(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 »
Code for America Northern Virginia Brigade members work on challenges at the NSF event in the foreground while USDA subject matter experts discuss Farmers Market data in the background (right side). Our challenge yielded at least eight different projects across the country. Photo by Tim Koeth.
This past weekend, civic hackers across the country took action—or hack-tion—when they gathered together to use their coding, designing and tech-making powers for good. Armed with a passion for data and working under a framework that focused their energies on solving civic problems, over 11,000 individuals set out to make a difference at 95 different events in 83 cities and communities across the nation.
At USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, we serve many communities in a variety of ways. From our support of farmers markets and food hubs to our work with industry stakeholders, we focus on supporting the business and marketing side of American agriculture. So, when we first heard about the National Day of Civic Hacking, we knew immediately that we wanted to participate. Read more »
Scott Kravetz participates in the Bird Health Awareness Week webinar. USDA photo.
As part of Bird Health Awareness Week, USDA recently hosted a webinar on “Growing Chicks into Healthy Chickens.” Dr. Martin Smeltzer, Andy Schneider (aka the “Chicken Whisperer”) and Dr. Claudia Dunkley spent an hour helping backyard bird owners learn more about keeping their flocks healthy. Around 300 people participated in the webinar, most of who are just getting started with backyard birds. Read more »
Backyard poultry owners will find colorful chickens and turkeys, as well as ducks, parrots and some grand geese among a 12-month spread of domestic, wild and exotic birds in the 2011 Backyard Biosecurity calendar. They’ll also find a year’s worth of solid information to help them raise healthy birds and keep them free from disease.
The calendars are widely distributed throughout the country by USDA, particularly through extension service. “In Arkansas, we distribute the calendars at many poultry activities,” said Dr. Fred Dustan Clark, director of Agricultural Cooperative Extension Service in the Center of Excellence for Poultry Science at the University of Arkansas. “We use them at our pullet chain (when chicks are delivered to 4H students) all over the state, when we do seminars for 4H, at Farm Days and we put them in feed stores,” Clark added. Read more »