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Conservation Plans Keep Land-Use Goals on Track

Theresa Lackey talks to NRCS District Conservationist Tony Hoover about planned improvements to her land. (NRCS photo)

Theresa Lackey talks to NRCS District Conservationist Tony Hoover about planned improvements to her land. (NRCS photo)

Theresa Lackey, of Ashland, Missouri, said she had a general idea about the improvements she wanted to make to the 32 acres of mostly overgrown woods around her home. But she credits a conservation plan that she developed with assistance from the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, (NRCS), for helping turn her goals into reality.

“What NRCS did was work with us to create a plan for our goals,” she said. “Developing the plan helped us clarify what our goals were, and it helped clarify a process to move in that direction.” Read more »

A U.S. Forest Service Ranger Sees Wilderness as the Ultimate Yardstick

David Warnack, a district ranger on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, has a deep, even poetic connection to the wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)

David Warnack, a district ranger on the Lincoln National Forest in New Mexico, has a deep, even poetic connection to the wilderness. (U.S. Forest Service)

For most of his 16 years with the U.S. Forest Service, Dave Warnack spent them boots-on-the-ground. That’s to say that he does not just talk the talk.

“Wilderness will be the ultimate index by which I measure my status, progress and overall place in the world,” Warnack says in the film “Wilderness: The Ultimate Yardstick. “I say this because when you enter a wilderness alone, unsupported, you quickly realize that the wilderness doesn’t care about you. It doesn’t care about the grades you got in school. It doesn’t care about your medals, your degrees or the size of your salary. The first time you measure yourself by the yardstick of wilderness, you may quickly find that you are, indeed, very small and perhaps inconsequential.” Read more »

USDA, Environmental Protection Agency and Partners: Working Together to Support Water Quality Trading

A water sample taken from the last wetland in a filtering system in use on a farm in Taylor County, Iowa. Wetlands and other conservation practices on agricultural land can improve water quality, and may allow producers the option of selling water quality credits in a water quality trading market. Photo Credit: NRCS

A water sample taken from the last wetland in a filtering system in use on a farm in Taylor County, Iowa. Wetlands and other conservation practices on agricultural land can improve water quality, and may allow producers the option of selling water quality credits in a water quality trading market. Photo Credit: NRCS

USDA has a long history of working with partners to meet the needs of America’s farmers, ranchers and forest landowners while striving to sustain the natural resources we rely on. American farmers produce food for the U.S. and the world, and also provide benefits for air, water and habitats through the adoption of conservation practices.  In recent years, USDA has taken a more innovative approach to conservation by supporting the development of water quality trading markets.

Water quality trading can lower the costs of cleaning up waterways by allowing sources of pollutants with high costs of reducing pollution to purchase credits from others with lower costs. Often agricultural producers have relatively low costs of improving water quality, which makes farmers and ranchers prime candidates to generate water quality credits for sale. This offers the agricultural sector opportunities to improve the natural resource base and earn additional income through credit sales. Read more »

Getting Students Involved in Wellness

Students on a grocery store tour learn the importance of healthy choices.

Students on a grocery store tour learn the importance of healthy choices.

Today’s Cafeteria Stories contribution comes from Dr. Robert Lewis of the El Monte School District in Southern California.  Dr. Lewis describes the success that his urban school district has had with involving students in wellness.  His district currently has 14 schools with Silver HealthierUS School Challenge awards.

Guest post by Dr. Robert S. Lewis, SNS, Director of Nutrition Services, El Monte City School District (Calif.)

At El Monte City School District, our students are actively involved in setting wellness goals, mentoring others, and participating in taste tests.  For the past twenty years or so, the United States has seen a steady rise in childhood obesity and juvenile type 2 diabetes.  These are the epidemics of our time.  We can solve them.  But it will take all of us working together.  What does that mean or look like?  That means community members will need to become more involved in student wellness efforts at the school level as well as the municipal level. Read more »

Smooth Sailing to Grand Canyon West with the Hualapai Tribe

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

There were many things to celebrate about the newly paved nine-mile stretch of the Diamond Bar Road in Western Arizona, a road that links state and county roads to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. At the ribbon cutting celebration for the completed road, Tribal, state and federal officials all noted the obvious benefit of the paving: The trip for the thousands of visitors every year to Grand Canyon West would be smoother and faster. Hualapai Tribal member Rory Majenty, who emceed the road celebration, pointed out another benefit for tribal members, “We probably won’t have to buy a new truck every few years like we used to have to do because of the rough road!” Tribal members weren’t the only ones dogged by the undulating washboard road. Visitors and tour buses were plagued by flat tires, bent oil pans and hubcaps that flew off into the desert.

The Hualapai Tribe operates the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk over Grand Canyon West. The glass platform juts out in a horseshoe 70 feet over the canyon and is an attraction that draws over 700,000 visitors from around the world annually. Read more »

Missouri Farmers Bring Agriculture to Local Population

Show me farms!! Missouri has lots and lots of farming – almost 100,000 according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Check back next week for a focus on another state and the Census of Agriculture.

Show me farms!! Missouri has lots and lots of farming – almost 100,000 according to the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Check back next week for a focus on another state and the Census of Agriculture.

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.

Thanks to the fertile lands along the Missouri river, farming has always had a major presence in the Show Me State. As of 2012, only Texas has more farms than Missouri. The latest Census of Agriculture counted more than 99,000 farms in our state, which produced more than $9 billion in agricultural products, nearly equally divided between crop and livestock products.

Missouri farmers are always looking for innovative ways to connect our state’s residents with local agriculture and to find new markets. That’s why, in 2012, there were nearly 4,000 farms selling value-added products, such as cheese, preserves, or locally-produced wine. That year, 844 farms in Missouri also offered agritourism and other recreational services, such as hay rides. And for those residents who want to receive fresh local products, Missouri also had 291 farms participating in the local community-supported agriculture programs. Read more »