James and Gail Cope look out over their land in Kentucky. USDA photo.
It was on a hilltop in eastern Kentucky where I first met James and Gail Cope, looking at the 27 newly planted American chestnut seedlings on their land. It was our common love for this rare tree that brought us together.
American chestnut trees once dominated the Appalachian landscape, but during the early 1900s a fungus struck the trees causing them nearly to vanish. The American Chestnut Blight, an Asian fungus, first struck in 1904 in New York City and quickly spread, leaving in its wake a trail of dead and dying stems. By the 1950s, the keystone species of some nine million acres of forests had disappeared.
The tree is important because it produces bushels of nuts for wildlife, and animals like squirrels, wild turkey, white-tailed deer, black bear, and grouse depend on the nuts for a major food source. Read more »
NRCS District Conservationist Kate Parsons discusses pasture management with Sean Stanton. NRCS photo.
When Sean Stanton started improving the pastures surrounding his small farm in Great Barrington, Mass., his efforts not only benefited the natural resources of this scenic southwest corner of Berkshire County but also diners at a Manhattan restaurant.
That’s because he supplies the Blue Hill Restaurant in New York City’s Greenwich Village with pasture-raised beef, veal and pork, as well as eggs and farm-fresh tomatoes. At Blue Hills Farm in Massachusetts, a herd of 20 or so cattle feed in a field skirted by the Appalachian Trail and the rolling Berkshire hills. Some of the farm’s products stay in the Berkshires and some make their way to bigger markets less than three hours away in the Big Apple. Read more »
Water Quality Agreement: From left, Liz Van Buren, Saputo Dairy Foods; Richard Maxey, Delhi mayor; James Thompson, Delaware County; SUNY Delhi President Candace Vancko and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. USDA Photo.
Late last month, I had the privilege of joining New York U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Delhi College President Candace Vancko, Chairman James Thomson of Delaware County and Saputo Dairy Foods USA Manager Liz Van Buren to discuss the Center of Excellence in Watershed Applications and Technology Based Economic Revitalization (COE in WATER) Initiative.
The COE in WATER is an innovative partnership with the State University of New York (SUNY), the local business community as well as federal, state and local governments who are committed to stimulating economic development and creating jobs in rural upstate NY. Read more »
New Jersey farmer Liang Shao Hua listens to NRCS technical advisor Frank Wu provide advice in Chinese Mandarin, Liang’s native language. His limited English proficiency restricted his exposure to USDA farm programs until Tropical Storm Sandy made it necessary for Liang to connect with the department for assistance. He is now an FSA loan recipient and appreciates the cost-share benefits of the Emergency Conservation Program funds that assisted his family’s clean-up efforts.
Disasters create pain. And recovery from disasters creates partnerships and opportunity.
That is the lesson Liang Shao Hua learned in the past year after Tropical Storm Sandy, also known as Super Storm Sandy, destroyed his New Jersey high-tunnel farming operation and left him wondering how to manage his loss.
Liang, a Chinese American with very limited English proficiency, relied first on his American-born son, Peter, a 21-year-old college student studying at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York. Peter obtained USDA paperwork from the Farm Service Agency (FSA) that helped his father apply for Emergency Conservation Program (ECP) funds. He, his brother, David, 19, and mother, Pei Yin, joined Liang in the clean-up efforts.
Liang Shao Hua was among 315 successful applicants for ECP, one-third from New Jersey. The applicants stretched from West Virginia to New Hampshire. That was the wide swath where Sandy and her trailing cold front left a path of destruction to Atlantic Coast and New England farms. Read more »
Our children are our most prized possessions and we must do whatever it takes to help them excel in the future. Leading them on the path to becoming part of a healthier generation, USDA revised the standards for meals and snacks served in their schools. Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to a New York City high school to see first-hand how students were adjusting to the new standards.
The changes to the meal and snack standards are in response to the passing of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Implemented in the 2012 school year, the new meal standards made several changes. Now, the 32 million students participating in the National School Lunch Program can enjoy more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grain foods and leaner proteins. The new smart snack standards, which will be implemented July 1, 2014, set minimum requirements for snacks sold in vending machines or as part of a la carte meals sold on campus during school hours. Read more »
Dianna Grant of East New York Farms! Youth Internship program washes bok choy at the United Community Centers Youth Farm in Brooklyn, N.Y. East New York Farms! Is a recipient of the USDA Community Food Projects grant. Photo courtesy East New York Farms!
If your picture of New York City is skyscrapers and neon, consider expanding that image to include vegetable crops – a lot of vegetable crops – growing everywhere from ground level to rooftops. Read more »