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Experimental Farming in the Name of Soil Health: Steve Siverling’s Story

Steve Siverling

Steve Siverling narrates his journey in soil health.

NRCS thanks Steve for sharing his firsthand successes with cover crops. Our goal is to share ideas on how to implement soil health principles and cover crops on your farm. Steve Siverling has seen many benefits on his farm through the use of cover crops including increased soil structure and organic matter, less soil compaction and erosion, improved water holding capacity in the soil, improved quality of crop test weights and protein, less purchased fertilizer inputs, potential grazing during fall and spring, increased wildlife habitat, weed suppression, and breaks in pest cycles. “Steve is an active member of our NRCS farmer network with cover crops in Chippewa County and has done a great job networking with other farmers and helping NRCS advance the soil health movement one farm at a time,” said Tammy Lindsay, Chippewa County District Conservationist.

My name is Steve Siverling, and I plant corn, soybeans and a few small grains on 350 acres in northern Wisconsin.  But what I am growing is soil health; I am a biological farmer.

I began my soil health journey and evolution to a biological farmer 20 years ago when I purchased 80 acres near my farm. The soil pH was low, around 5.5, and there was less than one percent organic matter. I couldn’t make immediate improvements to the land that would allow me to plant a crop that could tolerate those conditions, but I had to try something. Read more »

49 Historic Sites in the 49th State

A contemporary photo of the M/V Chugach ranger boat

A contemporary photo of the M/V Chugach ranger boat. The M/V Chugach served as an important transportation and communication link among the communities of Prince William Sound and Southeast Alaska and was involved in many dramatic search and rescue operations. Photo credit: Forest Service

This year America celebrates the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act. Alaska was still celebrating its first decade of statehood when the Preservation Act was passed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966. Since then, the act has empowered the U.S. Forest Service to identify and preserve the state’s rich cultural history, including heritage sites that date back to time immemorial.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary, the 49 Sites in the 49th State website was developed by the Alaska Region and partners such as the State of Alaska, Native corporations and tribes, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management, and others to help state residents and out-of-state visitors explore. The site features many historical sites and treasures such as the Iditarod National Historic Trail, Lost Whaling Ships in the Bering Strait, and M/V Chugach ranger boat, the last of 10 Forest Service ranger boats that once plied the waters of the Tongass and Chugach national forests. Read more »

Farmers Market Managers: Innovative Entrepreneurs Meeting Community Needs

Elvis Cordova with Crofton Farmers Market managers

Elvis Cordova (middle), USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs presents National Farmers Market Week proclamations to (left to right) Crofton Farmers Market managers Chad Houck and Scott Hariton. Maryland Department of Agriculture Secretary Joe Bartenfelder and Maryland Department of Agriculture Deputy Secretary, Jim Eichhorst.

The demand for local food is strong and growing. To meet the growing demand, farmers market managers are becoming creative entrepreneurs who connect rural America to urban and suburban businesses.

Last week, during National Farmers Market Week, I had the pleasure of visiting Crofton Farmers Market in Crofton, Maryland, to recognize state and local efforts to bring fresh foods and economic growth into their community. During my visit, I was given a tour of the market by market managers, Chad Houck and Scott Hariton, who are business partners with a passion for their community. Read more »

International Youth Day: NIFA Helps Provide Sustainable Youth Leadership

Kirk Astroth, center, in Nepal

Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development Program, center, traveled to Nepal in 2014 to teach a train-the-trainer program that led to Nepal’s first 4-H national organization. (Photo courtesy of Kirk Astroth)

The United Nations’ celebrates International Youth every August and this year’s theme is Youth Leading Sustainability. The international recognition focuses on the leading role of young people in pursuing poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable production and consumption. There are roughly 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the largest generation of youth in human history. They face never-before-seen shifts in populations, economies, technology, health and the environment. USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture help today’s youth navigate these shifts and develop into healthy adults.

Recognizing the voice of youth is important and USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) plays a key role in providing positive youth development through the internationally recognized 4-H program, which empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. Read more »

Getting Ready for Back to School? It’s MyPlate Quiz Time!

Test Your Food Group IQ graphic

Test your food group knowledge with new quizzes available at

Think you know a lot about the five food groups? The USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion – the group that created MyPlate – just released a set of quizzes on the five food groups. These quizzes, designed to challenge, teach, and even entertain, are intended for anyone who wants to learn about the food groups or wants a refresher – adults and kids alike.

USDA’s food groups have been around for about 75 years. Though the current names of the food groups – fruits, vegetables, grains, protein foods, and dairy – have changed slightly over time, the food groups were key components of MyPyramid (2005), the Food Guide Pyramid (1992), Food Wheel (1984), Hassle-Free Daily Food Guide (1979), Basic Four (1956), and Basic Seven (1940). For more information on the previous food guides, visit A Brief History of USDA Food Guides. Food groups make it easier to learn about nutrition and plan healthy meals. Each food group provides specific nutrients that our bodies need, so instead of trying to track dozens of nutrients, you can just focus on getting the five groups. Read more »

It’s Not Too Late to Celebrate National Farmers Market Week!

Flowers from Hamburg NY Chamber of Commerce

Communities like Hamburg, New York, pictured above, joined USDA in celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Their chamber of commerce shared #marketfav after #marketfav on Twitter all week. Photo courtesy @HamburgChamber on Twitter.

National Farmers Market Week is a good example of why I say it’s an exciting time to be in agriculture. More than ever, all segments of the food industry are coming together to provide consumers with foods fresh from the farm, and farmers markets lead the way.

As I visited markets in Alexandria, La., and Greenwood, S.C.—and right here in Washington, D.C.—I saw firsthand the positive impact of farmers markets on the businesses and communities around them.  And, through our 2015 Market Managers Survey results, we know that across the nation farmers markets are helping build businesses and bring communities together. Read more »