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Posts tagged: Iowa

Opportunities for Local Foods Expanding In Iowa

FarmTek greenhouse manager Sam Schroyer describes how basil is raised hydroponically to Deputy Under Secretary O’Brien and John Whitaker (left), USDA Farm Service Agency Executive Director in Iowa.

FarmTek greenhouse manager Sam Schroyer describes how basil is raised hydroponically to Deputy Under Secretary O’Brien and John Whitaker (left), USDA Farm Service Agency Executive Director in Iowa.

All across the country local and regional food systems provide a wealth of opportunities for rural residents.  They provide opportunities for farmers, ranchers, and producers to meet growing customer demand for local foods. Local food entrepreneurs are starting to start small businesses like food processing, distribution and retail markets.

Local and regional food systems are also building stronger connections between urban and rural communities.  Eastern Iowa is case in point. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa’s second biggest city, the NewBo City Market features the region’s local food offerings. Secretary Vilsack was on hand in the fall of 2012 to open the 18,000 square foot market, local food distribution center, and culinary training facility. Read more »

Pioneer African-American Smokejumper Laid to Rest at Arlington National Cemetery

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

Gen. George W. Casey Jr., former chief of staff of the Army, talks to Lt. Col. Roger Walden during a recognition ceremony at the Pentagon on March 25, 2010. (U.S. Army)

During World War II, a time when segregation was still a part of everyday life, a group of 17 brave men took the plunge to serve their country and become the first all African-American paratrooper unit known as the Triple Nickles.

The battalion’s original goal – to join the fight in Europe – was thwarted when military leaders in Europe feared racial tensions would disrupt operations. At about the same time, the U.S. Forest Service asked the military for help to minimize damage caused by balloon bombs launched by the Japanese across the Pacific Ocean with the intent to start forest fires in the western U.S. during World War II.

In the end, few of the incendiary devices reached U.S. soil, but the Triple Nickles were instrumental in helping the Forest Service fight naturally-caused fires. They became history’s first military smokejumpers who answered 36 fire calls and made more than 1,200 jumps that summer of 1945. Read more »

On the Road: Women Farmers ‘Making Waves’ at Leadership Meeting in Florida

Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of meeting with a dedicated group of women farmers and ranchers who are actively taking on leadership roles in farm organizations, cooperatives, and in their communities. They had gathered in the sunshine state for the National Farmers Union Women’s Conference to discuss opportunities and challenges on their own operations, what they believe the future holds for agriculture, and the role of women in that future.

Women face a unique set of challenges. They must find ways to balance the demands of family, community and the responsibilities to their businesses – all while being strong leaders within and for their communities. Read more »

From Granddad’s Garden to Global Food Security

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.

As a boy, Steven Cannon helped his grandfather in the garden grafting fruit trees, all the while developing an interest in plants. As an adult, Cannon has followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, working with USDA as a scientist—but only after first taking a different, though ultimately, complementary career path.

After graduating college, Cannon worked various jobs, including one as an educational software designer that used his knack for computing.  In 2000, he rekindled his early interest in plant biology, earning a PhD and practical experience as a postdoctoral researcher assigned to a genome mapping project. In 2006, he accepted a position as a plant geneticist with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Corn Insects and Crop Genetics Research Unit in Ames, Iowa. Read more »

Discover the Cover: Farmers Realize Benefits, Challenges of Soil-Improving Cover Crops

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

Todd and Arliss Nielsen inspect their ryegrass cover crop in Wright County, Iowa. USDA photo.

A growing number of farmers throughout the nation have “discovered the cover” — and for some very good reasons.

They’re recognizing that by using cover crops and diverse rotations, it’s possible to actually improve the health and function of their soil, said David Lamm, a soil health expert with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Farmers are also reaping the benefits healthy soils bring to their operations in the form of better nutrient cycling, improved water infiltration and more consistent yields over time. Read more »

Local Food Leaders Take a Break to Hang Out

What do Tristan Reader of Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Amy Bacigalupo of the Land Stewardship Project in Minnesota, Haile Johnston of Common Market in Philadelphia and Michael Todd’s environmental studies class at Ames High School in Ames, IA have in common? They’re all building connections between farms and consumers and creating strong local food systems in their communities.  And all joined me for a Google+ Hangout – a live, virtual panel – on Thursday, November 21 to discuss their work.

There is amazing energy surrounding the development of local food systems in communities nationwide, and our discussion certainly reflected that. But it also came at a time of uncertainty. Congress has yet to pass a Food, Farm and Jobs bill, the major piece of legislation funding USDA’s local food efforts (along with many other critical programs). Until a bill is passed, many of the key resources for producers, businesses and communities engaged in local food systems are without funding. That reality lent a sense of urgency to some of the topics we discussed. Read more »