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Posts tagged: Illinois

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 »

USDA Plant Experts Help Cemetery Tame Slope with Native Grasses

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

NRCS Soil Conservationist Allen Casey, Biological Technician Nick Adams and Plant Materials Center Manager Ron Cordsiemon select a blend of warm season grass seed for both drill and broadcast into the field at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. NRCS photo.

Pristine landscaping covers the 355 acres of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery in St. Louis.  On a day where caretakers dutifully trim the grass and care for the about 200,000 headstones marking the final resting place of veterans and their families, three plant specialists with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) begin work in the southeast portion of the cemetery.

They are returning a hilly slope overlooking the Mississippi River to its native landscape with native warm-season grasses. In stark contrast to the recently laid turf just inches from the edge of the slope, the native grasses will provide functionality while also restoring a small plot of land to its native species. Read more »

Chicago Charter School Focuses on Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds

Allison Slade of Namaste Charter School in Chicago is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Dominic Arizona

Allison Slade of Namaste Charter School in Chicago is an Alliance National School Ambassador. Photo credit: Dominic Arizona

As part of our Cafeteria Stories series, Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of the Namaste Charter School in Chicago, shares thoughts on why good nutrition is an integral component of a child’s education.  She credits the academic achievements of Namaste’s students not only to the academic structure itself, but also to the fresh, healthy meals that are a pillar of the school’s structure.  Thank you, Allison, for sharing your story.

Guest Blog By: Allison Slade, Founder and Executive Director of Namaste Charter School

I’ve worn many hats in many schools—I have been a Teach for America Corps member, a Kindergarten teacher, a mentor, a curriculum designer, a literacy specialist, and now at Namaste Charter School, a Founder and Executive Director. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of reasons why schools should or should not make their students’ health a priority on campus.

When I was a teacher, I watched my students come to school with orange fingers from their cheesy snack food breakfast. By 10:00 a.m., my students were crashing; they couldn’t focus and they certainly couldn’t reach their highest potential, which is every teacher’s mission. Read more »