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Posts tagged: NIFA

1890 Land Grant University Transform City Kid into Ag School’s Research Leader

Dr. Carolyn Brooks portrait

Dr. Carolyn Brooks had little exposure to agriculture while growing up in the city but, thanks to a love for biology nurtured at a 1890’s Land Grant University, she knows plenty now and even served as dean of the School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, MD.

Like many city kids growing up in Richmond, Va., Carolyn Brooks didn’t know much about agriculture and had never heard of 4-H. That changed quickly, however, as she was the first in her family to graduate from college—earning a B.S. and then a M.S. in biology from one of the foremost agricultural schools in the country, Tuskegee University, where she said, many people “helped me, guided me, and cared about my success.”

Brooks said that before moving to Tuskegee, Ala., she “knew nothing about the South. I had never been in that kind of environment – in a predominantly black community.” Read more »

Enhancing the Flavor of Food through Plant Breeding

Butternut squash

Plant breeding can lead to new varieties that taste great and are easier to grow, giving you choices if you are growing them or getting them from a farmers market or grocery store.

Vegetables are becoming more flavorful and sustainable through plant breeding. Plant breeding is at the core of the seed-to-table movement—using selective breeding to develop plant varieties that possess exceptional culinary properties and the ability to thrive in a sustainable production system.

One plant variety leading the way in this movement is a series of mini-butternut squash developed by a Cornell University researcher, Michael Mazourek. He began the project as part of a $2.5 million Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI) grant awarded to Oregon State University, which resulted in a national network of organic plant breeders, the Northern Vegetable Improvement Collaborative (NOVIC). The grant is funded by National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

A Sweet Camp for Native Youth

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush

Maple syrup collection in a sugar bush. NIFA grants support camps that allow tribal youth to experience cultural tradition while learning about plant science. (iStock image)

Many children look forward to gathering pumpkins in the fall. For some Native American children, another well-loved tradition is gathering maple syrup in early spring.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Nutrition (NIFA) provides grants to support a unique camp where reservation youth can experience their cultural traditions while learning plant science.

Maple syrup is one of the oldest agricultural products in the United States and is one of the foods the first Americans shared with European settlers. Dr. Steven Dahlberg, director of Extension at White Earth Tribal and Community College (WETCC), used part of a $100,000 NIFA’s Tribal College Extension Grant to support four seasonal camps for at-risk youth, including one where they learn to keep their traditions alive at sugar bush camps.  A “sugar bush” is a grove of maple trees used to produce syrup. Participants also discover how to transform watery maple sap into the syrup we know and love.  In Minnesota, the Fond du Lac, Leech Lake, and White Earth tribes hold sugar bush camps in spring when most trees are full of sap.  No fancy machinery is required here; campers use the traditional method of cooking sap over a wood fire, where it often takes days to process the syrup. Read more »

Food Waste Can Have a Large Impact on Your Nitrogen Footprint

Boy covering his mouth with his hand in front of a fountain

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture offers research grants to help respond to the world's water security issues. (iStock photo)

April 22 marks the 45th celebration of Earth Day, with its theme of “It’s our turn to lead.”  The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is a leader in its support of cutting-edge sustainable and organic agricultural research.

The USDA estimated that 31 percent—or 133 billion pounds—of the 430 billion pounds of the available food supply at the retail and consumer levels in 2010 went uneaten in the United States.  It’s not just people throwing away food after “super sizing;” food waste can begin at the farm, where crops are sometimes not harvested because they lack a perfect appearance.  Waste also occurs through spoilage or improper cooking.

As bad as this is in terms of not feeding the hungry, wasting food is also wasting energy, water, and everything else required to grow, process, transport, and prepare food. Improving resource efficiency would also decrease the amount of nitrogen released to the environment. Read more »

Answering Questions about the World’s Water Security Problems

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.

Global water awareness and future water security happens locally—one student, one teacher, and one lesson at a time.

Often we hear that better thinking is needed to address particularly prickly societal problems, business challenges, or scientific conundrums.  ThinkWater is a national project supported by a $900,000 grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).  The project is designed by educators, scientists, and activists in partnership with the University of Wisconsin Extension to add thinking skills and awareness into existing water education lessons. Read more »

Arizona 4-H Director Earns Awards for Leadership in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, center, traveled to Nepal to teach a train-the-trainer program that led to Nepal’s first 4-H national organization. Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program, won both the Volunteer of the Month and Volunteer Spirit of the Year awards from Winrock International for his efforts. (Photo from the Kirk Astroth archives)

With more than 6.5 million American youth actively involved in 4-H, it’s not unusual to think of 4-H as an “All-American” tradition – and that’s OK, but there’s more to the story.  The fact is, it is estimated that more than 7 million youth in 80 countries around the world are 4-H’ers.  Now, thanks to the efforts of a man from Arizona, the mountainous Asian nation of Nepal has joined the 4-H family.

Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program within University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spent August and September 2014 in Nepal teaching local youth development professionals the finer points of creating a 4-H program and laying the groundwork for three members of the Nepal National Youth Federation to attend the 1st Global 4-H Summit in South Korea.  As a result, the group in January received official government recognition for the Nepal 4-H national organization. Read more »