Longleaf pine is resistant to pests and disease, withstands drought and provides habitat for a host of wildlife. NRCS photo by Renee Bodine.
The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve, an hour west of Tallahassee, Florida, protects nearly 6,300 acres of restored sandhill habitat. Young longleaf pines stand in thick waves of golden wiregrass. Wild turkey, bobwhite quail, gopher tortoise and Florida pine snake once again populate what 25 years ago were rows of industrial timber and bare sand.
About 50 people recently toured the preserve to see for themselves the beauty and benefits of the longleaf pine, many of them landowners interested in restoring stands on their properties. They learned how The Nature Conservancy hand planted millions of longleaf pine seedlings and wiregrass plugs.
Foresters from Florida Forest Service explained how regular prescribed burns promoted the growth of native groundcover and kept hardwood and invasive species in check. Biologists from Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission discussed how wildlife is managed in longleaf pine forests. Read more »
Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions. He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.
Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm. But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess? Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it? Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.
Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost. The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer. Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest. City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982. The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money. 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 »
USDA Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services, Michael Scuse, talks with Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and the Trade Promotion Authority.
Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting USDA Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Under Secretary, Michael Scuse, here in Florida for an agricultural trade roundtable. Mr. Scuse met with more than 25 Florida agriculture leaders at the Port of Tampa to discuss trade issues and talk about Trade Promotion Authority (TPA).
Trade Promotion Authority, which needs Congressional approval, is a critical tool in our efforts to seek approval of trade agreements that support and create U.S. jobs while helping American agriculture compete more successfully in an ever-expanding global marketplace. Right now, the United States is negotiating two critical trade agreements – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP). Trade Promotion Authority would help ensure that America’s farmers, ranchers, and food processors receive the greatest benefit from these negotiations. Read more »
Healthy seagrass meadows prevent erosion on coasts, store carbon, and provide marine animals with food and habitat. (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency)
Just off Florida’s 8,000 miles of coastline and tidal areas, in shallow sunlit waters, over two million acres of seagrass meadows waft in the ocean currents.
Besides providing food and habitat for manatees, sea turtles, shellfish, and other animals, seagrasses protect coasts from erosion and store vast quantities of carbon dioxide.
“Seagrasses grow off the coast of many other U.S. states, including North Carolina and Virginia, as well as around the world,” said U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station scientist Zanethia Choice. “Globally, their economic value is nearly $4 trillion.” Read more »
U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)
Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, rivers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your loved one.
Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Read more »