Veterans Farm founder Adam Burke (dark jeans and blue shirt) takes AMS Veteran Program Manager Yowei Peralta (khakis and white shirt) on a tour of the organization’s blueberry farm. Each plant bears a military Identification tag of a veteran that participated in the fellowship program. Photo Courtesy of Veterans Farm.
Tucked away in the countryside of Jacksonville, Fla., is a place that offers hope and opportunity for returning veterans. Veterans Farm, a 19-acre handicap-accessible farm that helps veterans learn how to make a living from farming and find healing in the land, opened its doors in 2009. Its founder, Adam Burke, an Iraq combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient, is utilizing his skills to create a unique environment where veterans can develop agriculture skills that can help them become effective farmers or ranchers. USDA is partnering with Veterans Farm to conduct quarterly workshops to connect these veterans to key departmental resources that can plant the seeds for their new agricultural careers.
I recently attended one of these workshops to introduce our veterans to my agency – the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). In particular, I talked about opportunities to strengthen the local food sector via AMS’ Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program (which includes the Local Food Promotion Program and the Farmers Market Promotion Program) as well as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. I also talked about our recent partnership with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to begin a series of grant-writing workshops to help potential grant applicants write successful grant applications. Read more »
Taxes and Assistance Programs are Far More Effective at Reducing Poverty than 50 Years Ago chart.
Last month, the Obama Administration and the White House Rural Council, with Secretary Vilsack as the chair, launched Rural Impact, a coordinated effort across federal agencies to strengthen rural economies by supporting children and their families.
Today, Secretary Vilsack is in Memphis, Tennessee to attend the 10th Annual Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Conference. Speaking with delegations from over 20 countries, he is discussing a new report, summarized below. This report examines what we know about kids living in rural poverty in the U.S. and how we can best assist them to reach their full potential.
If we invest in our rural communities, especially children and families experiencing poverty in these areas, we will be building a stronger country for our future.
Cross-posted from the White House blog: Read more »
Forest Products Laboratory contributes to developing codes and standards for mid- to high-rise wood structures. Photo credit: USDA Forest Service
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Some, such as the devastating earthquake in Nepal and the series of earthquakes that destroyed infrastructure, homes and communities in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011, capture global attention.
After natural disasters such as these, rebuilding a city needs to be efficient and cost-effective, with an eye towards resilience in the face of future disasters. Engineered wood building systems like glulam and cross laminated timber, also known as CLT, are well suited to meet these needs as they are often prefabricated offsite and can be quickly installed. That helps communities bounce back from disaster in a shorter time frame while minimizing waste. Furthermore, just as trees flex in high winds, timber structures flex in earthquakes, placing wood construction systems at the forefront of seismic design for resilience. Read more »
NRCS Chief Jason Weller (far right) completes his tour of acequias in New Mexico at the oldest continuously functioning acequia in the United States – the Acequia de Chamita, near Espanola, New Mexico – in operation since 1597. With Chief Weller are (left to right) Gilbert Borrego, NRCS New Mexico Acequia Civil Engineering Technician; Kenny Salazar, President of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts; and Bren van Dyke, First Vice President of the National Association of Conservation Districts. Photo by Rey T. Adame.
Last week, I visited with local communities in northern New Mexico. Many of these communities rely on irrigation ditches, called acequias, as their primary water source in an otherwise arid region. These are ditches that were used by their parents, and their grandparents, and their great-grand parents. Some acequias in the area date back more than 400 years.
Through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), NRCS is working with acequia communities and partners across the state of New Mexico to improve water quality, water quantity, and boost the overall health of these local irrigation ditches that so many rural American communities depend on. The Acequia San Rafael del Guique, for example, provides water for roughly 150 people in the Ohkay Owengeh and El Guique communities – it’s being revitalized as part of our RCPP project in the state. Read more »
On Wednesday, Secretary Vilsack signed a renewed Memorandum of Understanding with the Council of 1890 Universities, reaffirming USDA’s partnership with all 19 1890’s Universities across the country. Through this memorandum the USDA is able to put forth a collaborative effort to encourage more opportunities for students and graduates to work at the USDA or in careers related to food, agricultural science and natural resources. In partnering with 1890 Universities we are able to set up an equitable exchange of expertise and resources that will help strengthen the overall capacity of each institution of learning, as well as the USDA. The following story demonstrates how one USDA 1890’s scholarship recipient has made rewarding career in public health.
Nisha Antoine, a USDA microbiologist and Lieutenant Commander of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, has always understood the relationship between personal health and public health. As a child with asthma, she spent a lot of time in the emergency room, and she was inspired by her doctors and nurses to want to take care of other children as an adult. From elementary school through college at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore, Nisha enjoyed studying biology, a path she knew would eventually lead to a career of caring for others. When she was a senior in high school, an application for the USDA/1890 National Scholars Program came in the mail, and her mother encouraged her to apply. Today, she says receiving the scholarship and going to an 1890’s institution afforded her opportunities that she may not have experienced otherwise. Read more »
As we’ve celebrated Public Service Recognition Week this week, Secretary Vilsack and employees all across the government have shared what an honor it is to work as a public servant. But, it’s no secret that the federal hiring process is a lengthy one, which can be especially frustrating for recent graduates eager to begin careers upon earning their degrees. To streamline this process and meet an important hiring initiative—bringing qualified candidates with diverse backgrounds and more young people into our ranks—USDA has been piloting a new on-site hiring strategy at Minority Serving Institutions.
Working directly with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), USDA has hosted five on-site events where USDA hiring managers collect applications, conduct interviews, and in some cases make job offers on the spot for internships and recent graduate positions. To date, USDA has collected 795 applications at these events, for a total of 276 available positions within 10 USDA agencies, including the Agricultural Marketing Service, Agricultural Research Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Farm Service Agency, Forest Service, Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Administration, National Agricultural Statistics Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Risk Management Agency, and Rural Development. Read more »