Nocturne, a winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry developed by ARS. USDA-ARS photo by Mark Ehlenfeldt.
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.
You probably don’t think there’s anything special about picking up a tub of fresh blueberries at the store or the farmers market—the quality of the product, the freshness and the convenience of it all. If only you had to go pick the fruit from the wild yourself!
Up until 1911, blueberries had to be picked from the wild, and bushes were dug from the wild that might or might not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication—reproduction at the will of the grower and breeding to improve desirable traits—was beyond reach until USDA botanist Frederick Coville unlocked a longstanding mystery in 1910. Read more »
Each year, USDA purchases more than 2 billion pounds of food worth nearly $2 billion from American farmers and distributes the food to schools, food banks, Indian Tribal Organizations, disaster feeding organizations, and other charitable institutions and feeding organizations.
March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.
Fish and fowl, sowing and reaping, nutrition and agriculture… certain words and concepts naturally go hand in hand, and March is a month to celebrate both the foundation and purpose of the American food system. With March designated as National Nutrition Month and March 15 as National Agriculture Day, the time is ripe to reflect on healthy eating goals and to express gratitude for the farmers, fishers, and ranchers who provide the foods to fuel our nation.
USDA’s Food Distribution Programs work at the intersection of nutrition and agriculture. Each year, USDA purchases more than 2 billion pounds of food worth nearly $2 billion from American farmers and distributes the food to schools, food banks, Indian Tribal Organizations, disaster feeding organizations, and other charitable institutions and feeding organizations. The programs benefit both ends of the food chain by supporting local agriculture and the economy while also providing a nutrition safety net for vulnerable Americans. Read more »
The berry impact recording device (BIRD) was developed with a blueberry’s size, shape, weight, and external texture. BIRD records the rough ride berries take from harvest to the market so producers can find and eliminate sources of yield loss. (Photo courtesy of Changying Li)
Although automation in agriculture is often synonymous with efficiency, that has not been the case with harvesting and processing berries. That is about to change.
Automated berry processing systems often damage the fruit, which results in lower profitability for growers and marketers. To counter this, a University of Georgia (UGA)-led research team is developing an advanced sensor system to help harvest and process fresh-market highbush blueberries at high-speed and with low yield loss. Read more »
AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Deputy Administrator Charles Parrott and AMS Fruit and Vegetable Program Research and Promotion Program Director Heather Pichelman (right) enjoy the blueberry celebration at the USDA Farmers Market. They stopped by the Blueberry Council’s booth to meet Melissa Mowery (second from left) and Toni Austin (second from right), representatives from the Blueberry Council’s Public Relations team.
They often say big things come in small packages. That is the case for the highbush blueberry, a fruit that is only small in stature. July is National Blueberry Month and people all over the world are busy enjoying blueberry-inspired fruit salads, smoothies, and other refreshing foods. In addition to this month-long celebration, blueberry fans have another reason to get excited – the 100th anniversary of commercial blueberries.
The blueberry’s journey from farm to table began in 1916 in Whitesbog, N.J., when Elizabeth White teamed up with USDA botanist Frederick Coville to go against conventional wisdom and breed a variety of wild blueberries to be sold on the market. The blueberry’s 100-year history contains many milestones. This includes being named the official state berry of New Jersey, an iconic appearance in the classic Willy Wonka movie, and being planted in the White House kitchen garden. Read more »
In Washington DC? Bring your dancing shoes and join the USDA Farmers Market at Night on Friday, July 17 from 5 to 8 PM! (Click to enlarge)
If you’re in the Washington, DC-area on Friday, July 17, join us between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters at 12th and Independence Avenue, S.W., near the Smithsonian Metro stop. Bring your dancing shoes, friends and appetite. We’ll be holding the third in a series of 6 monthly USDA Farmers Market at Night. The July night market’s “Hot & Cold” theme will feature Brazilian Music, local food trucks and free blueberry ice cream.
Farmers markets across the country are gathering places where local food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to neighborhoods across the country. As the demand for local food continues to increase, farmers markets are maturing from small stands to entertainment destinations with extended hours, live music, and a variety of local products. Read more »
The packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC packinghouse in Palmetto, Fla. is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. USDA Photo by Hakim Fobia.
Successful businesses all seem to have a common bond – a commitment to quality, consistency, and integrity. During a recent trip with my colleagues, I saw firsthand the many ways that companies are turning to my agency – the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) – to provide these factors to pave their path to success.
Our first stop was the packinghouse at West Coast Tomato LLC in Palmetto, Fla. Thanks to meeting USDA audit requirements, the high-volume packer can confidently sell its tomatoes to restaurants, grocery stores, and re-packing companies. The fascinating thing about West Coast Tomato LLC is that the facility is nearly completely automated. Almost all of the tomatoes are sized and sorted mechanically. “Our use of technology has significantly decreased our re-packing,” says plant director John Darling. “As a result, we’re better equipped to meet buyer requirements.” Read more »