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The Poinsettia, in the Shadow of the Christmas Tree

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The beautiful poinsettia stands as a decoration on its own. NRCS photo by Analia Bertucci.

The poinsettia – academic types may call it by its binomial name, and biologists might refer to its species. But how many of us are guilty of calling it that red flower with the pointy leaves used to decorate during the holidays?

In the world of holiday shrubbery, the poinsettia has always taken a backseat to the Christmas tree. With its lights and ornaments, the tree has become the icon of the holiday in contrast to the poinsettia, which is usually placed in a nearby corner. Read more »

Strategic Conversations, a Crisis Response at the Grass Roots Level

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

From left to right, Hardin County farmer Jerry McBride, AgCredit CEO Brian Ricker and Ohio State Conservationist Terry Cosby place the first cover crop sign in McBride’s cover crop field which contains a mix of oilseed radish, hairy vetch, and cereal rye. NRCS photo by Dianne Johnson.

As Mark Twain once said, “Let us make a special effort to stop communicating with each other, so we can have some conversation.” Recently, in Ohio, the staff of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), put that advice to work: rather than trying to communicate broadly, they took their message on the road, visiting with farmers face-to-face to talk about the importance of cover crops on improving water quality.

For two days this past summer, 400,000 Toledo, Ohio residents dependent on safe drinking water from Lake Erie could not use their water for drinking, bathing or washing. Toxins from algae contaminated their water, exceeding the city’s water treatment facilities capacity to remove it.  Boiling the water only concentrated the toxin. No one knew how long this would last. Read more »

The Pham Family Farm, Immigrants Making a Good Life in Mississippi

Nancy and Hung Pham stand in front of one of their many fruit trees with branches so full they almost hit the ground. NRCS photo by Judi Craddock.

Nancy and Hung Pham stand in front of one of their many fruit trees with branches so full they almost hit the ground. NRCS photo by Judi Craddock.

Just outside Hazlehurst, Mississippi, a community of 4,000 about 30 miles south of Jackson, lies a poultry farm owned by a Vietnamese farm family whose lives are an amazing story of survival and determination.

Hung and Nancy Pham are refugees who fled the former South Vietnam as teenagers in a shrimp boat during the fall of Saigon in 1975. They were rescued by the U.S. Navy and brought to America. Years after arriving in the United States, the two were reunited through family friends and soon married. Today, the Phams attribute their journey through hardships, their work ethic and positive attitude to the happiness and success they’ve enjoyed as poultry farmers. Read more »

Conservation Programs Help Nebraska Farmer Install, Improve Irrigation System

Center pivot irrigation systems use less water and are more efficient at uniformly distributing water across a field. NRCS photo by Jacob Robison.

Center pivot irrigation systems use less water and are more efficient at uniformly distributing water across a field. NRCS photo by Jacob Robison.

As a little girl, Mary Kay Lyon followed her father around their south central Nebraska farm always dreaming of one day owning the operation herself. Lyon left the farm to attend college, but eventually made it back home when her father retired, determined to run the family farm.

“I wanted to farm since I was old enough to walk,” Lyon said.

Lyon grows corn and soybeans and raises cattle on the farm. Upon her return, she immediately began looking for ways to make improvements. Their crops have always been watered through an irrigation system, but Lyon knew improvements were needed on the old water delivery system. Read more »

What Most People Don’t Realize is Behind Their Thanksgiving Dinner

After composting, the leftover animal materials and waste are no longer recognizable. Instead, they become healthy, organic fertilizer. NRCS photo courtesy Analia Bertucci.

After composting, the leftover animal materials and waste are no longer recognizable. Instead, they become healthy, organic fertilizer. NRCS photo courtesy Analia Bertucci.

You can picture it now, can’t you? The familiar sounds of a parade or football game playing on the TV while little ones chase each other through the house. More friends and family members than you can ever remember in one place at the same time. And the aroma … those delightful smells that let you know it’s a holiday.

You see the table surrounded by mismatched chairs, dinnerware and cutlery. And on that table, neatly decorated with the rich colors of the season, sit bowls filled with traditional fare and in the center of it all, the pièce de résistance – the golden brown bird around which the entire meal is built. Turkey. The year’s most prestigious meal! Read more »

Virginia Farmer Balances Family, Farming and Flying with the Air National Guard

Buck Holsinger, a 9th generation farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, served two tours in Afghanistan with the Air National Guard before returning back to his farm.

Buck Holsinger, a 9th generation farmer from Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, served two tours in Afghanistan with the Air National Guard before returning back to his farm.

From the deserts of Afghanistan, to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, James “Buck” Holsinger has served his country as a pilot and a farmer. From an early age, Buck dreamed of becoming a pilot. After the events of September 11, 2001, he made the decision to enlist. For two tours in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, Buck flew large cargo planes.

After his second tour in Afghanistan and the birth of his third child, Buck wanted to return to farming so he could instill the same values in his children.

Buck is a 9th generation farmer.  He grew up working on the farm with his father, grandfather, and cousins. Buck recalls, “On the weekends, it was everybody’s second job.” Looking back, he says, “Some of the tools and knowledge that I gained have been invaluable in all my careers including the military because I learned that farming work ethic.” Read more »