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Posts tagged: NIFA

UC Sheep Shearing School Prepares Students for Gainful Employment

A flock of sheep

Unshorn sheep await their turn. Image courtesy of Jeanette Warnert

USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) administers the Smith-Lever capacity grant program. The Smith–Lever Act established the cooperative extension services program administered through land-grant universities. Today, a guest blog from Jeanette Warnert, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, tells us how this program supports a unique rural economic opportunity:

Sheep shearing is like a dance. It requires strength, flexibility, a tender touch, and the right moves. Once mastered, the skill can open the door to gratifying and high-paying seasonal work.

Sheep shearers will never be unemployed and never be poor. They can earn $50 to $100 per hour and can start a business with a $3,000 investment in equipment, says John Harper, University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) natural resources advisor in Mendocino County. Read more »

Reversing Pollinator Decline is Key to Feeding the Future

Bees in a bee hive

About 44 percent of managed honey bee colonies have been lost over the past year. (iStock image)

Without pollinators, we don’t eat—it’s simple as that—and, at the moment, large numbers of pollinators are dying.  With the world’s population projected to exceed 9 billion in just the next 30 years or so, that is not a good position for us to be in.

More than 90 species of U.S. specialty crops require pollination, and various animals, including bees, butterflies, moths, bats, and birds are a critical part of the pollinator-plant ecosystem.  Despite the myriad species of pollinators available, American farmers rely on one species of honey bee, Apis mellifera, for most of the pollinator services to pollinate their crops. Wild and managed bees together add $15 billion in crop value each year. Read more »

Hill Farm Buzzing with Pollinator Success

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden

Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden. “We had an agricultural specialist visit our farm operations who told us we needed more pollinators,” explained Susan Hill. “We initially added two bee hives and established a pollinator garden. It was amazing, our tomato production increased by 25 percent in the first year!”. Photo by Hill Farm

Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill – who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA.  Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!

In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets.  And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent. Read more »

Local Experience Plants Seeds of Positive Youth Development Abroad

Three kids standing together

4-H sponsors cultural immersion and exchange programs, such as this one in the District of Columbia. Image courtesy of the University of the District of Columbia.

Raising children to be their very best is not a concept unique to any particular country; rather, teaching youth to make better choices and create positive change in their communities is a common theme.

4-H is an American program that provides positive youth development by promoting citizenship, healthy living, science, civic affairs, leadership, positive relationships, safe areas for risk-taking, and more. In 2015, nearly 6.5 million adult volunteers and youth sported the green four-leaf clover as they prepared for college, work, career, and life. As iconic as it is, 4-H is not just an American phenomenon, its principles have become deeply entrenched abroad, as well. Read more »

Washington Middle School Students Give Back for Third Annual Day of Service

Annie Ceccarini of the People's Garden Initiative and USDA Farmers welcoming Alice Deal Middle School students

Annie Ceccarini of the People's Garden Initiative and USDA Farmers welcomes Alice Deal Middle School students to a day of fun and learning.

Over the past three years, USDA has welcomed seventh-graders from Alice Deal Middle School in Washington, D.C. to participate in “Deal Gives Back,” a day of service that empowers students to serve their community. This year was no exception. Alongside local volunteers, 118 students and faculty spent a day at USDA’s People’s Garden planting, weeding, and tilling soil to better understand how community gardens can increase access to fresh, healthy food choices in communities where nutritious options aren’t easily accessible.

All work and no play? Not a chance. After a warm welcome from USDA Assistant Secretary for Administration Dr. Gregory Parham, the students checked out demonstrations from the Agricultural Research Services’ (ARS) Bee Research and Systematic Etymology Labs to learn about insect classification, research, and the vital role pollinators play in growing healthy fruits and vegetables. And to wrap up the day, National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Director Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy stopped by with a surprise treat – an invitation to try toasted mealworms. Yum! Read more »

The Nutrient Challenge of Sustainable Fertilizer Management

Map of nitrogen deposition in the United States.

Map of nitrogen deposition in the United States.

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.

It’s a case of “darned if you do, darned if don’t.” Read more »