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Organic 101: The Lifecycle of Organic Food Production

This is the fifth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Through defined farming practices, organic principles promote ecological balance, foster the cycling of resources, and conserve biodiversity. To understand what that means when it comes to the label on your food, those principles require some more explanation.

Let’s take a closer look at a snapshot of sustainable food production, using the lifecycle of organic cheddar to get a fuller picture. Read more »

Prague’s People’s Garden Expands Beyond U.S. Embassy Grounds

Shown in the first Czech People’s Garden, planted on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, is Jana Mikulasova, an agricultural specialist with the Foreign Agricultural Service. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy, Prague)

Shown in the first Czech People’s Garden, planted on the grounds of the U.S. Embassy in Prague, is Jana Mikulasova, an agricultural specialist with the Foreign Agricultural Service. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Embassy, Prague)

The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Prague, Czech Republic, joined the People’s Garden initiative in the summer of 2009, when employees started planning their project, researching potential garden sites, and identifying input suppliers and partners. Their effort bore fruit in summer 2010 with the first Czech People’s Garden planted at the U.S. Embassy compound in Prague. Read more »

USDA’s Chief Veterinary Officer on the Recent BSE Case (aka Mad Cow)

On April 24, USDA confirmed the nation’s 4th case of Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in an animal that was sampled for the disease at a rendering facility in central California.  This animal was never presented for slaughter for human consumption, so at no time presented a risk to the food and milk supply, or to human health in the United States.

We have a longstanding system of interlocking safeguards against BSE that protects public and animal health in the United States.  The most important is the removal of specified risk materials – or the parts of an animal that would contain BSE should an animal have the disease – from all animals presented for slaughter in the United States. USDA inspectors at slaughter facilities also prevent cattle that are nonambulatory or are displaying signs of neurological disease or central nervous system disorders from entering the human food supply. Read more »

Forest Service Law Enforcement Officers Connect with Kids at Career Day in Georgia

Law enforcement officers with the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests joined forces with about 70 other professionals recently to showcase their careers at Clarkesville Elementary School in Clarkesville, Ga.

Officer Derik Breedlove gives potential future Forest Service law enforcement officers an opportunity to try out the view from an ATV seat.  Photo credit: USDA Forest Service/Stuart Delugach

Officer Derik Breedlove gives potential future Forest Service law enforcement officers an opportunity to try out the view from an ATV seat. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service/Stuart Delugach

The Forest Service is a regular participant in the school’s career day.  Captain Stuart Delugach and Officer Derik Breedlove talked with the students about jobs in Forest Service law enforcement.  This year they met with approximately 500 students and showed off some of the tools of the trade, including their All Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) and law enforcement vehicles. Read more »

New Solar Energy System Powers Scenic Area Visitor Center on California’s Inyo National Forest

The Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitors Center is a large public building that is used by more than 140,000 visitors a year. With steeply rising utility costs over the last decade limited funding for operational costs were suggesting shorter operating hours and reduced seasonal openings to save money. To avoid limiting public services, the Forest Service began to explore alternative solutions.

A new photovoltaic system for the Mono Basin Visitor Center on the Inyo National Forest will save taxpayers an estimated $20-25,000 in energy costs. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

A new photovoltaic system for the Mono Basin Visitor Center on the Inyo National Forest will save taxpayers an estimated $20-25,000 in energy costs. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service photo

Situated in a climate where the sun shines an average of 289 days of the year, installation of a photovoltaic power system for the visitor center offered a logical opportunity to cut energy costs and reduce the agency’s carbon footprint.  In 2010, Forest Service Recovery Act funding offered the opportunity for the investment for the energy and money saving technology. Read more »

Introducing the Regional Food Hub Guide: An Innovative Tool for Growing Local Food Systems

Regional Food Hub Resource Guide.  The guide is a collection of information, resources and background on everything needed to develop or participate in a regional food hub.

Regional Food Hub Resource Guide. The guide is a collection of information, resources and background on everything needed to develop or participate in a regional food hub.

What can farmers and ranchers do if they’re interested in selling locally but don’t have the resources to run their own trucks, processing plants or marketing strategies?  What can institutional buyers, –like schools, hospital and retailers — do to offer more local food to their customers? A regional food hub is one possible answer.

Read more »