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 »
USDA Farm to School grants help get healthy, local foods into schools and teach children where their food comes from. (Photo Credit: Kelly Campbell)
I just spent the morning calling people who had applied to receive a USDA Farm to School grant. They were fun calls to make as I was letting this year’s awardees know their project had been selected for funding.
Today USDA announced awards for 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia that support USDA’s efforts to connect school cafeterias with local farmers and ranchers through its Farm to School program.
USDA Farm to School grants help schools respond to the growing demand for locally sourced foods and increase market opportunities for producers and food businesses, including food processors, manufacturers, and distributors. Grants will also be used to support agriculture and nutrition education efforts such as school gardens, field trips to local farms, and cooking classes. Selected projects will serve more than 13,000 schools and 2.8 million students, nearly 45 percent of whom live in rural communities. Projects are diverse: Read more »
The 88-foot Engelmann spruce selected as the 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree is hoisted onto a flatbed truck, where it will be secured for the 5,000-mile journey across the country. (U.S. Forest Service photo)
More than 300 people gathered on in 25-degree weather to witness the harvesting of the 88-foot 2013 Capitol Christmas Tree from the Colville National Forest, the first step in its 5,000 mile journey from Washington State to the U. S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
More than a dozen spotters and equipment operators manipulated the tree into position as the Mack Truck pushed the trailer underneath. The enormity of the Engelmann spruce became apparent as the tree floated above the trailer while a few extra feet from the trunk had to be removed.
Every December, the Speaker of the House hosts a lighting ceremony on the U.S. Capitol grounds. With a simple flip of a switch roughly 10,000 lights bring the tree to life. But first it has to make the journey. Read more »
USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.
When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. And when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.
Good news: these healthy habits are taking root all across the country.
USDA released today results from a nationwide Census of farm to school activities. We found that 43 percent of all public school districts have an existing farm to school program in place. Another 13 percent of school districts surveyed are committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future. With purchasing local food as a primary farm to school activity, in school year 2011-2012, schools purchased and served over $350 million in local food. Read more »
The brown marmorated stink bug, a winged pest from Asia that is eating crops and infesting U.S. homes. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists are launching a campaign to ask volunteers to count the number of stink bugs in their homes. USDA-ARS photo by Stephen Ausmus.
Calling all insect enthusiasts and frustrated gardeners! USDA scientists need your help in documenting Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) in your home. Beginning September 15th through October 15th, we’re asking citizens across the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States to record daily counts of this pest on the exterior of their homes, along with their location and the time of each count. While USDA scientists are focusing on the Mid-Atlantic region, any data they can get from other U.S. regions would also be helpful to their research.
The quest to find out just how many stink bugs there are, and how they behave, is the brainchild of a consortium of researchers from USDA, the University of Maryland, Pennsylvania State University, Rutgers University, Virginia Tech, the Northeastern IPM Center, Oregon State University, North Carolina State University, Cornell University, the University of Delaware and Washington State University. This project is represented on the website, “Stop BMSB (www.stopbmsb.org),” which was launched in 2011. Read more »