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New Farmers and Ranchers: Ever Thought About Exporting?

The first step in running a successful farm or ranch business is identifying a product to create and connecting that product to potential customers.  For some new and beginning farmers, it can be a challenge to connect to the right market opportunities and to build a business that fits.

At USDA, we are working to make sure that there is access to markets at all levels – so that whether a new or beginning farmer wants to sell locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, they have access to tools that support their business and business development. Read more »

Five Questions Non-Operator Landowners Should Ask their Farmers about Soil Health

NRCS provides five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health. NRCS graphic by Jennifer VanEps.

NRCS provides five questions non-operator landowners should ask their farmers about soil health. NRCS graphic by Jennifer VanEps.

More farmers, ranchers and others who rely on the land are taking action to improve the health of their soil. Many farmers are actually building the soil. How? By using soil health management systems that include cover crops, diverse rotations and no-till.

And when they’re building the soil they’re doing something else – they’re also building the land’s production potential over the long-term.

But how do non-operator landowners (people who rent their land to farmers) know if their tenants are doing everything they need to do to make and keep their soil healthy? Barry Fisher, an Indiana farmer and nationally recognized soil health specialist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, recommends that they ask their farming partner these five questions. Read more »

Looking for a Great Valentine’s Date? Try U.S. Forests

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, riv­­­ers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your l­­­oved one.

Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Read more »

The Matrix Helps Teachers Bring Ag to the Classroom

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

Students learn about agriculture by using materials available online through the Ag in the Classroom’s Matrix. (iStock image)

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 profile.

The Matrix is in a classroom near you – not the 1999 hit movie, but a blockbuster nonetheless.

The National Agricultural Literacy Curriculum Matrix is a new approach to grow agricultural literacy among K-12 students.  The Matrix, part of the National Agriculture in the Classroom’s (AITC) website, is an online collection of educational resources that are relevant, engaging, and designed to meet the educational requirements and agricultural literacy outcomes for formal educators. Read more »

Surveyors Learn to Measure Snow, Prepare for Risks in Remote Mountains

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

Jeff Anderson, snow survey director for NRCS in Nevada, shows the school’s students how to read snow-measuring instruments. Dan Martyn and Nichole Bolton learn the ropes. NRCS photo by Anita Brown.

If you live in the western United States and you’re sipping a glass of water, irrigating your crops, lighting your home with hydrological-sourced energy, or enjoy skiing or fishing, you’re probably using information made available from USDA’s snow survey program.

Snow provides 50 to 80 percent of the western water supply and while many agencies, utilities, Tribes and others have a role in snow surveys, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) leads efforts to make sure all the players use accurate and consistent methods and come home safely. NRCS just released its February forecast. Read more »

USDA Supports California’s Efforts to Improve the Nutrition and Health of Low-Income Pregnant Women, New Mothers, Infants and Young Children; Lifts Ban on Stores

Woman with child at supermarket.

California WIC participants now have greater access to healthy foods as FNS ensures that vendors are efficiently administering the program.

This month, nearly 1.4 million women, infants and children in California have greater access to the healthy foods provided through the state’s Women Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

In 2012, USDA notified the California Department of Public Health that it must continue a self-imposed moratorium on the authorization of stores to accept WIC. The moratorium was due to concerns related to the oversight of authorized WIC vendors in the state and rising costs. Read more »