USDA’s revised guide, Procuring Local Foods for Child Nutrition Programs can help schools find, buy and serve more regional offerings.
Fruits and vegetables are at the top of USDA’s back to school list, and just in time for the new school year, the Pilot Project for Procurement of Unprocessed Fruits and Vegetables is making it easier for schools in eight states to purchase them. The 2014 Farm Bill authorizes the pilot in not more than eight states participating in the National School Lunch Program, and provides them with an opportunity to better access nutritious foods. The pilot also helps create and expand market opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers, opening the door for a variety of vendors, small growers, food hubs and distributors to supply unprocessed fruits and vegetables to participating schools.
So far, five states (California, Connecticut, Michigan, New York and Oregon) have spent over $600,000 through the pilot from February through June 2015. Several California districts contracted a produce distributor to connect local and regional producers with schools to receive peaches, cauliflower, apricots, and kale from their state. Students in Oregon are chomping on pears from the Pacific Northwest, while many Connecticut and New York schools are feasting on Macintosh apples from Massachusetts orchards and Empire apples from New York. Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin were also selected for the pilot and will begin receiving deliveries of fruits and vegetables in the coming months. Read more »
Playtime at the Cottontail Farm. Photo courtesy of owner Tom McAvoy
Pull a rabbit out of a hat. If only it were that simple!
For thousands of years, New England has been home to its own unique rabbit – the New England cottontail. The at-risk bunny once lived in a territory that extended from southeastern New York and northward into Vermont and southern Maine. Over the past decades, the cottontail’s territory has gotten significantly smaller, losing about 86 percent of its range since the 1960s. Read more »
Ballerina Megan Stearns dances the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project.
Vermont’s agricultural history will soon be enriched as a new Farm to Ballet project aims to celebrate the state’s farming culture and expose a new audience to the beauty of classical ballet. The endeavor is the brainchild of former professional dancer and Vermont native Chatch Pregger. His farm-based ballet tells the story of a Vermont farming operation from spring to fall.
The fertile soils of Vermont’s pastoral farmland will provide the ‘stage’ for the dancers. “Now that I’ve seen the dancers, in a farm environment, I realize this is how I’ve always wanted to see ballet–in this setting. In its grittiness, its reality–on nature’s perfect stage,” he explained. Farm to Ballet will be presented seven times throughout August at a variety of farming operations. The performances are not financially supported by USDA, so the Farm to Ballet project initiated a fund raising campaign to cover the cost of costumes, props and sets, and many of the shows serve as fundraisers to support and honor the work of Vermont’s farmers and the local food movement. Read more »
USDA Rural Development's investment in the Three Rivers Energy biorefinery in Coshocton, OH brought it back online after eight years of sitting idle. It now produces corn-based ethanol and employs 30 people in the mid-Ohio region. Photo courtesy Three Rivers Energy.
This Thursday, July 16, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and I, along with staff from my Rural Business Energy Division, will have the honor to host a national stakeholder forum on the improvements to, and opportunities available, under the new Biorefinery, Renewable Chemical, and Biobased Product Manufacturing Assistance Program (Section 9003), formerly the Biorefinery Assistance Program.
The forum begins at 12:30 Eastern Time. While seating is limited, you can participate via a webinar, which can be accessed at: https://www.webcaster4.com/Webcast/Page/789/9401. Read more »
The Oregon Chub. (Courtesy of the Natural Resources Conservation Service)
The Oregon Chub is making waves in history. This February, it became the first fish to be delisted from the Endangered Species List because of recovery (not extinction).
This success is directly attributable to more than 20 years of hard work by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), private landowners and other conservation partners.
While many people were involved in the recovery effort, the USFWS recognized 12 professionals who represent outstanding leadership in their respective agencies to recover the species. These individuals were honored during a “Recovery Champions” awards ceremony May 28 at the Finley National Wildlife Refuge in Corvallis, Oregon. Read more »
This summer, 40 organizations from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana will work together to help agricultural producers reduce phosphorus runoff that ends up in the western Lake Erie basin, affecting water quality and contributing to algae blooms. This is an example of how the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) can be used to solve natural resource challenges in a community, state or region. Eligible conservation coalitions nationwide have about a week to submit pre-proposals to improve soil health, preserve clean water, combat drought and protect wildlife habitat. The deadline is July 8th.
USDA is investing up to $235 million through RCPP to improve the nation’s water quality, combat drought, enhance soil health, support wildlife habitat and protect agricultural viability. Created by the 2014 Farm Bill, RCPP empowers local leaders to work with multiple partners—such as private companies, local and tribal governments, universities, non-profit groups and other non-government partners—along with farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners to design solutions that work best for their region. Local partners and the federal government both invest funding and manpower to projects to maximize their impact. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service administers RCPP. Read more »