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What is “Local” Food?

Anyone who has shopped at a farmers market can appreciate the freshness of the food, the interaction with farmers, and the opportunity to learn how the food was produced. As an economist with the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), I’m also interested in what local food systems look like in the United States and how locally grown food products are delivered from farms to consumers. ERS recently published two studies (Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, and Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains) that together provide a national perspective on local foods and tell detailed stories about local food supply chains. Read more »

Food Venture Center 2 Breaks Ground

By Lori Duff, ARRA Public Affairs Specialist VT/NH

Construction is just beginning on the new Food Venture Center 2, a non-profit kitchen incubator for specialty food producers in Hardwick, Vermont – and Wednesday nearly 50 people, including Sen. Patrick Leahy and USDA Rural Development VT/NH State Director Molly Lambert, showed up to celebrate. Read more »

Help Us Conduct the Annual DC Butterfly Count!

Written by Rick Borchelt

Butterflies are a great barometer of the health of our environment – because they spend part of their lives as caterpillars eating leaves and other vegetation, and part as adults visiting flowers and other food sources, they can be exposed to many contaminants that give us an early warning of problems in the ecosystem.  Butterflies are often used as an early signal that critical habitat is being eroded or lost because many of them are finicky about the kind of habitat they require and have a narrow range of plants they can feed on. Read more »

New Apps Have Been Dreamed Up, Now You Choose the Best One

By Amanda Eamich, USDA Director of Web Communications

Cross-Posted from the White House Open Government Blog

The moment of truth has come. In March, the First Lady challenged the talented and kid-savvy innovators across the country to build games and tools that inspire and empower kids and their parents to get active and eat healthy. Over the past four months, hundreds of students, developers, and entrepreneurs have dreamed up new ideas, teamed up with their peers in game jams across the country, and toiled to build something really special—something that will move the needle on childhood obesity. Read more »

Climate Change: Getting Organized (Part 2)

By David Cleaves, U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor

This update is one way we are trying to connect people inside and outside the Forest Service around the issues and the lessons we are learning in this changing climate. In implementing the Department’s new Strategic Plan (described in the next section), just signed by Secretary Vilsack, the Forest Service will be leading efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. In the coming weeks, we will be unfolding a system for accounting for our accomplishments under this new and important responsibility. Read more »

Climate Change: Getting Organized (Part 1)

By David Cleaves, U.S. Forest Service Climate Change Advisor

“Sound climate science is the foundation for an effective management response.” These were Chief Tidwell’s words to the participants of a Forest Service workshop on climate change adaptation this past April. Using science to help us deal with change is not new to us. We are a science-based organization. And the vast weight of scientific evidence – thousands of peer-reviewed studies – supports the conclusion that we have entered a period of rapid climatic changes with impacts already occurring in different parts of the country. Read more »