberlain.

Ramps for sale at a local market. All parts of the plant are edible. Photo credit: Jim Chamberlain.

Ramps, these tasty spring ephemerals with the scientific name Allium tricoccum, are generally called ramps in the south and wild leeks in more northern areas. They are native to the hardwood forests of eastern North America.

In many areas, ramps are viewed as a sign of the coming of spring and people flock to the forests to “dig a mess of ramps.” Many communities hold ramp festivals. When in season, local restaurants, roadside vegetable stands, and other markets sell ramps to residents and tourists. In recent years, the interest in these spring delicacies has increased to the point that high-end restaurants in cities across the nation are now offering ramps on their menus. Read more »

Strengthening Produce Businesses, One Program at a Time

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.

Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.

Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »

Representing #womeninag: A Google Hangout in Celebration of National Ag Day

Join Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden on Wednesday March 18 at 2 p.m. for a Google Hangout with Dr. Linda Young, Chief Mathematical Statistician and Director of Research and Development of USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Marji Guyler-Alaniz, photographer and founder of FARMHER as we celebrate women farmers and ranchers on National Ag Day. You can tune in at www.usda.gov/live.

The Census of Agriculture counts nearly one million women working on America’s farms and ranches. These statistics are crucial for our understanding of women in agriculture.  However,  they only tell a fraction of the story. They might not capture women who are working the farm although the property is in someone else’s name.  They might not reflect the younger women who are just getting started in farming, or the older generation of women who are ready to transition their land to the next generation. Read more »

Child and Adult Care Food Program Reaches Far and Wide

USDA programs like CACFP help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.

USDA programs like CACFP help improve access to food and healthful diets for millions of Americans.

During National Nutrition Month, we’re excited to highlight the many ways federal nutrition assistance programs benefit vulnerable Americans.

At USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, we often get the chance to discuss how WIC and our school lunch and breakfast programs boost the nutritional lives of millions.  But did you know that each day our Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) provides over 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults nutritious meals and snacks that contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development? Read more »

NIFA Debuts New Redesigned Public Website for Ease of Users

Recently, the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) launched its redesigned website.  The agency’s web team has worked for the past year to design a site that will make access to information about NIFA’s grants and programs easier than ever.  The new website is compatible with a variety of mobile devices so today’s busy users can get their information on-the-go.

“This web revision comes at a time when most Americans, including farmers and other agricultural professionals, find resources online.  The new website is user-friendly and offers excellent search tools, thus, making information easily accessible,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. Read more »