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Born to Pack: Second-Generation Mule Packer Turns Love of Animals and the Great Outdoors into an Exciting Career

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Mule packer Lee Roeser leads a pack through Guyute Pass in Sequoia National Park. (National Park Service/ Greg Fauth)

Lee Roeser was born to be a mule packer.  At a very early age, he learned the craft from his parents who ran a mule pack station in Mammoth Lakes, California. At age 6, he was already helping with the family business. By age 13, he began working as a packer; and at 16, he was hauling explosives, gear and tools for the public, the Forest Service and other government agencies, and mining and movie production companies.

“You must be passionate for the well-being of the animals,” said Roeser, a packer for the U.S. Forest Service on Inyo National Forest, home of one of the Pack Stock Centers of Excellence.  “I do it for that and my love of the mountains and opportunity to continue to learn.” Read more »

A “Brighter” Way to Save Money, Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Increase Productivity

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

New energy efficient lights in USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center in Albany (above) will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and save about $200,000 a year in electrical costs. The City of Albany, California recently issued a proclamation recognizing USDA for installing the new LED luminaires and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Plants in the greenhouses, used for research by Agricultural Research Service scientists, also are growing faster and producing higher yields.

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.

Sometimes greenhouse gases can be traced to greenhouses—or at least to their lighting systems.

That’s why the Albany City Council recently recognized USDA with a proclamation for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by installing energy-efficient lighting in the USDA greenhouses at the Western Regional Research Center (WRRC) in Albany, California.  The greenhouses are used by scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and the retrofit advances the goals of the city’s 2010 Climate Change Action Plan because it reduces citywide electrical use and carbon emissions. Read more »

At a Washington Ranch, It’s for the Birds – and Elk

Nine Pine Ranch, a wetland easement near Chewelah, Washington, provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including yellow-headed black birds. NRCS photo.

Nine Pine Ranch, a wetland easement near Chewelah, Washington, provides habitat for a variety of wildlife including yellow-headed black birds. NRCS photo.

Most landowners would give up when faced with the challenges on Nine Pine Ranch near Chewelah, Washington, but not Glen Hafer. After trying for 40 years to farm his piece of land in the Colville River Valley, Hafer decided to convert it back to its original glory – wetlands.

Historically, the land in this valley flooded annually from the river, but settlers drained the area to farm. With no wetlands to hold water, flooding in the area worsened over time, making the land tough to farm.

When Hafer took the reins of his family’s land, he wanted to do something different. He was already – as he puts it – “semi-retired” and wanted to use his land to support his family. Read more »

Organic Cost Share Assistance Expands Opportunities for Farmers

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

Organic certification cost share programs puts organic certification within reach for farms of all sizes. It is of great value to organic farmers and supports the integrity of the organic label.

The cost of organic certification is becoming more affordable for many certified producers and handlers.  Thanks to support from the 2014 Farm Bill, cost share and assistance programs are available to organic producers and handlers through fiscal year 2018.

Cost share programs benefit certified producers and handlers across the organic supply chain, providing critical support to the organic community and rural America.  USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) administers these funds—which total almost $13 million this year—through grants to participating states. In 2012 alone, USDA issued nearly 10,000 reimbursements that totaled over $6.5 million. Read more »

Building Organic Partnerships: Sound and Sensible Certification Projects

Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA.  Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.

Amy's Organic Garden in Charles City, VA. Organic certification ensures the integrity of organic products around the world, and this initiative will make sure the process is accessible, attainable and affordable for all.

This is the seventeenth installment of the Organic 101 series that explores different aspects of the USDA organic regulations.

Making organic certification accessible, attainable, and affordable involves collaboration with many partners across the country and around the globe. To advance this work, USDA supports a diverse community of organic stakeholders.

Nonprofits, businesses, universities, state governments and other organizations lead a range of technical assistance, training, outreach and certification programs for organic farms and businesses.  These organizations provide the National Organic Program (NOP), part of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with valuable feedback about how to keep organic certification sound and sensible and how to meet the needs of new and transitioning organic farmers. To support their work, USDA is awarding project contracts to 13 organizations that will advance the NOP’s Sound and Sensible initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process. Read more »

Painting Utah Agriculture by the Numbers

Utah farms and ranches occupy 10.97 million acres of land and Utah farmers sold more than $1.8 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012. Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight.

Utah farms and ranches occupy 10.97 million acres of land and Utah farmers sold more than $1.8 billion worth of agricultural products in 2012. Check back next Thursday for another state spotlight.

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.

Utah agriculture is varied and prevalent across the state. The 2012 Census of Agriculture showed that our farms and ranches occupy 10.97 million acres of land, or more than a fifth of the total land in Utah.

In 2012, our state’s farmers sold more than $1.8 billion worth of agricultural products, with one-third in crop sales and two-thirds in livestock and poultry and their products. In contrast to sales, farm and ranch expenses totaled almost $1.6 billion with feed and labor being the two highest expenditures.  According to a survey done by Utah State University in 2012, when multiplier effects are included, agricultural processing and production account for $17.5 billion in total economic output in our state. Read more »