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Accountant to Farmer: Finding Moisture in Dry Soil Conditions

Douglas Poole in front of his tractor

Douglas Poole is an evangelist who saved his own soil. Now he wants to help others save theirs. Photo: Jennifer Cole.

“Nothing motivates me quite like being told I can’t do something. They told me no-till doesn’t work here, and you’re not supposed to be able to grow any type of canola. Well, look around. Here we are.”

When Douglas Poole speaks, you can hear the passion in his voice for healthy soil and how it has helped his farm. Poole wasn’t always a soil health proponent; he used to be an accountant. Read more »

Chicken Ranching Boosts Pasture Soil Health on Iowa Farm

A woman with the hens

The hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.

When bison roamed the Great Plains, prairie chickens and other fowl played an important role as the clean-up crew. They would follow the herds feasting on the larvae in bison manure.

In Doug Darrow’s 160-acre mob grazing system near Oxford, Iowa, his 300 chickens have the same job, but they ride in style from paddock to paddock in an old school bus that doubles as a chicken coop. “This means there are fewer flies to pester the cows,” said Darrow. This natural form of pest control, improves herd health and rate of gain, while providing another income source from the eggs laid by the clean-up crew. Read more »

High Tunnel Addition Helps Urban Farmer Feed Portland

Stacey Givens, The Side Yard Farm and Kitchen in Portland, Oregon

Stacey Givens, The Side Yard Farm and Kitchen in Portland, Oregon.

Portland has become one of the top cities in the nation for its food scene—from trendy neighborhood food carts to fine dining to farm-to-table restaurants. It’s also a place where people embrace eating locally-grown food. Like, seriously, uber-local. That’s why urban farmers like Stacey Givens are making such an impact on Portland’s appetite.

“I was drawn to Portland because of the food scene, and the restaurant and farming scene,” Stacey says.

She owns a unique operation in the northeast Cully neighborhood called The Side Yard Farm and Kitchen. It’s an urban farm with three separate lots (all within one mile from each other), a supper and brunch club and a catering company. Read more »

Farmer, Conservationists Partner to Build a Bridge for Salmon in Southern Maine

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talking with farm owner Cynthia Hodak on the bridge

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talks with farm owner Cynthia Hodak while inspecting a bridge over the restored fish passage. Photo: Thomas Kielbasa, NRCS Maine.

A just-completed project that restored a fish passage in southern Maine may have another benefit – preventing an environmental disaster on important salmon-spawning streams.

A new bridge that now crosses the Swan Pond Creek at the Al Dube Quarterhorse Farm in York County was the culmination of a year-long quest by the Saco River Salmon Club and Hatchery and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to rehabilitate a section of the creek for fish passage and rearing of juvenile salmon. Read more »

Taking the Mystery Out of USDA Tools for Organic Agriculture

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

Getting people together to talk can result in great ideas. 

In June, USDA hosted 100 farmers, ranchers, retailers and producers in Chester, New York, in the Hudson Valley, to discuss opportunities and challenges in organic production, and to share information on USDA programs and services available to organic producers and processors.  

Wholesalers and retailers at the meeting all had a common challenge – keeping up with increasing market demands for organic food. Organic retail sales continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. In 2014, the market reached $39 billion in U.S. sales alone. That level of demand means a lot of opportunities for organic producers, as well as those in the process of transitioning to organic production. Read more »

NRCS Partners with Farmers, Ranchers to Aid Monarch Butterflies

A butterfly on a flower

NRCS is working with farmers and ranchers to create and enhance habitat for monarchs. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.

No matter where you grew up, you are likely familiar with monarch butterflies. You may have childhood memories from science class when you watched those peculiar green caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies. Depending on where you live, you may have seen masses of their orange-and-black wings fluttering in the sky while the butterflies were on their annual cross-country migratory journey.

Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers. Read more »