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Moving Back to Rural America: Why Some Return Home and What Difference It Makes

People eating together

A recent Economic Research Service report explores reasons for returning to live in remote rural areas and the impacts return migrants make on their home communities. Photo by John Cromartie.

Population loss persists in rural America, especially in more remote areas with limited scenic amenities. Communities in these areas are attuned to the annual out-migration of their “best and brightest” high school graduates, typically a third or more of each class.

But stemming rural population loss–and spurring economic development–may depend less on retaining young adults after high school and more on attracting former residents some years later. Researchers at the University of Montana and USDA’s Economic Research Service visited 21 rural communities during 2008 and 2009 and conducted 300 interviews at high school reunions. The aim was to better understand what motivates return migration and the barriers to such moves. Reunions allowed for simultaneous interviews with both return migrants and nonreturn migrants. Read more »

Keeping an Eye on the Nation’s Chemical Climate to Protect Water Resources

Getting from Point A to Point B is sometimes a difficult task; that’s why we have maps.  However, making maps is not always easy, either, especially when the image you’re trying to capture is carried on the wind.

For nearly 40 years a coalition of government, education, industry, and other organizations has worked to monitor “precipitation chemistry” – in other words, tracking the makeup and whereabouts of acid rain.  Their latest efforts have resulted in maps that indicate how nitrogen deposition in the United States threatens aquatic life in the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »

Widely-Anticipated Surveys Coming in June

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Weddings, dads, and grads make June a joyful month, but here at the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, June is eventful for a different reason altogether. It’s when we conduct some of the most widely-anticipated agricultural surveys. During the first two weeks of the month, we’ll survey more than 125,000 farmers across the United States. Although NASS surveys and publishes reports throughout the year, June means game on!

In this single month, we conduct the June Area Survey, the June Agricultural Survey (also known as the Crops/Stocks Survey), and the June Hogs and Pigs Survey. Through these, we will gather information about this season’s crop production, supplies of grain stocks, livestock inventories, land use, detailed estimates on the number of acres producers planted of particular agricultural commodities, and much more. Because of the prominent influence and impact these surveys have in the agricultural industry and on government programs and policy, its important farmers and ranchers participate. Read more »

Smoke Jumping Into History

Thomas McFadden (left) and Joe Murchison (right), who is the current President of the Triple Nickles Association, attending an event at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum honoring their comrades

Although not original members of the first Triple Nickles Platoon, Thomas McFadden (left) and Joe Murchison (right), who is the current President of the Triple Nickles Association, attend an event at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum honoring their comrades. (U.S. Forest Service photo)

Most people don’t conjure up images of the U.S. Forest Service when they think of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum. But every fire season the work of the Forest Service’s planes and helicopters, carrying smokejumpers, are vitally important to controlling the spread of wildland fires.

This is why the Smithsonian recently honored the legacy of 17 of some of the most lionized smokejumpers in Forest Service history. Known as the Triple Nickles, these smokejumpers were the first all-African American crew in American firefighting. Read more »

All of Georgia’s Soils Surveyed and Available Online-Contiguous States Mostly Complete

NRCS’ Web Soil Survey Tool map

NRCS’ Web Soil Survey Tool allows agricultural, construction and other industries that rely on soil information to have data at their fingertips.

Soil scientists from across the southeastern region of the U.S. came together recently to celebrate the completion of Georgia’s soil survey. With this mapping complete, very few areas of the nation’s soils in the 48 contiguous states are not recorded.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) mapped soils information for Georgia’s 159 counties. The map data can be accessed online through NRCS’ Web Soil Survey.

Soil surveys involve studying the nature and properties of soils, mapping their location on the landscape and interpreting their unique sets of characteristics. The information found in these soil surveys was used by producers to better understand their soils, and how best to use and protect them. Read more »

A Dream of Farming Becomes a Reality for this Kentucky Farm Mom

Emily Diamond's daughter on the farm

Emily handles the day-to-day operations on the farm, but everyone in the family does their part, which is what makes Diamond Family Farm such a successful family business. Photo courtesy of Emily Diamond, used with permission.

Emily Diamond is a wife, mother, and farmer. She and her family own and operate the Diamond Family Farm in LaGrange, Kentucky. Emily’s farm supplies meat for her family and to the surrounding community through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Through CSAs, the community commits to buying the farm’s harvest, sharing both the bounty and risk of farming.

As new farmers, the Diamond family had a dream of producing healthy meat for their family on their own farm.

After hard work and saving their earnings, the family purchased land and began farming. “We built it all from scratch,” Emily said, “but looking back, it would have been easier if we would have purchased land with fencing and a barn already in place.” Read more »