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Posts tagged: Florida

Exploration and Agriculture: Connecting the Next Generation with Science to Grow the Future

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Deputy Secretary Harden and 4-H'ers observe plant growing experiments at the NASA Space Life Science Center, Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Last week, we entered a bold new era of exploration and discovery as NASA launched the Orion spacecraft, a major step testing the possibility of going to Mars.

As NASA contemplates sending human missions to Mars, one question we must answer is: what will the astronauts eat and what foods will assist future missions? NASA and USDA are working together to develop plants that can grow, thrive, and produce in new environments – signaling opportunities for fresh, nutrition-rich food for astronauts on long duration space flights. Read more »

From Scientist to Farmer, Today’s Agriculture Producers Come from All Walks of Life

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida.  According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

Richard McGinley farms 950 acres fulltime in central Florida. According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming. NRCS photo.

In the past, full-time farmers were the norm and children of farmers followed in their parent’s footsteps. That’s not the case today. Now, data from the Census of Agriculture show more than half of Florida’s principal farm operators report primary occupations other than farming.

Richard McGinley is a good example of today’s Florida farmer. He spent his early years living the city life until his dad moved the family to Ocala, located in central Florida, to begin farming. But McGinley had other interests that took him far from farming. He established a career in the nuclear industry and even started his own consulting business. Read more »

Collier County, Florida, Features Highly Successful Farm to School Program

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Left to right, Steve Condit, representative from 6 L's Farm, Penny Parham, the Director of Nutrition Services Miami-Dade, several Miami Dade Nutrition Services staff members, Dawn Houser, Director of Nutrition Services Collier County (blue shirt), several Collier Nutrition Services staff members, and the 6 L's Farm Manager.

Throughout the Southeast, school districts are coming up with innovative ways to promote farm to school efforts. Farm to school programs engage students, teachers, and communities on the importance of healthier eating habits, local food systems, and provide nutritional education that stimulates the mind and has a lasting effect. Increasing awareness about Farm to School efforts is no longer on the back burner for school nutrition professionals. In Florida, there are several school districts who have taken on the challenge to increase farm to school efforts using some unique approaches.  In Sarasota County Schools, the Nutrition Department is committed to purchasing at least 50 percent of their produce from local farmers. The School Board of Alachua County has established 29 school gardens used as outdoor learning labs providing students hands-on nutritional education. This year during farm to school month, it is no surprise that Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services is promoting student health and wellness using the theme “Feeding the Future.”

By Greg Turchetta, Executive Director of Communications and Community Engagement, Collier County Public Schools, Naples, Fla.

“Feeding the Future” is the theme of Collier County Public Schools Department of Nutrition Services, and it certainly applies to their farm to school program. Read more »

Conservation Easements Preserve, Restore Florida Wetlands

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

Betsie Rothermel, restoration ecology research director at Archbold Biological Station, strolls through an easement she is restoring. NRCS photo.

The Archbold Biological Station located in central Florida occupies 5,200 acres of pristine Florida scrub habitat on the southern tip of the Lake Wales Ridge, which is considered an ecological wonder. Eastern indigo snakes, Florida sand skinks, Florida scrub jays, burrowing owls and crested caracaras occupy the mosaic of uplands and wetlands found within the confluence of the Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek watershed.

This renowned research facility has hosted scientists from all over the world for almost 75 years, and its scientific publications document the status and habits of plants and animals that are found nowhere else on earth. Read more »

E. Kika De La Garza Science Fellow Uses Fresh Way to Find Body Fat

E. Kika De La Garza Fellow Alicia Gonzalez-Quiroz in the Bod Pod – a tool that determines body composition using air measurement. Photo credit: Perry Rainosek, USDA/ARS

E. Kika De La Garza Fellow Alicia Gonzalez-Quiroz in the Bod Pod – a tool that determines body composition using air measurement. Photo credit: Perry Rainosek, USDA/ARS

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.

To celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, USDA’s Research, Education, and Economics mission area will highlight those who are making significant contributions to American agriculture.

Swimming and visiting beaches are what most of us think of as summer activities.  Although the name Bod Pod sounds like something you might find at the beach, and a swim suit and cap are the usual attire, Dr. Alicia Gonzalez-Quiroz, faculty member of Loredo Community College, never imagined this would be on her summer to-do list.  The Bod Pod is actually a research tool used to measure lean body mass at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Body Composition Laboratory of the Children’s Nutrition Research Center in Houston, TX. Read more »

Successful Meeting Helps Take Produce Marketing Efforts to Next Level

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.

There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »