Members of the USDA Farm to School team in front of the USDA headquarters in Washington, DC.
Since the official start of the USDA Farm to School Program, we’ve focused on making sure schools have the tools they need to bring local products into the lunchroom and teach children where their food comes from. As October is National Farm to School Month, it seems an opportune time to take stock of the many resources available from USDA to help bring the farm to school.
One of our newest resources, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs, covers procurement basics — how to define local, where to find local products, and the variety of ways schools can purchase locally in accordance with regulations. The guide is complemented by a twelve-part webinar series called Finding, Buying and Serving Local Foods. Our fact sheets cover topics that range from USDA grants and loans that support farm to school activities to working with Cooperative Extension professionals to grow your program, while a brand new Farm to School Planning Toolkit offers eleven distinct chapters on everything from school gardens to menu planning, marketing and more. Read more »
The male sockeye salmon has a larger head with elongated jaws, hooked snouts and strongly developed teeth. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
Since the second week in July, locals and visitors alike have congregated on the viewing platforms above Steep Creek near the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau, Alaska to enjoy the sockeye salmon migration.
From mid-July through the end of August, the sockeye salmon enter the creek to dig redds (nests), find mates and spawn. For thousands of viewers this annual show is seen not in person but on the screens of their computers or smart phones, thanks to the Steep Creek salmon cam. Read more »
Alaska may called The Last Frontier, but their farmers are on the leading edge of technology. Check back next Thursday for more fun facts as we spotlight another state and the 2012 Census of Agriculture results.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
Alaska may be the largest state in the United States, but due to our geographic location, our farmers have an extremely short growing season. On average, Alaskan farmers only have about 105 growing days in a year according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which limits what types of crops we can grow, in comparison with about 198 days in northwestern Missouri, according to NOAA.
Despite the length of our growing season, according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there are 762 farms in Alaska, up 11 percent from the last Census, conducted in 2007. Nearly 834,000 acres of our land is dedicated to farming and ranching. In 2012, Alaskan farms produced nearly $59 million worth of agriculture products. By the way, nearly a third of all of the farms in Alaska are run by women, significantly outpacing the national percentage. Read more »
A male sockeye swims in Alaska’s Steep Creek on the Tongass National Forest. Just below the sockeye are coho fry. (U.S. Forest Service/Pete Schneider)
NOTE: Due to technical difficulties, we moved the salmon cam to the following URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4OuM4U3Z1jU
Gordie Reeves looks at salmon the way a man would look at pictures of his family. For Reeves, the salmon species is pretty much the best fish species around.
“They are dandelions of the fish world,” said Reeves, a research fish ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “They have this mechanism or strategy for persisting. We are under the illusion that everything in a stream should be perfect all the time, but that’s not true. It’s not the way the world works. Salmon do a terrific job under really incredible odds.”
Nature lovers can get a glimpse of salmon runs through a live streaming video. For the second year, the Forest Service is streaming from the bed of Juneau’s Steep Creek on the Tongass National Forest in Alaska. Read more »
(L-R) Joey Russell, a wildlife artist and the president of the Audubon Society’s Mt. Shasta Chapter and Klamath National Forest staff Greg Berner and Lauren McChesney look at waterfowl on Bass Lake of the Shasta Valley Wildlife Area. (U.S. Forest Service/Sam Cuenca)
‘Tis the season for migratory birds to make their journey north. Forests along the Pacific Flyway, which stretches from Alaska to Central and South America, recently celebrated International Migratory Bird Day with educational activities, conservation efforts and birdwatching trips.
Staff from the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and the Forest Service’s International Programs hosted an educational event at Camp Casey in Coupeville, Wash., that attracted 120 people of all ages who participated in interactive activities where they learned about migratory birds. In one activity, attendees took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties the birds face during migration. Their goal? To safely reach their next stop along the migration route. The first round was easy, no obstacles. The second round, a hunter was introduced and with each ensuing round, migration became more difficult. Habitats started disappearing and predators started increasing, catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and youngsters alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how hard it is for birds to migrate long distances. Read more »
A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.
In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.
Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year. Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.
In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »