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Posts tagged: Grants

Restoring Fire to Oklahoma’s Priority Forest Landscapes

Trees in Oklahoma

Many of Oklahoma’s woodlands developed where natural or man-caused fires were essential in regenerating new trees, controlling invasive species and improving overall forest health. (USFS photo)

(This post was written by George Geissler, State Forester of Oklahoma Forestry Services)

Forest Action Plans represent the first-ever comprehensive assessment of America’s forest resources across all lands—public, private, rural, and urban—and offer proactive strategies that state forestry agencies use to conserve, protect and enhance the trees and forests we depend on.

The Forest Action Plans are invaluable at a time when tree mortality is on the rise due to disease and invasive pests; wildfires continue to increase in size and intensity; and forests are being permanently converted to non-forest uses at a rate of one million acres per year. These assessments help state forestry agencies employ a variety of tools for protecting and conserving forests and the benefits they provide to people, from quarantines related to invasive species, to practices to reduce hazardous fuels buildup, to enhanced landowner outreach and education on sound forestry practices. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »

Feed Thy Neighbor: South LA Youth Use Neighborhood Gardens to Educate, Better Community Health

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, showing off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens

Temiloluwa Salako, a Cultivar with RootDownLA, shows off a grain plant called amaranth that is growing in one of the program’s community gardens. Salako was recently accepted to Pitzer College after writing an essay about his experiences with this community food project.

It began with the desire of a group of South Los Angeles high school students to increase access to more effective nutrition education at their school.  They started small—a monthly guest speaker, bags of veggies, cutting boards, and nutrition education. Now, their efforts have blossomed and manifested into RootDownLA, a community food project operating in three South Los Angeles neighborhoods with the help of the youth participants, referred to as Cultivars.

As a recipient of a $226,705 Community Food Project grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), this youth-driven organization works closely with members of the community to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and provide access to more quality food. The major encouragement of all of RootDown LA’s activities is for people to choose to eat good food. Read more »

Talking All Things Produce at the United Fresh Convention & Expo

A team of AMS employees staffing a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo

A team of AMS employees staffed a booth at the United Fresh Convention and Expo. The agency’s diverse offerings led to questions spanning from grant programs to transportation reports. Under Secretary Avalos (left) and Deputy Administrator Parrott third from left. AMS photo.

The saying goes that change is the only thing that is constant. That certainly is the case in the produce industry where businesses are always looking to streamline processes and introduce new products to the market. Since my agency — the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) — provides services that facilitate marketing opportunities for the industry, it is imperative for us to be nimble and constantly look for ways to strengthen our connection with industry leaders. One of the ways we do this is by attending conferences like last week’s United Fresh Convention & Expo in Chicago, Ill. Read more »

School Garden Brings Local Foods, Agriculture Education into Students’ Lives

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program

Students plant hundreds of red Russian kale seedlings to be harvested for their summer CSA program. (Photo credit: Jessica Kourkounis)

One of the best parts of my job as a Farm to School Regional Lead for the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is visiting schools and districts that are bringing local foods into the cafeteria and teaching students where their food comes from. And I am always particularly excited when I get to visit programs with innovative school garden components, like William Penn High School, part of Delaware’s Colonial School District.

Several years ago, William Penn went through a major restructure.  Part of what came out of that process was a renewed commitment to agricultural education, and the recognition that the 117-acre William Penn Historic Farm, operated by a local land trust, could be a major asset to the school. A new agriculture “major” was established, and students took over two acres of the adjacent parcel to grow more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables. They also started a CSA program selling shares to teachers and community members. Read more »

Celebrating Small Cities Month

Anniston Downtown Farmers Market sign

The City of Anniston will use their 2014 AMS Farmers Market Promotion Program grant funds to establish and promote a year-round farmers market. Photo courtesy of Anniston Downtown Farmers Market.

June is Small Cities Month, an opportunity to celebrate the unique and important role our smaller communities play in our rural economy and making our nation a great place to live and work.  Leaders in innovation and entrepreneurship often hail from small cities and their residents are proud of their hometowns. USDA partners with communities across the country to create greater economic impact as the strong rural economies of our small, vibrant cities benefit the whole nation.

Secretary Vilsack identified strengthening local food systems as one of the four pillars of USDA’s commitment to rural economic development, and USDA efforts in this area have made a big difference in small cities.  My agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has a long history of supporting local and regional food systems through grants, research and technical assistance.  Across the country, city leaders are recognizing that farmers markets are at the heart of many towns and cities. Read more »