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Posts tagged: Arizona

Local Food Leaders Take a Break to Hang Out

What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities.  And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.

There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, a Gift from the People, Headed Toward Washington, D.C.

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted onto a flatbed truck, where it will be secured for the 5,000-mile journey across the country. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

The 88-foot Engelmann spruce selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted onto a flatbed truck, where it will be secured for the 5,000-mile journey across the country. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

More than 300 people gathered on in 25-degree weather to witness the harvesting of the 88-foot 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree from the Colville National Forest, the first step in its 5,000 mile journey from Washington State to the U. S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

More than a dozen spotters and equipment operators manipulated the tree into position as the Mack Truck pushed the trailer underneath. The enormity of the Engelmann spruce became apparent as the tree floated above the trailer while a few extra feet from the trunk had to be removed.

Every December, the Speaker of the House hosts a lighting ceremony on the U.S. Capitol grounds. With a simple flip of a switch roughly 10,000 lights bring the tree to life. But first it has to make the journey. Read more »

Nationwide Census on Farm to School Activities Shows Promising Results

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. And when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.

Good news: these healthy habits are taking root all across the country.

USDA released today results from a nationwide Census of farm to school activities. We found that 43 percent of all public school districts have an existing farm to school program in place. Another 13 percent of school districts surveyed are committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future. With purchasing local food as a primary farm to school activity, in school year 2011-2012, schools purchased and served over $350 million in local food. Read more »

Leading by Example: Conservation in Arizona

Newly installed pivot irrigation lines run behind Gerry Gonzalez, NRCS district conservationist in Douglas (left) and farmer Alfredo Zamora.

Newly installed pivot irrigation lines run behind Gerry Gonzalez, NRCS district conservationist in Douglas (left) and farmer Alfredo Zamora.

Travel 30 miles south of Alfredo and Sabrina Zamora’s farm in Cochise County, Ariz., and the imposing border fence between the U.S. and Mexico rises up across the horizon. This border county is rural, arid, open land where the Zamoras have spent their lives farming.

The couple is well known in the area for their cotton, pecans and alfalfa crops and they are no strangers at the local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service office in Douglas. They’ve worked with NRCS over the years to plan out and implement conservation on their farm, including more efficient water and irrigation practices, the use of crop residue to improve soil health and the reduction of soil erosion. Read more »

USDA Grasshopper Warrior Wins Prestigious Award for Life’s Work

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Nelson Foster inspecting cages used to test the effectiveness of different baits used to suppress grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets of the West beware: R. Nelson Foster, of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is roaming the rangelands looking for you, and when he finds you, he’ll stop your feeding frenzy right in its tracks.

Foster serves as Assistant Laboratory Director at APHIS’ Center for Plant Health Science and Technology in Phoenix, Arizona. For over forty years, he has worked in the lab and in the field conducting groundbreaking research mainly on grasshoppers and similar insects such as Mormon crickets. Read more »

Providing Water for Cattle on the Navajo Nation

Two chapters of the Navajo Nation in Utah are getting new livestock wells, thanks to USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Members of the Teec Nos Pos and Red Mesa Chapters use wells drilled deep into the desert floor to water their 1,000 or so cattle. (A chapter is both a rural community and a unit of local government in the Navajo Nation.) But in the 2000s, the Navajo Nation Water Code Administration found, through testing, that these wells had high levels of arsenic, uranium and E. coli, rendering them non-potable for both humans and livestock. Read more »