Last week, President and Mrs. Obama hosted France’s President, Francois Hollande for a State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House. State Dinners are a way to celebrate U.S. relations with international friends and allies. Past dinners at the White House during the Obama Administration have hosted visiting heads of state from nations including India, Mexico, China, Germany, and Great Britain. In many ways, these events are an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate for invited guests and the world, the cultural and culinary heritages of our country.
The State Dinner last week was an excellent example, highlighting the diversity of American agricultural and rural products that our nation has to offer. The dinner celebrated the “best of American cuisine” and featured dry-aged rib eye beef from Colorado, trout from Maine, cheese from Vermont, chocolate from Hawaii, and potatoes from New York, Idaho, and California. The wines served at the dinner included excellent selections featuring California, Washington State, and Virginia offerings. However, beyond the menu itself an equally impressive feature was the visible presence of American cut flowers that decorated and added a stunning visual touch for guests at the White House. The floral arrangements displayed at the dinner included: Read more »
Staff members from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland Forest Service advise a forest landowner on options for how to participate in a water quality trading system.
Government agencies and organizations in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia have been building water quality trading systems during the past few years to lower the cost of regulatory compliance with water quality laws.
These trading systems enable farmers, ranchers and forest landowners in these Chesapeake Bay-area states to generate income by selling water quality credits to regulated entities like waste water treatment facilities and developers. As this market matures, people will be able to incorporate clean water into their overall management objectives more seamlessly.
The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, with funding from a USDA Conservation Innovation Grant, is developing tools to make it easier for people who own or manage forests to offer up their forested land for possible water quality and other ecosystem service credits. The alliance is working to streamline the credit development process for water quality trading on forested land in the region. Read more »
Jean’s Banana Pudding Parfait
The MyPlate Team continues to share “Makeover Monday” recipes each week on the USDA blog and the MyPlate Facebook page through January 6th.
I was first introduced to banana pudding, a traditional southern dessert, during the holidays when I moved to Virginia from North Dakota. It tasted great, but I remember leaving the dinner table with an uncomfortable, heavy feeling in my stomach. I decided to try and make the pudding lighter so that I could still enjoy it, but without the overstuffed feeling.
I must admit, I was skeptical about swapping all of the full fat ingredients for either reduced or nonfat versions. I was afraid that the taste would suffer and not resemble my favorite banana pudding recipe. Boy, was I wrong! I was surprised how good the “makeover” pudding tasted. Read more »
NRCS Illustration showing a substantial reduction in farm runoff entering the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
Yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a Virginia Century Farm in Stafford County to release a new report that shows how farmers like Gerry Silver are helping make significant progress in reducing sediment and nutrient runoff into the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The Secretary lauded Silver Ridge Farm as a gold standard for conservation because the owners have implemented voluntary conservation practices such as cover crops and no-till planting to control soil erosion and prevent the release of nitrogen and phosphorus into area waterways. Though the family has kept the land in continuous agricultural use for more than 100 consecutive years, he called the operation a “farm of the future” because the family has continued to evolve their operation over time to maintain productivity and diversify income opportunities. Read more »
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, a popular line from a holiday song, are a tradition that at one time seemed imperiled by the decreasing population of chestnut trees. (USDA photo)
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” is a line from a song that conjures up fond holiday memories for some Americans. For others, the joy of roasting chestnuts has yet to be experienced. But the lack of American chestnuts could change in the coming years, thanks to some very dedicated people.
The U.S. Forest Service and its partners may be one step closer to restoring the American chestnut tree to parts of the mountains and forests of the southern United States. Since 2009, they planted close to 1,000 potentially-blight resistant American chestnut trees on national forests in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Read more »
Jessica Wirgau, Executive Director of the Community Foundation of the New River Valley and Kevin Byrd, Executive Director of the New River Valley Planning District Commission, celebrate the near completion of a successful three-year federally-funded community planning process.
One of the challenges with implementing USDA Rural Development programs is that many of the communities we serve have not had the opportunity to develop strategic plans to guide federal infrastructure investments effectively. Fortunately, a 2010 grant from HUD’s Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities enabled the New River Valley Planning District Commission to engage the public in the rural Southwest Virginia counties of Pulaski, Montgomery, Giles, and Floyd and all the major towns to develop a blueprint for future economic activity.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a meeting where over 100 rural citizens in the New River Valley gathered to put some of the finishing touches on the 3-year regional planning process, known locally as their Livability Initiative. I came away inspired by the dialogue that has evolved over the past three years and am looking forward to seeing how the communities in this economically diverse rural region look for ways to implement some of the ideas they have generated to improve their communities and enhance long-term economic opportunities. Read more »