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USDA Rural Development Homeownership Project Helps Tornado Victims in Mississippi

Mississippi’s Rural Development State Director Trina N. George and USDA officials, along with municipal and community leaders took a day last week to help rebuild a home that was severely damaged by a recent tornado that swept through Yazoo City, as part of the agency’s recognition of June as National Homeownership Month. Read more »

The Buzz at the Top of USDA’s Whitten Building

by Wayne Bogovich, The Peoples Garden Apiary Beekeeper

Folks in the area are welcoming USDA’s newest residents, bees!  The People’s Garden at USDA headquarters added a beehive in The People’s Garden Apiary which is located on the roof of USDA’s Whitten Building along the National Mall in Washington, DC.

USDA’s newest residents, six pounds (approximately 20,000) of bees and a queen were placed in their new home on April 21, 2010.  These bees are facilitating pollination of The People’s Garden as well as the surrounding areas.  If you’ve been to the National Mall, you probably recall that there are a lot of gardens at the various Smithsonian museums.  And if you haven’t been to the National Mall, you should plan a visit.

The hive’s location was chosen so the eastern exposure of sunlight would get the bees moving in the morning.  Directly to the west of the hive is a utility room which provides protection from the prevailing winds and bad weather along with afternoon shade to avoid the late day heat.

We check the hive every 10 days and our volunteers supply fresh water every other day.  We do this in addition to checking for fresh eggs as well as any visual parasite or disease issue in order to ensure the health of the colony.  We also monitor honey production and we add honey supers as needed.  And to facilitate the non-chemical control of mites, we use a ventilated bottom board  and remove the drone brood.

Because each of us depends on pollinators in a practical way to provide us with the wide range of foods we eat, we are doing our best in making sure our newest residents have what they need!

Wayne Bogovich, The Peoples Garden Apiary Beekeeper
Wayne Bogovich, The Peoples Garden Apiary Beekeeper

Utah Families Build Their Own Homes With Help from USDA

Now is a good time to build a new home.  Just ask any of the 213 families around Utah County who have built their own homes over the past decade through USDA Rural Development’s Self Help Program. Rural Housing Development Corporation (RHDC) in Provo, Utah is the non-profit organization created to help income eligible families achieve the dream of home ownership. Read more »

Ceremony Welcomes Return of Spring Chinook Salmon

Thanks to years of stream restoration efforts on Omak Creek and a recent infusion of $625,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, the Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) celebrated the return of migrating spring chinook salmon during its annual First Salmon Ceremony on June 18 at the Omak Longhouse. Read more »

Missouri Families Achieve Homeownership with Support from USDA

Tammye Trevino, Rural Development Housing Administrator, joined me in recognizing two Missouri families in a celebration of reaching the American Dream of homeownership on Monday, June 14, 2010. Read more »

Southeast Asian Farmers and NRCS Building Capacity Together in California’s Central Valley

By Lisa A. Hokholt, NRCS California State Outreach Coordinator

California’s Central Valley has long lured farmers to its fertile soil and generous growing season. It’s no surprise that Southeast Asian farmers are settling there too, bringing their farming and culinary cultures with them.

 

 

Arriving in the United States as refugees following the 1975 communist takeover of Vietnam and Laos, many Hmong immigrants soon started farming but met many challenges in their new land.

Conservation of soil, water and air might have been way down their priority list if not for assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). For years now, NRCS has strived to insure that Hmong farmers have the same level of access to its technical services and programs as other clients. Two recent events helped NRCS build its service delivery capacity while also strengthening the conservation capacity of the Hmong farming community.

The Second Annual Hmong American Farmers (NHAF) National Conference, held in Fresno, California in May, showcased successes and provided a forum to discuss challenges facing Hmong farmers. The Clean Air Farming Workshop, held in June at a Hmong-owned farm in Del Rey, California presented technical information — in the Southeast Asian languages of Hmong, Lao, and Khmer (as well as Spanish and English) — about farming practices that reduce harmful air pollutants. Both events were designed to bolster awareness, enhance technical skills, exchange information, identify needs, build and strengthen effective partnerships, provide leadership, and offer fellowship.

Farmers at the NHAF Conference expressed to USDA agency reps that processes required by some federal programs are currently too complicated. On the other hand, NRCS and its sister agencies had opportunities to explain how specific programs work and to help identify and match programs to farmers’ needs. This exchange of information will help NRCS modify assistance and processes accordingly, and local farmers gained a better understanding of how to participate in Farm Bill programs.

The Clean Air Farming Workshop, organized and sponsored by NRCS and several partners, showcased specialized equipment suitable for small farm applications and information about on-farm conservation practices that reduce harmful air pollution sources such as volatile pesticides, soil erosion by wind, and diesel exhaust emissions. Five stations with different learning topics were set up among the farm’s Asian vegetable crops and participants were divided into different language groups. As the language groups went from topic to topic, so did translators who facilitated the learning process. The small groups enabled presenters to focus on farmers’ specific interests and needs.

California NRCS’ strategy to assist Hmong farmers has included hiring native Hmong speakers as technical field staff, supporting field workshops and demonstration projects, producing Hmong-language informational materials, supporting Hmong radio programming, and working with partners such as local University of California Farm Advisors who share a similar commitment to working with new client groups.

 

Hmong farmers participate in the Clean Air Farming Workshop at Cherta Farms owned by Txexa Lee (center, in white hat) in Del Rey, California, where air quality concerns impact human health and choice of farming practices.
Hmong farmers participate in the Clean Air Farming Workshop at Cherta Farms owned by Txexa Lee (center, in white hat) in Del Rey, California, where air quality concerns impact human health and choice of farming practices.

Clean Air Farming Workshop Participants were able to sign up for continuing education credits - a requirement to maintain pest control advisor and other certifications.
Clean Air Farming Workshop Participants were able to sign up for continuing education credits – a requirement to maintain pest control advisor and other certifications.

NRCS Soil Conservationist (center) describes the benefits of reducing soil compaction, in this case accomplished by use of a low impact cultivator.
NRCS Soil Conservationist (center) describes the benefits of reducing soil compaction, in this case accomplished by use of a low impact cultivator.