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Yes, We Have No Bananas

We left the cool warehouse with sticky shoes and smelling of spoiled bananas, but also with a warm feeling for having helped the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas ensure healthy, fresh food for their clients. Hundreds of cases of bananas had been donated, but when food bank staff checked the produce it was too spoiled to be used.  However, the sturdy produce boxes could be salvaged for further use, so 32 USDA volunteers from the Food and Nutrition Service Southwest Regional Office and USDA Risk Management Agency rolled up their sleeves to empty and then reassemble the boxes.  This was a great opportunity for us to work together with other USDA employees and see the food bank in operation first hand. The project was part of the January 12th USDA National Day of Service honoring the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Secretary’s Column: Skills for American Workers

As America works towards an economy that’s built to last, we must make sure to provide American workers with the skills they need to compete.

If we want to build an economy that makes, creates and innovates; if we want to usher in a new era for American manufacturing and American-produced energy; our students and workers need a good education and strong training.

At USDA, one of our jobs is to help American workers learn the skills they need to be ready to take on the jobs of today and tomorrow. Read more »

NRCS Helps Preserve Wyoming Ranching Family’s Way of Life with Conservation Easement

A large, family-run ranch in Wyoming was recently placed in permanent conservation easement with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and The Conservation Fund. The efforts of other partners were also key.

Barn: View of one of the homestead ranches now protected by two conservation easements. Photo by Mark Gocke.

Barn: View of one of the homestead ranches now protected by two conservation easements. Photo by Mark Gocke.

The ranch, which is one of the oldest operating ranches held by one family in the Green River Valley, will be permanently protected under NRCS’ Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program (FRPP). The 10,000-acre ranch is actually two homestead properties owned by the Budd-Espenscheid family, near the town of Big Piney, and will be protected under two easements. Read more »

Keeping Wilderness Wild

When the first Europeans settled in what is now the United States, they found a continent of extensive wildlands. In less than 500 years, the undeveloped nature of these wildlands has been reduced significantly. As they became increasingly scarce and a fledgling conservation movement lost natural treasures like Yosemite’s Hetch Hetchy Valley to development, Americans began to appreciate their value.

View of the Sawtooth Range in Idaho. U.S. Forest Service photo.

View of the Sawtooth Range in Idaho. U.S. Forest Service photo.

With passage of the Wilderness Act of 1964, a new course in history was chartered — to preserve some of the country’s last remaining wild places and protect their natural processes and values from development. Read more »

A Catholic School in Harlem Turns MyPlate into a School Musical

Elementary students at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary turn healthy eating lessons into a school musical about MyPlate

Elementary students at Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary turn healthy eating lessons into a school musical about MyPlate

In the heart of New York City, Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School is a beacon of hope for the communities of East Harlem. The Catholic school serves 280 students in Pre-K through 8th grade, and one hundred percent of students qualify for Free Lunch in the National School Lunch Program. According to the New York City Department of Health, more than 4 in 10 elementary school children in East and Central Harlem are overweight or obese. East Harlem currently has the highest rate of childhood asthma hospitalizations in New York City, and over 25% of the area’s children suffer from the condition. Principal Suzanne Kaszynski is taking big strides to address those trends with MyPlate, USDA’s new food icon, in a school-wide effort to prevent childhood obesity and long-term risks for chronic disease. Read more »

Links to the Past: USDA Releases Historic Census of Agriculture Reports

NASS, in partnership with Cornell’s Mann Library, has scanned and digitized thousands of pages of census reports, like this 1840 census publication, to make the historic Census of Agriculture reports available and searchable online for the first time.

NASS, in partnership with Cornell’s Mann Library, has scanned and digitized thousands of pages of census reports, like this 1840 census publication, to make the historic Census of Agriculture reports available and searchable online for the first time.

Did you know that the number of farms in the United States peaked in 1935 at 6,812,350 operations when the average farm size was 154.8 acres? In comparison, the 2007 Census of Agriculture counted 2,204,792 farms with the average farm size of 418 acres. In celebration of 150 years of service to American agriculture, the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), in partnership with Cornell University’s Mann Library, are making these and many other historical facts available online at http://agcensus.mannlib.cornell.edu Read more »