A woman picking apples—one of many specialty crops—grown in New England. Since the beginning of the Obama administration, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service has awarded $455.5 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants to all 50 states and several U.S. territories. These grants have supported 6,138 projects that increase capacity, opportunity, and economic success for America’s specialty crop growers. Photo courtesy Alberto Romero.
Specialty crops—fruits, vegetables, nuts and nursery crops—are an agricultural and dietary staple. They’re a central part of a healthy diet and are vital to the economic success of American agriculture and to the farmers and businesses that rely on them for their livelihoods.
That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, works to support and expand markets for specialty crop growers and producers. This year, through our Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, we awarded $62.5 million to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories to support critical work related to this segment of the agricultural industry. Read more »
Nocturne, a winter-hardy, black-fruited blueberry developed by ARS. USDA-ARS photo by Mark Ehlenfeldt.
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.
You probably don’t think there’s anything special about picking up a tub of fresh blueberries at the store or the farmers market—the quality of the product, the freshness and the convenience of it all. If only you had to go pick the fruit from the wild yourself!
Up until 1911, blueberries had to be picked from the wild, and bushes were dug from the wild that might or might not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication—reproduction at the will of the grower and breeding to improve desirable traits—was beyond reach until USDA botanist Frederick Coville unlocked a longstanding mystery in 1910. Read more »
One of the fifty families in New Hampshire whose affordable rental home was preserved for 30 more Holiday seasons to come.
Oh, there’s nooooo place like hooooome for the holidays… Every time I hear that song I get an extra spring in my step knowing that I work for an organization that helped more than 160,000 families afford to buy, rent, or repair their homes this year. That’s 160,000 families in rural America that are home for the Holidays.
This year, 50 New Hampshire families living in one of our rental housing facilities were on the verge of losing their homes, but because of local community action groups, and my amazing team of affordable rural housing professionals, USDA Rural Development is able to continue to provide rental assistance to 50 Granite State families for the next 30 years. Last month, we were able to close a deal that will keep these 50 families, and an additional 50 elderly and disabled tenants in a neighboring affordable housing community in their homes affordably for the next 30 years. Read more »
Local boy scout troop members and their families pose with bundles of shrubs and planting bars at the edge of a wetland where they are planting shrubs for New England cottontail habitat. Photo by Phillip Brown, Audubon.
A New Hampshire community came together to help restore habitat for the New England cottontail, a native rabbit of the region. For this rabbit, habitat restoration is pretty simple, planting the shrubs that are the cornerstones of its ideal habitat.
Nearly 40 volunteers gathered in April to plant more than 5,000 shrubs at Smith Sisters Wildlife Sanctuary, a 115-acre sanctuary managed by Audubon. Volunteers planted 10 different shrub species, including elderberry, dogwoods, Virginia rose, American hazelnut, fragrant sumac, eastern red-cedar, nannyberry and arrowwood viburnum. Read more »
The New England cottontail is the region’s only native rabbit. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Wildlife and working lands go hand in hand. Today, thanks to the hard work of private landowners and land managers, the New England cottontail will not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Widespread habitat loss since the 1960s impacted New England cottontail numbers. But people like Rick Ambrose have restored habitat on private lands, putting the cottontail on the road to recovery. I had a chance to visit Rick’s place today in New Hampshire, seeing how he worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to voluntarily restore the young shrubby forests the rabbit needs. Read more »
Flowing Wells employee use the oven unit they bought with NSLP equipment grants funds.
USDA supports our tireless school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of $25 million in National School Lunch Program (NSLP) equipment grants for Fiscal Year 2015. These grants help schools obtain much needed infrastructure to better serve nutritious meals, support food safety efforts, improve energy efficiency, and expand participation in school nutrition programs.
Here are some examples of how these grants have benefitted schools in the past: Read more »