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Posts tagged: Illinois

No Sour Grapes for a Nebraska Vinegar Crafter

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

Fifteen years ago, George Johnson and his daughter, Emily, began their first foray into winemaking, vinifying local wild grapes and other fruits in their home in rural Cody, Nebraska. At the suggestion of a family friend, they began to experiment with turning their uniquely flavored wines into vinegar, and today, Johnson operates one of the most successful independent vinegar businesses in the nation. With customers in every state and the loyalty of top chefs in Omaha, St. Louis, and Chicago, George Paul Vinegars offers a product ripe with old-world methodology and modern entrepreneurial spirit.

With the help of a $40,000 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, the Johnsons conducted a feasibility study to gauge the likelihood of success for an independent vinegary in rural Nebraska, and were thrilled when the study indicated enormous potential for their unique product. With continued support from a Nebraska Agricultural Innovation Value-Added Agriculture grant from the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, George Paul Vinegars produces seven handcrafted varieties ranging from standards like apple cider and raspberry vinegars to more specialized flavors, including Johnson’s signature “Emilia” blend. Read more »

Raising the Bar: From Healthy Schools to Healthy Districts

Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen

Principal Kimberly Norton of Danville, Ill (second from right) stands on stage with President Clinton at the 2014 Leaders Summit hosted by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Photo credit: Scott Henrichsen

Recently, I had the pleasure of participating in the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit, where I met several inspiring school wellness champions who were eager to share their stories of success.  In today’s installment in our Cafeteria Stories series, Kimberly Norton, a principal of one of the schools honored at that event, shares some of her school’s award winning strategies for a healthier environment that kids truly enjoy.

By: Kimberly Norton, Principal, Northeast Elementary Magnet School

A few weeks ago, I attended the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. to receive the National Healthy Schools Gold Award for my school, Northeast Elementary Magnet School in Danville, Illinois. The Leaders Summit brought together school leaders like me, along with business executives and community champions to celebrate our success in building healthier environments where our kids can thrive. Read more »

Farmers go Digital to Confront Changing Growing Conditions

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.

American farmers have a long history of overcoming obstacles. In 1938, they helped the country emerge from the Dust Bowl by switching to contour plowing and eradicated the boll weevil forty years later by employing integrated pest management techniques.  In both cases – and many others – USDA was there to help farmers achieve success.

Many of the obstacles they face today are on a much larger scale, associated with climate change and seasonal weather variability. USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is helping farmers get the tools they need to meet those challenges. Read more »

New Garden Helps Train USDA Employees in Illinois

A resource specialist with NRCS discusses features of the purple prairie clover planted in the plant material plots. USDA photo.

A resource specialist with NRCS discusses features of the purple prairie clover planted in the plant material plots. USDA photo.

A new garden consisting of plants used in conservation work is now open in Champaign, Illinois to train staff members of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as well as conservation partners.

NRCS has planted a total of 33 different varieties of plants consisting of cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, legumes and forbs.

While the garden was developed to train staff, the garden at the NRCS office is also open to the public on weekdays. Read more »

Embracing a New Vision of School Nutrition

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

Academy for Global Citizenship students enjoy a healthy lunch.

The following guest blog is part of our Cafeteria Stories series, highlighting the efforts of hard working school nutrition professionals who are dedicated to making the healthy choice the easy choice at schools across the country.  We thank them for sharing their stories!

By Alan Shannon, Public Affairs Director, Midwest Region, USDA Food and Nutrition Service, and Katherine Elmer-Dewitt, Academy for Global Citizenship

As we approach the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act, it’s worthwhile to revisit some of the schools that were at the cutting edge of creating healthier school meals. Chicago’s Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) has been a pioneer in serving healthy, delicious school meals that exceed USDA school meals standards. Just as important, students love them! Integral to AGC’s success is a belief in not only serving positive foods but also in creating a culture that supports wellness. The school’s holistic approach relies on parent engagement, physical education, nutrition education, gardening, and more.

The Academy is a recognized national leader in these areas, so much so that Good Morning America visited it in 2011—just after the Act passed—to highlight its work. I was there for the visit and wrote this blog about it. I’ve been fortunate to visit several times since and am honored to share the blog below, written by AGC’s Katherine Elmer-Dewitt. It tells their story and underscores the importance of healthy school food. Read more »

The Sun Shines on an Illinois Farm as Secretary Vilsack Highlights Conservation Efforts

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Our trip to the Erickson farm in Milan, Illinois involved a three hour drive through pouring rain. But once we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun made a partial appearance. Because we had about 40 partners, guests, and several media reps invited, I called it divine intervention.

Secretary Vilsack was here to announce the national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, using a multi-generation Illinois farm as a fitting and picturesque backdrop. The family took the Secretary on a short driving tour to show all they’ve done to protect their 100 year-old farm. Read more »