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High Tunnels Helps Community Supported Agriculture Farm

Beth Rinkenberger holding a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel

Beth Rinkenberger holds a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel, one of the many vegetables the CSA box contains. Photo: Jody Christiansen.

Somewhat hidden in Livingston County, Illinois is a five-acre farm that is reminiscent of farms years ago. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the farm is able to maintain a diversified operation with agritourism features and run a CSA ­– or Community Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms, like Beth and Doug Rinkenberger’s Garden Gate Farms, and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »

Vermont’s Farm to Ballet Project Shines the Spotlight on Conservation

Ballerina Megan Stearns dancing the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project

Ballerina Megan Stearns dances the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project.

Vermont’s agricultural history will soon be enriched as a new Farm to Ballet project aims to celebrate the state’s farming culture and expose a new audience to the beauty of classical ballet. The endeavor is the brainchild of former professional dancer and Vermont native Chatch Pregger. His farm-based ballet tells the story of a Vermont farming operation from spring to fall.

The fertile soils of Vermont’s pastoral farmland will provide the ‘stage’ for the dancers. “Now that I’ve seen the dancers, in a farm environment, I realize this is how I’ve always wanted to see ballet–in this setting.  In its grittiness, its reality–on nature’s perfect stage,” he explained.  Farm to Ballet will be presented seven times throughout August at a variety of farming operations. The performances are not financially supported by USDA, so the Farm to Ballet project initiated a fund raising campaign to cover the cost of costumes, props and sets, and many of the shows serve as fundraisers to support and honor the work of Vermont’s farmers and the local food movement. Read more »

Cover Crops and No-Till Help South Dakota Lamb Farmer

NRCS employee works with farmer

NRCS helps farmers and ranchers to better understand and use soil data and analysis –from traditional soil testing to the new Haney Soil Test.

Demand for fresh lamb from ­five star restaurants drives Bob Corio’s use of cover crops and better forages that provide feed but also build organic matter in the ­fields he farms in Union County, South Dakota.

“We needed something else for our sheep to eat other than hay,” says Corio, who has a flock of Dorper sheep and a herd of Dexter heritage breed cattle on their farm outside of Jefferson.

“I’m always concerned about the animals. I want something for them to graze all of the time. And, I want my sheep to graze at least until the snow hits. They grazed all Winter last year, but I started supplementing with hay and baleage in mid-January,” says Corio. Read more »

Assistance Helps Beginning Farmer Improve Operation

Wade Kloepping

Wade Kloepping has made several conservation improvements to his farm.

A rich background in agriculture helped Wade Kloepping make the decision to come home to Dawson County after college and take over the family farm near Eustis, Nebraska.

Two years before graduating from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kloepping’s dad passed away; he was the manager of the family’s farming operation. Wade has since taken over that role. As a beginning farmer, he aimed to improve the stocking rate of his pasture, advance forage productivity and increase the amount of native plants. Read more »

Through Conservation, an Iowa Farmer Keeps Water Clean Downstream

David Petersen at his farm

David Petersen uses a variety of conservation practices to prevent nutrients from washing off his dairy farm into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. NRCS photo.

David Petersen takes extra steps to ensure his dairy in southeast Iowa does not impact water quality downstream. Through voluntary conservation work, he prevents manure from washing off the dairy into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi rivers.

Majestic Manor, run by Peterson and his wife Amy, has been in the family for four generations. They milk about 120 Holstein dairy cows twice daily and also grow corn, alfalfa, oats, triticale and soybeans on about 320 acres. Petersen likes to refer to his operation as “closed-loop” where the soil feeds the crops, the crops feed the cattle, and the cattle feed the soil. “It is a benefit to everyone,” he says. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »