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Alum Proves Every Day that Diversity Programs Grow Agriculture’s Next-Gen Leaders

Victoria LeBeaux

Victoria LeBeaux, national program leader with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Photo by Carlos Harris

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to career development and, according to one of the nation’s new leaders in agriculture, the course one steers toward a profession in agriculture can be as varied and diverse as the population itself.

“I’m not a big fan of the term ‘pipeline’ because it implies that there is only one way in and only one direction you can go,” said Dr. Victoria LeBeaux, a national program leader (NPL) with USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  “If that were true I certainly wouldn’t be here, since I had no intention of studying agriculture.” Read more »

Massachusetts’ Smarter Lunchrooms Movement

A lunchroom menu board

Lunchroom menu boards used to highlight the “targeted entrée” and promote theme days with creative and descriptive names for the entire reimbursable meal (Georgetown High School).

Through the Team Nutrition initiative, USDA provides grants to state agencies to expand and enhance their training and educational activities to help schools provide appealing and nutritious meals, nutrition education and healthier school environments. These efforts are designed to help children get the nutrition they need to learn, grow and be healthy.  In addition to grants, Team Nutrition provides free nutrition education materials to schools, child care settings and summer meal sites that participate in the Child Nutrition programs.

By Samantha Therrien, graduate student, Framingham State University Food and Nutrition Program & Karen McGrail, MEd, RDN, LDN, Director, the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University

It’s that time again! As students head back to school many school nutrition programs across Massachusetts are continuing to use Smarter Lunchrooms strategies gained through their participation in a USDA Team Nutrition grant. The research-based Smarter Lunchrooms Movement, established at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Program, focuses on creating sustainable lunchrooms that make the healthy choice, the easy choice for students. The Movement is based on the idea that even small, low-cost changes can make a big difference, and Massachusetts schools are benefitting from this first-hand. Read more »

Are You and Your Pets Ready in an Emergency?

APHIS employees working with State and Federal partners on an Animal Care Emergency Exercise

Employees with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Animal Care program work with State and Federal partners on an Animal Care Emergency Exercise in Baton Rouge, LA.

We are reminded often throughout the year of the devastating impacts that families and their communities experience when natural disasters such as, floods, mudslides, tornadoes, wildfires, earthquakes and hurricanes strike.  Because September is National Preparedness Month, it is a good time to think about emergency planning.  Don’t Wait. Communicate. Make an Emergency Communication Plan.

There is a lot of information out there on what to do in the event of a natural disaster, and how to prepare in advance for an emergency – what to bring, what to have in your vehicle and so on. Read more »

This Isn’t Farming Like Grandpa Used to Do

A helicopter swooping over corn fields, releasing winter rye

The aerial cover crop conservation practice involves a helicopter swooping over corn fields, releasing winter rye seed from a hopper swinging beneath the chopper.

Samantha Whitter represents the fifth generation at Whittier Farms in Sutton, Massachusetts. Her family’s 500-acre, 100-head dairy farm is one of the largest in this small town 10 miles south of Worcester—the second largest city in New England, after Boston.

Samantha’s dad, Wayne Whittier, signed up for aerial cover crop seeding offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The conservation practice involves a helicopter swooping over corn fields, releasing winter rye seed from a hopper swinging beneath the chopper. To a bystander, it might look like an air show or a crime scene investigation, but it’s actually a very controlled seed application that uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the helicopter’s flight path and precisely map where seed was distributed. Read more »

Knowledge at Your Fingertips Makes Every Penny Count

Quick Facts for Producers graphic

Quick Facts for Producers graphic (Click to enlarge photo)

America is a nation blessed by agricultural bounty.  Unfortunately, that blessing comes with price-suppressing surpluses being the norm for most of the past century with occasional periods of short stocks, and temporary prosperity for the nation’s grain farmers.  Margins are tight and every penny counts.

Recently I started receiving calls from producers who were experiencing devastating price discounts for wheat – 3 cents per 10th of a pound of test weight below 60.1 pounds – resulting in a 33 cent per bushel discount for 59 pound wheat.  At today’s prices, that is approaching at or very near a ten percent discount on wheat that has a test weight one full pound above the U.S. No. 1 wheat grade standards minimum. Read more »

Unique Mural Captures Essence of the Sustainable Recreation Movement

Sustainable Recreation mural

Sustainable Recreation mural created by artists from the VSA North Fourth Art Center. Photo credit: VSA Arts of New Mexico

Recently, U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell visited the agency’s Southwestern Regional Office in Albuquerque, NM, to review the status of a number of different programs. However, on this visit, the setting was very different than the normal business setting of a boring conference room.

This is because the Very Special Arts (VSA) North Fourth Art Center in Albuquerque was asked to paint a mural that represented what sustainable recreation meant to them. The art center immediately embraced and ran with the idea, creating a 6’ x 16’ movable mural that helped bring the outside inside. Read more »