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Posts tagged: California

Willow Cove Elementary Brings the Classroom Outside

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

“My carrot is burnt!” exclaimed a Willow Cove Elementary student in February, when they harvested carrots from the school garden for the first time. The student had never seen a purple carrot before and that day, the whole class enjoyed sample tastes of orange, white, and purple carrots. Carrots are just one of the many crops students have harvested from the Willow Cove garden, and they have a motivated teacher and their Nutrition Services department to thank for the experience.

At the start of last school year, Willow Cove Elementary School’s kindergarten teacher called the District’s Director of Nutrition Services, Matthew Belasco, to ask for a few milk crates to start a small window garden. Matthew, eager to get a school garden up and running, took this spark of interest and ran with it. Within a few hours, he arrived at Willow Cove with a wheel barrow, soil, shovels, and seeds, convinced the teacher that raised beds were preferable, and got to work planting the first school garden within Pittsburg Unified School District (PUSD), just outside Willow Cove’s kindergarten classroom. Willow Cove’s success with maintaining the garden and engaging students with outdoor lessons created the momentum and excitement needed to begin expanding Pittsburg’s farm to school program. Read more »

Working the Night Shift – Bats Play an Important Role in Pollinating Crops

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave. Photo credit: USFWS/Ann Froschauer

Most people associate pollination with bees and birds but often forget the work of their furry colleagues: bats. Bats take the night shift, playing a major role in pollinating crops and spreading seeds.

One important bat is the Mexican long-nose bat, which dwells in large colonies. Their range includes the southern parts of Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona. Read more »

Still Made in Rural America: Steel in California Gold Country

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Del Oro High School in Loomis, CA, boasting a new Performing Arts Building and Gymnasium—as well as 400 tons of Metal Works steel. (Photo courtesy Metal Works)

Small town Oroville, California sits on the banks of the Feather River at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It was established to supply the thousands of prospectors headed to Bidwell Bar, one of the first gold rush mines in the state. Today, this community of 16,260 people produces much more than just gold dust.

At the edge of town, what started in 1989 as a backyard blacksmith shop by owners Michael Phulps and Sean Pierce has become a 82-employee steel manufacturing company called Metal Works, thanks to a little help from USDA Rural Development. Fourteen years ago, Metal Works received their first Business & Industry loan guarantee to purchase a 20,000 square foot fabrication shop and office building on a little over 18 acres. Since then, they’ve converted their original 9,400 square foot building to a retail steel shop, and added another 20,000 square foot fabrication shop, burn table, and a modern, high-precision drill and beam line. Now, they’ve leveraged a new Rural Development guaranteed loan to refinance, save tens of thousands of dollars annually, and hire 10 new employees as a direct result of those savings. Read more »

Protecting a California Legacy

San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, CA. USDA USFS photo.

San Gabriel Mountains of Los Angeles County, CA. USDA USFS photo.

It has now been a couple of weeks since President Obama declared the San Gabriel Mountains in California a National Monument, and I’m still very excited about the great prospects ahead for that area based on this historic proclamation. This is another rare opportunity for the Forest Service to manage a national treasure with national monument status and – more importantly – it’s an opportunity for us to do more to protect and showcase the San Gabriel Mountains for millions of visitors and local residents each year.

This recent designation is a terrific way to celebrate an area that represents significant archeological, cultural, historical and scientific heritage for California and the nation, and it brings along extra benefits as well. National monument status will help enhance recreational access and interpretative and environmental education for millions of visitors each year near one of the major metropolitan areas in the nation, while helping to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of the region. Monument designation is a tremendous recognition and opportunity for the Forest Service, for the region, and for everyone who enjoys the forests. Read more »

U-ACRE Creates Food for Thought for Los Angeles Hispanic Community

Like a thirst-quenching watering hole in nearby Death Valley, the Fullerton Arboretum is an oasis in the Los Angeles metro area food desert.

Located on the campus of California State University – Fullerton (CSUF), the arboretum is home to the Urban Agriculture Community-based Research Experience (U-ACRE).  U-ACRE gives hands-on, community-based research experience to 15 undergraduate students who help local communities develop sustainable urban agriculture to achieve food security and provide families healthier food options. U-ACRE is funded by a $295,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

#AgStrong Innovation in Rural America

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

Almond growers are innovative in their water savings. This orchard uses micro-irrigation, which efficiently directs water. Photo courtesy of the Almond Board.

It takes a lot of hard work to make a living out of farming, to build a thriving agricultural business and it takes ingenuity. This is especially true in rural America, where dedicated farmers and ranchers rely on each other and the communities around them to fuel innovation and create opportunity. From nutritional research to competitions that promote sustainability and continued environmental care, ag promotion programs—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—help American farmers make long-term investments that ensure a better future for everyone.

For more than 30 years, California almond growers have pooled their resources under the Almond Board, focusing on research and techniques to make the most of precious water resources.  Efficient water use and irrigation management are vital to the success of California’s Central Valley almond growers, ensuring that consumer demand for almonds can be met sustainably.  State-of-the-art farming and production developments over the past two decades have helped farmers reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds grown by 33 percent. Key strategies have included the wide adoption of micro-irrigation as well as advances in soil assessment and monitoring. Read more »