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Nevada Farmer Reinvents Herself with 10 Acres and a High Tunnel

Jaime Jasmine, NRCS district conservationist in Elko, Nev. (right), has worked closely with Carol Huether by providing hands on assistance. NRCS photo.

Jaime Jasmine, NRCS district conservationist in Elko, Nev. (right), has worked closely with Carol Huether by providing hands on assistance. NRCS photo.

Three years ago, Carol Huether, decided it was time to change careers and reinvent herself. So, she took her years of experience managing other people’s businesses and turned those skills into a successful organic vegetable and herb farm in Spring Creek, Nev.

As she transformed her 10 acres into a productive operation, Huether wasn’t working alone. USDA agencies, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Farm Service Agency (FSA), worked closely with Huether to create a sustainable operation, despite the region’s challenging climate.

“I wouldn’t have been able to even start this kind of operation if it hadn’t been for all the agencies coming together to help me under the umbrella of the USDA,” Huether says. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A New Report that Highlights the Need for a Food, Farm and Jobs Bill

There are a wide range of important reasons why rural America needs passage of a comprehensive, multiyear Food, Farm and Jobs Bill as soon as possible. One of the most pressing is to grow the rural economy in a way that creates new jobs and reverses the troubling decline in population that we’ve seen recently in America’s small towns.

This week, USDA’s Economic Research Service released its annual report on the economic condition of rural America – the 2013 Rural America at a Glance report.   The data in this report underscores the challenges of stagnant job growth and persistent poverty faced by many communities across rural America. Read more »

Hooked on Aquaponics

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system.  For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system. For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

If you’re wondering what aquaponics is, you’re not alone.  Tracing its roots back to the Aztecs and rice cultivation in South China, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic system.  Basically, the plants keep the water clean for the fish to grow, and the fish fertilize the plants. Both help the other to survive and thrive.

A wide variety of foods—lettuce, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes, for example—all flourish through aquaponics farming. Read more »

Veterans Find Training, Jobs with the U.S. Forest Service

California Conservation Corps Veterans Green Jobs members receiving training and hands-on work experience in forestry and firefighting skills. (CCC photo)

California Conservation Corps Veterans Green Jobs members receiving training and hands-on work experience in forestry and firefighting skills. (CCC photo)

The U.S. Forest Service actively recruits eligible veterans for multiple occupations. Currently, veterans make up over 12 percent of the Forest Service workforce. The agency values the experience, commitment and work ethic that veterans bring to the job, as well as their significant skills and abilities.

Two programs are of particular importance to veterans who are seeking an opportunity to get their boot in the door and improve their chances of being hired by a land management agency.

In its third year, nationally, the Veterans Fire Corps program is operated as a partnership with the Student Conservation Association. It’s a collaborative initiative that builds upon the knowledge, leadership experience and training of men and women who served in the armed forces, retraining them and refocusing their mission to protecting public lands from the threat of wildfire. Read more »

Conservation Benefits Mississippi Ranch & Improves Water Downstream

NRCS Supervisory District Conservationist Priscilla Williamson (left) worked with Charles McLaurin (right) to remove invasive grasses and install cross fencing, improving water quality downstream. NRCS photo.

NRCS Supervisory District Conservationist Priscilla Williamson (left) worked with Charles McLaurin (right) to remove invasive grasses and install cross fencing, improving water quality downstream. NRCS photo.

Raising hay and working the farm was once something extra for Charles McLaurin. After retiring after 35 years as a school teacher, he’s enjoying his new full-time job as a cattle rancher in Leake County, Miss., where he not only leads a healthy head of cattle but also serves as a steward of natural resources.

With the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), he is using conservation to improve his operations and help the environment, including the Pearl River and Gulf of Mexico, where the water from his farm eventually flows.

McLaurin qualified for financial assistance through StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative as a beginning and limited resource rancher. The initiative addresses high-priority funding needs in rural communities in 16 states, including Mississippi. Read more »

Engaging the Next Generation with the Help of our Partners in Conservation

Texas Conservation Corps members building new trail in Texas in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife.  Texas Conservation Corps is an AmeriCorps service program of American YouthWorks, a nationally recognized nonprofit and charter high school headquartered in Austin, Texas.  Each year the program engages over 100 diverse youth and college-aged young adults  in critical, hands-on conservation and disaster service projects, giving participants the skills and opportunities to solve real life community and environmental problems.

Texas Conservation Corps members building new trail in Texas in partnership with Texas Parks and Wildlife. Texas Conservation Corps is an AmeriCorps service program of American YouthWorks, a nationally recognized nonprofit and charter high school headquartered in Austin, Texas. Each year the program engages over 100 diverse youth and college-aged young adults in critical, hands-on conservation and disaster service projects, giving participants the skills and opportunities to solve real life community and environmental problems.

When President Obama launched the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative in 2010, one of the top priorities included connecting our youth and veterans to our nation’s cultural and natural resources. President Obama wanted to foster a new generation of stewards to carry on our nation’s proud conservation legacy.

In that spirit, a 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) was announced as a collaborative effort to put America’s youth and veterans to work protecting, restoring and enhancing America’s great outdoors. Through the 21CSC, young people and veterans will accomplish meaningful work, and gain important personal and professional skills while building a lifelong connection to the outdoors.

Today, we are announcing another step forward in our work to turn that vision into a reality. Read more »