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Posts tagged: Virginia

Schools across America Honored for Their “One in a Melon” Farm to School Programs

A girl working in the garden

Farm to school programs help kids form healthy habits, learn where their food comes from, and develop an understanding of the importance of nutrition and agriculture.

Back in March, we invited you to vote for the school district with your favorite farm to school program – one with exemplary initiatives, inspiring results; one that you think is ‘one in a melon’!

Well, the results were tabulated and one district in each state has just received the “One in a Melon” award.  These districts received the most votes from parents, teachers, community stakeholders, students, and others who recognized the incredible work they’re doing through their farm to school programs. We were so inspired by the nominations we received that we wanted to share a few quotes of them with you, but for a full list of award winners, visit https://farmtoschoolcensus.fns.usda.gov/find-your-school-district. Read more »

Talking Local Food: Measuring Progress and Creating Opportunities

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko, Bee Thorp, Susan Hill with USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova

Local Food Hub’s Kristen Suokko (right) and Bee Thorp (second from right) and Susan Hill (left) explain to USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary Elvis Cordova how the high tunnels extend the growing season and USDA’s commitment to local foods is having an impact. USDA photo by Peter Wood.

Results—at USDA we are constantly tracking and measuring them.  We want to know that what we’re doing is making a difference, that we’re making progress towards our mission, that the communities we support are getting the help they need.  Recently I had the pleasure of visiting local food stakeholders that are making a real difference in Charlottesville, VA and hear firsthand how USDA programs have made an impact in their community.

During my visit, I had a chance to listen to farmers, local food organizers, and business owners share their experiences involving local food production.  Just outside Charlottesville, I toured the Hill Farm and the warehouse of Local Food Hub.  The open dialog of these visits is important to me and important to USDA.  I strongly believe that we need to hear from the public so we make sure our priorities, programs and services are in line with what the American people need. Read more »

USDA Helps Small Business Grow Into Something Big

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D at Shenandoah Organic Valley

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D., visit the Shenandoah Organic Valley, a VAPG grant recipient, on April 18th, 2016.

Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn – though innovative – teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.

Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent. Read more »

See You on May 6th for Opening Day of USDA Farmers Market

USDA Farmers Market poster

USDA Farmers Market poster (Click to enlarge)

Get excited—we sure are! Friday, May 6, is the opening of the 21st season of the USDA Farmers Market in Washington, D.C.  This means USDA employees and others who work nearby, residents of the city’s Ward 2, and tourists visiting the National Mall can once again shop at the USDA Farmers Market at 12th Street and Independence Avenue, S.W., starting next Friday, May 6, at 9 a.m.

We’re thrilled to have more farmers and growers participating than ever before. Farmers and growers participating for the first time include Chocolates and Tomatoes Farm and Spiral Path Farm, both of which are certified organic farms that offer community supported agriculture (CSA) pick up; EcoFriendly Foods, which has packaged and ready-to-eat meat and poultry products from animals raised without steroids, antibiotics, and hormones; King Mushrooms, which offers fresh varieties of oyster, button, and other mushrooms; and Stonyman Gourmet Farmer, which has small-batch, handmade cheeses and farmhouse foods. Read more »

Next Crop of Farmers and Soil Scientists Cultivated on Working Farm/Outdoor Classroom

NRCS Resource Soil Scientist Jeannine Freyman using a soil profile to highlight differences in soil types and their suitability for agriculture and other uses at a workshop on the New River Hill Farm

NRCS Resource Soil Scientist Jeannine Freyman uses a soil profile to highlight differences in soil types and their suitability for agriculture and other uses at a workshop on the New River Hill Farm. Photo: Tracy Goodson.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is celebrating National Volunteer Week April 10-16, 2016, by thanking and honoring its Earth Team volunteers for their service to conservation.

When Otis Donald Philen, Jr. decided to combine his working farm operation with an outdoor classroom, he knew just the group to help―the New River Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

Philen, director of the SWCD, and other conservation professionals partner with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to improve agricultural education and natural resource protection. In September 2014, New River became the first District in Virginia to own a working farm when Philen deeded a 143-acre tract to the district. Read more »

Silent Cultural Symbols that Speak Volumes

Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado

Chimney Rock National Monument in Colorado. Forest Service photo

Quietly waiting for you in our national forests and grasslands are what remains of long past civilizations and cultures. Some of these sites still have direct spiritual or cultural meaning to folks today while others are a complete mystery of what once was of a vanished people. Yet, in both cases, the adventurer is reminded of the centuries-old relationship between people and the land.

It’s this relationship between land and people that gives the U.S. Forest Service such pride in knowing that we protect these irreplaceable symbols that ancient peoples left to us. These near mystical treasures can be found from the Olympic National Forest in Washington State to the Dakota Prairie Grasslands of North Dakota to the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest of Virginia. Read more »