NRCS is working with farmers and ranchers to create and enhance habitat for monarchs. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
No matter where you grew up, you are likely familiar with monarch butterflies. You may have childhood memories from science class when you watched those peculiar green caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies. Depending on where you live, you may have seen masses of their orange-and-black wings fluttering in the sky while the butterflies were on their annual cross-country migratory journey.
Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers. Read more »
High school students from Kansas Burrton School teach the Power Panther Pals curriculum to fifth graders in their district.
The following guest blog highlights the creative and successful Team Nutrition curriculum in Kansas. Thanks to a Team Nutrition training grant, the state has been able to implement the curriculum in many of their school districts. Kansas students are now receiving the nutrition education they need to thrive in school and empower their classmates.
By Jill Ladd and Emily Brinkman, Kansas State Department of Education
After receiving a Team Nutrition (TN) training grant in 2013, we (the Kansas State Department of Education) implemented our Power Panther Pals (Pals) nutrition education curriculum in 110 schools across the state. Through this effort, which took place during school year (SY) 2014-2015, we reached more than 13,000 students and garnered important feedback from teachers, students, and other stakeholders. Read more »
The term “farm to preschool” encompasses efforts to serve local or regionally produced foods in early child care and education settings; provide hands-on learning activities such as gardening, farm visits, and culinary activities; and integrate food-related education into the curriculum. Here, USDA Undersecretary of Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon participates in a hands-on lesson about local foods at a YMCA preschool in West Seattle, WA.
“May I have more kale chips, please?” asked a four-year old preschooler during one of my first site visits as farm to school lead for the Food and Nutrition Service’s Western Region. The preschoolers I was visiting grew and harvested the kale themselves a few feet beyond their classroom door and were enjoying the crisp treat as a snack. At the time, the USDA Farm to School Program was just beginning to expand their support to K-12 schools. Since then, I have worked with school districts in bringing the farm to their cafeterias and classrooms.
Our reasons for supporting farm to preschool are numerous. While the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 authorized the USDA Food and Nutrition Service to establish the Farm to School Program, the legislation also expanded the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) to not only aid child care institutions in serving nutritious foods, but to contribute to their wellness, healthy growth and development. Farm to preschool meets that requirement, and is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as a strategy to increase access to healthy environments. As evidenced by the eager kale chip request, farm to preschool efforts can set the stage for a lifetime of healthy eating. Read more »
Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are helping policy makers and residents manage their ever-shrinking water resources using new and different approaches. (Image by Stephanie Engle)
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.
Scientists from the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) are working with stakeholders to determine the course their research will take. The result, they say, is better science that is more useful to end users – and the scientists learn a lot, too.
Rather than have their own science-based questions direct their research, Dr. Josiah Heyman and his research partner Dr. William Hargrove will let stakeholders – the actual users of their science – point the way. According to Heyman, this “participatory approach” is science for the public’s sake, not for the scientists’ sake. The two lead a multi-institutional, multi-national project that is tackling drought-driven water supply issues in the Southwest. Read more »
A recent survey commissioned by WAFWA shows lesser prairie-chicken numbers climbed 25 percent between 2014 and 2015. NRCS photo.
The population of the lesser prairie-chicken is on the rise, according to survey results released last week by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA). Based on aerial surveys, biologists estimate the lesser prairie-chicken numbers about 29,000, a 25 percent increase from 2014.
WAFWA commissioned the annual survey, which showed increases in three of the four ecoregions the bird inhabits. The sand sage prairie region of southeastern Colorado showed the biggest gain with about a 75 percent increase between 2014 and 2015. Read more »
Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.
By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS
On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »