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Posts tagged: Agriculture and Food Research Initiative

Technology Enables Vermont Dairy Farmer to Measure Positive Impacts of Conservation

NRCS Soil Conservationist Danny Peet, left, with Vermont farmer Lorenzo Whitcomb

NRCS Soil Conservationist Danny Peet, left, worked with Vermont farmer Lorenzo Whitcomb to implement edge-of-field water quality monitoring in an effort to minimize impacts to water quality from agricultural runoff.

Stewardship and cutting-edge technology are nothing new to the North Williston Cattle Company, a Vermont dairy farm that uses solar energy and robotic milking machines. The latest advancement on the 800-acre, 224-head operation are edge-of-field water quality monitoring stations, which measure water quality and the benefits of using conservation practices on the dairy farm.

Lorenzo Whitcomb, one of the managers of the family-run dairy, worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to install the monitoring stations. NRCS has made technical and financial assistance available to farmers in key watersheds across the country.

“The results from this study will illustrate to farmers more precisely the real benefits that conservation practices have on water quality,” said Kip Potter, NRCS water quality specialist. Read more »

Behind the Scenes of the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative: Jill Auburn

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Beginning Farmer and Ranchers Development Program, is one of the original members of USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Task Force which coordinates the Department’s work on local and regional food systems.

This month, the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative (KYF2) celebrates an important milestone: the sixth anniversary of the first convening of the KYF2 Task Force. Since 2009, the Task Force, a dedicated team of experts from across the Department, has been hard at work in support of USDA’s commitment to local and regional food systems. As we mark this important milestone, we wanted to recognize some of the outstanding USDA employees who have been at the core of this work.

Jill Auburn, National Program Leader at USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and manager of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, has been part of the KYF2 Task Force since the beginning. Jill came to USDA in 1998 and has seen the Department’s work on local food evolve. Jill describes the launch of the Task Force as a recognition that “the world has been doing this [local food], and USDA needs to engage. We aren’t the lead on this – our work is being driven by what’s happening in communities around the country – but USDA has a lot of tools to assist.”  The 2008 and 2014 Farm Bills have given USDA many tools and authorities to support local and regional food systems. Read more »

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

Answering Questions about the World’s Water Security Problems

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.

Global water awareness and future water security happens locally—one student, one teacher, and one lesson at a time.

Often we hear that better thinking is needed to address particularly prickly societal problems, business challenges, or scientific conundrums.  ThinkWater is a national project supported by a $900,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The project is designed by educators, scientists, and activists in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension to add thinking skills and awareness into existing water education lessons. Read more »

iCook Makes Healthy Living Fun for Kids

Maine 4-H learn some knife skills as part of the University of Maine’s “iCook” program.  Four other states are joining Maine in this childhood obesity prevention program. (Courtesy photo from Maine 4-H)

Maine 4-H learn some knife skills as part of the University of Maine’s “iCook” program. Four other states are joining Maine in this childhood obesity prevention program. (Courtesy photo from Maine 4-H)

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years, leading to increased risks for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and breathing problems.

Researchers from the University of Maine have developed the 4-H iCook project to tackle this issue in the home. The program encourages families to cook, eat, and exercise together while improving culinary skills and increasing physical activity. Read more »

NIFA and the Farm Bill: A Year Later

February 7 marks the first anniversary of the Agriculture Act of 2014, commonly known as the 2014 Farm Bill. This milestone provides an opportunity to report on the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s (NIFA) efforts during the last year to implement the many provisions of relevance to the agency.  Here are a few of the more significant provisions that have been implemented: Read more »