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Veteran Farmer Grows the Family Farm ‘Organically’

Larry E. King worked with NRCS to build a seasonal high tunnel on his farm in Whitley County.

Larry E. King worked with NRCS to build a seasonal high tunnel on his farm in Whitley County.

Larry E. King was raised in a family with farming roots. The very land he now farms in McCreary County, Kentucky was purchased by his mother during World War II.  He remembers his mother telling him, “If we didn’t raise it, we didn’t have it.”

In his late teens, King raised strawberries on the farm. His life moved away from farming at 17 when he followed in his two brothers’ footsteps and joined the Air Force.

For six years, King was stationed out of Little Rock, Arkansas where he worked with the mobile support systems out of the Military Airlift Command. After his military assignment, he finished college and worked for the U.S. Forest Service Civilian Conservation Corps. After a long career with the Forest Service, Larry retired a few years ago, bringing him home to the 34-acre family farm. Read more »

Successful Meeting Helps Take Produce Marketing Efforts to Next Level

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

A recent meeting connected fruit and vegetable industry leaders with the USDA employees they communicate with on a regular basis. A continuous dialogue with these leaders helps their industries remain nimble and better able to adjust to changes in the marketplace.

The fruit and vegetable industry is an integral part of our country. Besides helping increase access to healthy foods, the industry generates $40 billion in sales and empowers communities by creating jobs and stimulating economies. While it’s great to notice the strength of the produce industry, it is important to remember that it is the result of careful research and planning. I had the chance to watch the industry rekindle this energy as I visited with leaders from each of our marketing order boards and committees during a management conference last week.

There were some great takeaways from the meeting. We heard an update about the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Deputy Commissioner Michael Taylor. He ensured us that FDA is looking to collaborate with partners like USDA to help the industry comply with the FSMA regulations when they become final. We also heard from our Commodity Procurement Program Director Dave Tuckwiller, who encouraged everyone to take advantage of new opportunities to sell food to USDA. Thanks to new National School Lunch standards, my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchased 20 percent more fruits and veggies in 2013 than in the previous year. Read more »

Wisconsin Lives Up to its Dairyland Name

Wisconsin is the Dairy State, but can you guess what other agricultural crop they lead the nation in?  Read below for the answer, and check back next Thursday for another Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

Wisconsin is the Dairy State, but can you guess what other agricultural crop they lead the nation in? Read below for the answer, and check back next Thursday for another Census of Agriculture Spotlight!

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Welcome to America’s Dairyland! It is simply impossible to talk about Wisconsin agriculture without immediately bringing up our dairy sector. After all, as the 2012 Census of Agriculture results showed, 16.5 percent of all farms in our state have milk cows.

Wisconsin has significantly more dairy farms at 11,543 than any other state. We are also one of only two states with more than one million milk cows. And, of course, who can forget about Wisconsin cheese? As NASS’ Dairy Products reports point out every year, Wisconsin farmers produce more cheese than any other state, producing more than 25 percent of all cheese in the United States. That’s nearly 3 billion pounds of cheese a year! Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Farm to School Programs Create New Opportunities for Farmers

This October, just like every other month during the school year, school menus will feature an array of products from local and regional farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. Kids of all ages will dig up lessons in school gardens, visit farms, harvest pumpkins, and don hair nets for tours of processing facilities. Science teachers – and English, math, and social studies instructors, too – will use food and agriculture as a tool in their classrooms, so that lessons about the importance of healthy eating permeate the school learning environment.

An investment in the health of America’s students through Farm to School is also an investment in the farmers and ranchers who grow the food and an investment in the health of local economies. In school year 2011-2012, schools purchased $386 million in local food from farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers. And an impressive 56 percent of school districts report that they will buy even more local foods in future school years. Farm to school programs exist in every state in the country. Read more »

Soil and Climate Data Help Farmers Reduce Severe Weather Risks

Dee Waldron, a Morgan County farmer, uses data from the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN, to make more informed farm management decisions.

Dee Waldron, a Morgan County farmer, uses data from the NRCS Soil Climate Analysis Network, or SCAN, to make more informed farm management decisions.

Utah dairyman Dee Waldron watches the weather closely. He wants clear, up-to-date weather and climate information anytime and anywhere that help him make critical farming decisions, such as when to irrigate, plant and harvest.

Waldron operates a dairy and feed grain farm in Morgan County, just east of Salt Lake City. This area is considered a high mountain desert and is not very productive without annual mountain streamflows stored in irrigation reservoirs.

“Before, I used to take a shovel in the field, dig down, and guess by feeling how much moisture was available for my crops,” Waldron said.  “Now I use my computer and iPhone to access the local weather forecast, the amount of soil moisture, the snow levels in the mountains, the amount of water in the river, and even the soil temperature. This really helps us as agricultural producers.” Read more »

Fermentation Fest – Innovation and Creativity in Rural Wisconsin

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

As we enter the autumn season, the harvest is on most Wisconsinites’ minds.   I’m particularly excited to be participating in an upcoming gathering in Reedsburg where the Wormfarm Institute’s annual Fermentation Fest will be taking place from October 4th through the 13th.   In addition to workshops on cooking and fermenting food, and even homebrewing, this “live culture convergence” will feature the nationally acclaimed Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile self-guided drive through the rolling hills and farmlands in the “Driftless Area” of Sauk County.

On that Sunday the 12th, from 4 to 6 pm I will be participating on a panel called “The Art of the Rural – Creating Thriving Places Beyond the City” at the Woolen Mill Gallery, 28 E Main St. in Reedburg. We’ll explore how local food systems and arts and culture can combine to be integral strategies for fostering economic development in rural areas. I will be joined by a distinguished panel which includes: Jamie Bennett, the President of ArtPlace America, a national philanthropy consortium; Matthew Fluharty of Washington University who leads Art of the Rural; Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells dairy farmer, rural sociologist and member of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, a 2014 recipient of a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, and Curt Meine, conservation biologist and Aldo Leopold biographer. Read more »