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Posts tagged: Grants

Streamlined Process Helps Farmers Put Conservation on the Ground in Record Time

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), is always looking for ways to do things better — whether it is how to conserve more soil on a farming operation or how to streamline internal business processes.

Recently, NRCS made vast improvements to its grants and agreements process making it easier, more timely and efficient for partners to work with us on locally-led conservation projects. Read more »

Technology Helping us Follow the Food Path

Cattle at a farm

A 2011 FSMIP grant awarded Michigan State University matching funds to develop a pilot project to explore ways to improve local and regional beef production and marketing systems. Photo courtesy of Michigan State University.

It is amazing to see such an array of meats available in today’s grocery stores. Traveling across the country in my role at USDA, I hear from so many folks that want to know where their beef comes from, what the animal was fed or how was it raised.  I also know farmers have a real commitment to their crops and animals and are happy to share their stories with customers.

Farmers markets are one way for small producers to tell consumers directly where their products were grown or raised.  However, mid-sized farms face unique challenges as they are too large to dedicate the time and resources to participate in farmers markets, but too small to compete effectively in large commercial markets.  New technology could make connecting consumers to mid-sized farmers easier no matter where meat is purchased. Read more »

Photo-Worthy Meals

Girl with a plate of food

Beautiful meals like this are what’s for lunch today and every day in schools across the country. (Photo credit: Matthew Noel)

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in the digital age we have ample opportunity to document and broadcast every moment, meeting and meal. We have all seen those unappetizing photos of food served at school that quickly go viral. A lonesome whole wheat bun atop a sad fish fillet; a mysterious-looking meat mixture served next to an apple. It’s natural to ask, “Is this what they serve for lunch!?”

No, it’s really not. Read more »

Training Pipeline Quenches Dairy’s Thirst for College Grads

Dairy Cow

The Dairy Education and Training Consortium (USDETC), supported with a National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant, provides hand-on training to college students with backgrounds in dairy science, animal science, and other ag-related concentrations.

USDA’s mission includes working with land grant universities, including minority serving institutions, to ensure continued education in agricultural is available to help fill anticipated demand for knowledgeable employees.  Earlier this week, the Secretary signed an agreement continuing USDA’s support for Historically Black 1890’s Land-Grant Universities.  Today we look at one of the ways USDA partners with Hispanic Serving Institutions.

The business of producing milk shows no signs of slowing down, and a USDA grant is ensuring the pipeline of future industry professionals doesn’t slow to a trickle.

In August 2014, farmers in 23 states produced more than 16.2 billion pounds of milk, up 2.6 percent from 2013. During that same period, the number of cows increased 8.58 million head, up 60,000. Read more »

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

A Sweet Camp for Native Youth

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

Many children look forward to gathering pumpkins in the fall. For some Native American children, another well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition (NIFA) provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.

Maple syrup is one of the oldest agricultural products in the United States and is one of the foods the first Americans shared with European settlers. Dr. Steven Dahlberg, director of Extension at White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC), used part of a $100,000 NIFA’s Tribal College Extension Grant to support four seasonal camps for at-risk youth, including one where they learn to keep their traditions alive at sugar bush camps.  A “sugar bush” is a grove of maple trees used to produce syrup. Participants also discover how to transform watery maple sap into the syrup we know and love.  In Minnesota, the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribes hold sugar bush camps in spring when most trees are full of sap.  No fancy machinery is required here; campers use the traditional method of cooking sap over a wood fire, where it often takes days to process the syrup. Read more »