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Posts tagged: Montana

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

US Forest Service Waives Fees in Support of the Largest, Single-Day Volunteer Effort on Public Lands

Friends of Nevada Wilderness is a partner with the U.S. Forest Service for a National Public Lands Day Event at the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area near Las Vegas. (Courtesy of Friends of Nevada Wilderness/Jose Witt)

Friends of Nevada Wilderness is a partner with the U.S. Forest Service for a National Public Lands Day Event at the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area near Las Vegas. (Courtesy of Friends of Nevada Wilderness/Jose Witt)

As the waning, sweltering summer days transition to the cooler weather of autumn many people take the opportunity to give back by participating in the annual National Public Lands Day.

The Sept. 27 event, in its 21st year, is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort in support of public lands. Last year, more than 175,000 volunteers at 2,237 sites worked hard, collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants, planted about 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plans and removed an estimated 500 tons of trash. Read more »

Big Help for Small Producers

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable.  Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

A USDA pilot program is helping small producers reach more retail markets by making Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification more accessible and affordable. Under the pilot, cooperatives, food hubs and other groups of small producers can pool resources to implement food safety training programs, perform internal inspections and share the cost of GAP certification.

For their communities, small farmers are anything but small. Their contributions are quite large – not only do they provide food for local residents – they also create jobs and economic opportunities.  However, retailer requirements and the cost of marketing can make it difficult for small producers to scale up and reach larger markets. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is working to remove those barriers by offering a number of services that help small and local producers grow and sustain their businesses.

In the produce industry, more and more retailers require suppliers to have Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification, which verifies that the operation is following industry-recognized food safety practices and recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration.  For small farmers, getting GAP certified can be difficult and expensive. To help offset some of these costs, the AMS Specialty Crops Inspection Division and Transportation and Marketing Program are partnering with the Wallace Center at Winrock International to implement a Group GAP Pilot Project. Read more »

Thousands of Reasons to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market.  Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo visits with Madison, Wisconsin Mayor Paul Soglin at the Dane County Farmers Market. Alonzo kicked off National Farmers Market Week, sharing USDA’s commitment to strengthening local and regional food systems.

The 15th Annual National Farmers Market Week is off to a great start!

Farmers markets connect and unite people living in urban and rural environments, provide access to fresh, healthy and delicious foods, and—best of all—put a face to the farmers and ranchers who produce their wonderful wares. We, in turn, can support farmers and local communities with our purchases. Read more »

Final Yearly Snowpack Forecast Divides West into a Wet North and Dry South

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

NRCS Oregon Hydrologist Julie Koeberle helps Soil Scientist Thor Thorson calculate current water content in snow. NRCS photo.

Every winter Westerners look to the mountains and may not realize they’re peering into the future. More snow cap means more water come spring and summer. Many lives and livelihoods depend on nature’s uneven hand.

Thanks to USDA’s National Water and Climate Center, what used to be speculation is now science. Through a network of high-elevation weather stations across the West, the center accurately forecasts how much water Western states will receive from snowmelt.

The data benefits everyone in the path of the streamflow. The center’s water supply forecasts empower states to take action to prevent flooding or prepare for drought. Some farmers look to the water supply forecast when deciding what crops to grow. It’s like playing chess with nature, and you can almost see nature’s next move. Read more »

Meeting the Next Generation Who will Carry the Torch as Wilderness, Natural Resource Stewards

Youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars appearing overhead, as twilight descends on camp in the Scapegoat Wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)

Youth who were part of the filming of “Untrammeled” marvel at the stars appearing overhead, as twilight descends on camp in the Scapegoat Wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)

While my days of adventuring into the back country are by no means over, it is becoming increasingly apparent that my generation is approaching the inevitable time when we must pass the torch on to the next generation of wilderness and natural resource stewards.

On my recent trip to Missoula, Montana, I was privileged and extremely pleased to see a group of young people who will help carry that torch. My heart is more at peace about our future after my experience viewing the U.S. Forest Service movie “Untrammeled” at the University of Montana. Read more »