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Artisan Cheese Makers Embrace Voluntary Conservation at Award-Winning Vermont Dairy

Cheesemakers left to right: Creamery Manager and Head Cheesemaker Leslie Goff (center) with Consider Bardwell owner Angela Miller (right) and cheesemaker Anastasia Barrett. Photo: Amy Overstreet, NRCS Vermont.

Cheesemakers left to right: Creamery Manager and Head Cheesemaker Leslie Goff (center) with Consider Bardwell owner Angela Miller (right) and cheesemaker Anastasia Barrett. Photo: Amy Overstreet, NRCS Vermont.

The story behind Vermont’s Consider Bardwell could be the plot for a great movie. The lead characters are Russell and Angela, two New York City executives who decide in their fifties that they want to buy a farm, raise goats, and be artisan cheesemakers. The setting is a 300-acre dairy farm and cheese operation in West Pawlet, Vermont. And the twist…they had no previous farming experience.

What could have been a comedy is an inspiring story of dedication and perseverance. This is the true tale of an architect and a literary agent who pursue a dream to farm sustainably through a voluntary conservation approach, and create a unique farm-to-plate product. Their partnership with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is helping to ensure the health of the natural resources on their farm. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anita Roberson

U.S. Army Veteran and Virginia Farmer Anita Roberson

U.S. Army Veteran and Virginia Farmer Anita Roberson

Every month, USDA shares the story of a woman in agriculture who is leading the industry and helping other women succeed along the way. In honor of Veterans Day, we hear from Anita Roberson, a U.S. Army Veteran who started a post service career in agriculture. She and her husband Thomas, also a U.S. Army veteran, both proudly own a ten-acre farm in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, where they produce vegetables, fruit, flowers, and honey.

1. First off, thank you for your service. Tell us about your background and how you got into agriculture.

You are welcome!  I grew up in a military family, but some of my fondest memories were of life on the farm with my paternal grandparents. They had an amazing flower and vegetable garden, working dogs, laying chickens, and Jersey cattle. Those magnificent impressions helped me to realize that I was destined to work in the sciences.  As an undergraduate, I majored in biology and later joined the Army and served as a Medical Service Corps officer. Later I married a Physician Assistant who grew up on a farm. While serving in Germany, we purchased my aunt’s ten-acre farm so she could retire, thinking it would be an awesome opportunity to help us in our eventual retirement. It was one of the best decisions we made.  After we returned to Virginia, we met an Extension Agent who invited us to attend a Small Farm Outreach Program and the rest is history. Read more »

Conservation as a Peace Offering to Vietnam War Veteran

Conservation is giving Vietnam War veteran Gilbert Harrison a peace offering of healing, helping to balance the stresses of war. For Harrison, conserving the natural resources on his farm is an important outdoor activity. And who better to care for the land than the veterans who fought to protect it?

Harrison has worked with the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) since 2012, when he received funding and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to help him install an improved irrigation system to help develop alfalfa production on his land. Read more »

Growth and Opportunity in the Organic Sector

Chris Roehm (left), an organic farmer from Square Peg Farms in Oregon, examining tomatoes with USDA resource conservationist Dean Moberg.

Chris Roehm (left), an organic farmer from Square Peg Farms in Oregon, examines tomatoes with USDA resource conservationist Dean Moberg. Since the USDA implemented the organic regulations, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales. Photo by Ron Nichols.

Since USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) implemented the organic regulations in 2002, the U.S. organic sector has tripled in size to over 22,000 certified organic operations with over $43 billion in U.S. retail sales.  Demand for organic products is expected to continue growing.  This strong consumer demand outruns supply, providing market opportunities within the organic sector.

USDA offers many resources for organic producers and businesses – including organic certification cost share assistance, organic price reporting, conservation programs, and so much more – to facilitate growth within the organic sector. We also provide assistance to producers transitioning to organic production, and work to facilitate international trade. Read more »

Mississippi Farmers Expanding Opportunities with Up in Farms

Chefs Dan Blumenthal and Nick Wallace

Chefs Dan Blumenthal and Nick Wallace of the Up in Farms Food Hub ownership team standing on the dock of the food hub in Jackson, MS. Photo courtesy, Soul City Hospitality

“Not today,” said Mr. Leonard Keyes as he and Dr. John Stanley surveyed the plot of land on Keyes’ farm in Mize, Mississippi. “Too dry.” Stanley stood beside him holding a tray of squash transplants and nodding his head in agreement.

Earlier that morning, Stanley, sourcing manager for Up in Farms Food Hub, had visited the farm of Mr. James Gregory about 30 miles down the road in Florence. He’d brought Gregory some of the same transplants—some nice-looking seedlings from Standing Pine Nursery in Byram. John had stood beside Gregory, too, and surveyed that plot of land. “Not today,” said Gregory. “Too wet!” Read more »

Hoop House Grows Healthy Food, Combat Diabetes in a Nevada Food Desert

NACR&DC members posing with Reno-Sparks Indian Colony teens in hoop house

NACR&DC members pose with Reno-Sparks Indian Colony teens to celebrate the finished product.

Squeals of excitement and laughter competed with the sounds of power saws, drills and hammers at the Hungry Valley Child Care Center in Sparks, Nevada, as Reno-Sparks Indian Colony (RSIC) teens were handed power tools for the first time in their lives to assist with building a hoop house.

As part of their life skills learning, the teens helped members of the National Association of Resource Conservation & Development Councils (NARC&DC) who were attending their national conference in Reno, erect a 14’ x 26’ hoop house, with guidance from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Federally Recognized Tribal Extension Program staff and assistance from USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »