(Left to right): USDA Chief Scientist Dr. Catherine Woteki, Dr. Fidelis (Fidel) Hegngi, with the APHIS National Exotic Newcastle Disease (END) Program, and Dr. Denise Brinson Director of APHIS National Poultry Improvement Plan, pose wearing the latest in functional and fashionable wear before visiting a backyard chicken coop.
During a walk along tree-shading sidewalks in the “burbs”; you’re accustomed to seeing games of hopscotch, bike rides, and maybe even the occasional Golden Retriever. However, one residential backyard, nearly 6 miles from downtown Atlanta, calls into question whether this is suburbia at all. There were swings, a tree house, and even patio furniture. Yet one feature certified this was not your mother’s suburban home: over a dozen chickens living comfortably in a custom made “Coop de Ville.”
The rise of “backyard poultry” is one of many agricultural phenomena tied to a growing food consciousness and increased urbanization. And while USDA’s fundamental job doesn’t change, the Department does because the challenges do. The recent cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) at increasingly popular backyard chicken coops underscore this. While this concern was not clearly expressed in the 1862 Act of Congress that created the Department, the mandate was. USDA still works to “acquire and to diffuse…information” towards facilitating the protected growth of American agriculture. That service is what brought Research, Education, and Economics Undersecretary Dr. Catherine Woteki to this residence in Decatur, GA. Accompanied by Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officials and a man known best as the “Chicken Whisperer,” Dr. Woteki toured the site and helped to shed light on current HPAI research and important biosafety measures. Read more »
Maya Kwok, 3, helps during a planting project at the Richmond, Edible Forest as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Maya is the daughter of Alfred Kwok, assistant station director, business operations, for the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Research Station. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
From planting fruit trees in a Richmond, Calif., edible forest to laying 32 feet of boardwalk to make an Atlanta urban forest accessible to everyone, U.S. Forest Service employees across the country joined their communities to make a difference as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service. Read more »
Migratory species play unique ecological roles because of their intrinsic beauty and significance in culture and identity. Despite this, bats, birds, butterflies and dragonflies face a multitude of threats both in the US and in Latin America and the Caribbean where they migrate during the winter. If these habitats are not protected, the tremendous US domestic investment in conserving these species is wasted.
Receiving the award for “Communities in Conservation” are Luisa Lopez, Counselor at El Valor and Vincent Jordan, participant in El Valor's Adults with Different Abilities Program. They are holding one of the products of this program—a monarch butterfly made for Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead.
An award ceremony for conservation of birds, bats and butterflies was recently held in Atlanta. The 2012 Wings Across the Americas event paid special tribute to partnerships that contribute to conservation efforts. Read more »
Cross posted from the White House Council on Environmental Quality blog:
I was recently in Atlanta, Georgia to speak at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference about Working Lands for Wildlife, a new effort to focus both conservation dollars and wildlife management expertise on the recovery of seven at-risk, threatened or endangered wildlife species. This unique approach to conservation concentrates federal resources on private working lands—home to a majority of candidate and listed species under the Endangered Species Act. Working Lands for Wildlife was developed by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior through their membership in the White House Rural Council.
Working with farmers, ranchers and forest landowners is critical to President Obama’s vision of an economy built to last, one where rural communities provide clean air, clean water and wildlife habitat to generate economic opportunities for outdoor recreation and jobs, while protecting farm and ranch traditions. Working Lands for Wildlife demonstrates the President’s focus on the rural economy and his commitment to keep working lands working. Read more »
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Wheat Street Gardens, a unique urban garden, located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Ga., not far from the famous civil rights historical Ebenezer and Wheat Street churches. The garden was once a housing project that was demolished and many of the former residences’ families still come to the garden telling stories of where their parents used to live and reliving the memories as they purchase fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the garden. The old housing project land, owned by the Wheat Street Church, was donated for the garden.
Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture (TLW), which is a 501(C)(3) Non-Profit, runs the garden, which produces organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs, grown without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. The garden is also a farmers market selling as a direct farmer to the community and welcomes customers who spend Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. Read more »
On June 9th, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service kicked off the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) — “Food That’s In When School Is Out”, in Atlanta by visiting the Marietta Community Center in Marietta, Georgia as part of USDA’s first ever National SFSP Celebration Week. The Center provided free meals and a nutrition class on the new USDA MyPlate to 50 wonderful children, as feeding kids during the summer can pose a challenge to some parents when school meals are no longer available.
Although the SFSP program is completely dedicate to helping kids during the summer, when they are most vulnerable to experiencing hunger because school is out, our participation rate on this program is only 17%, but USDA is doing everything it can to get more meals to children during the summer months. We need to be sure that every child who should be receiving a summer meal gets one because no child should ever be going hungry. Although our National School Lunch Program is serving more than 21 million children during the school year, we are only serving 3 million children through SFSP, so clearly there is still a long way to go in reaching all the children who are eligible for this program, and we need everyone’s help to pitch in. Read more »