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NRCS Gets on the “Goodfoot” with Organic Practices

Beth Hoinacki shows an aspect of her crop rotation and cover crop plan.

U.S. trends in organic farming point to a growing industry. USDA agencies like the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) support organic growers by offering funding and technical guidance—both to farmers already growing organic crops, and to those who want to transition to organic production.

Luckily for Beth Hoinacki, she heard about NRCS’ Organic Initiative right around the same time that she was pursuing organic certification for her operation, Goodfoot Farm.

Hoinacki and her husband, Adam Ryan, purchased 10 acres of land situated along the bank of the Luckiamute River in Kings Valley, Ore. in1999, which they later named “Goodfoot Farm.” They were interested in the Organic Initiative because it helps producers create a conservation plan and apply approved methods targeting specific concerns on their operation.

NRCS District Conservationist Tom Snyder and Hoinacki look through her fence to the recently completed grass waterway and hedgerow funded by NRCS’ EQIP Organic Initiative.

Hoinacki credits the Initiative with helping them start projects critical to soil and water quality that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to address on the farm, where they grow a variety of produce, including blueberries, onions, garlic, potatoes and winter squash.

One project helped the couple install a grassed waterway to reduce erosion in order to minimize sediment runoff into the river and improve habitat for threatened and endangered fish. In addition, they’ve planted a hedgerow for pollinator habitat, pursued a waste management plan to protect water quality and developed crop rotation and installed cover crops to improve soil health.

Two curly-feathered Sebastopol and two American lavender geese help control grass and weeds on Goodfoot Farm.

Hoinacki says that they’ve recently been interested in biodynamic agriculture ­because it takes a more holistic approach to farming. She says that organic methods focus primarily on allowed off-farm inputs on crops or fields, whereas the biodynamic approach is more about creating a plan and purpose for a farm to realize its potential as a natural, self-sustaining system.

Hoinacki’s goal is to have a natural system that reduces the need for pest and fertility products to be imported from off the farm. She says that the biodynamic method has influenced her thinking in designing the farm, and NRCS’ Organic Initiative allows her the flexibility to pursue her goals by supporting beneficial plant life for habitat and developing a natural ecosystem within the production system.

A nearly-completed culvert in Beth Hoinacki’s grass waterway, engineered by NRCS.

The future of Goodfoot Farm tastes profitable as U.S. organic fruit and vegetable sales continue to grow. And Hoinacki and Ryan will continue to strive to be good stewards of the land.

Learn more about NRCS’s Organic Initiative.

Follow NRCS on Twitter.

Check out other conservation-related stories on the USDA blog

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