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High Tunnel, Conservation Planning Help Local Food Mission

Kate Paul operates a community supported agricultural operation in Minnesota. NRCS photo.

Kate Paul operates a community supported agricultural operation in Minnesota. NRCS photo.

When Kate Paul was a girl in northern St. Louis County, Minn., she enjoyed working in the large family garden near her grandfather’s farm. She loved spending time amid the rows of plants, watching seeds germinate and become plants that provided delicious vegetables for her family.

When she left her hometown for college and graduate school, she was able to continue her passion for farming. While living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, she volunteered at a community supported agriculture operation (a CSA).

“I was inspired by the wherewithal of the family that worked the land,” she said. “I was also inspired by the network of community members who gained more than just healthy, fresh food from the farm but also gained a connection to the farm, the farmers and other farm members.” Read more »

Building Economic Opportunities in Alaska Native Villages through Rural Development and USDA’s StrikeForce For Rural Growth and Opportunity

(L – R) Jim Nordlund, State Director – Alaska RD and 90 year old Xenia Nikoli, a resident of the village of Kwethluk. Photo credit: Tasha Deardorff

(L – R) Jim Nordlund, State Director – Alaska RD and 90 year old Xenia Nikoli, a resident of the village of Kwethluk. Photo credit: Tasha Deardorff

When I traveled to Alaska with USDA StrikeForce National Coordinator Max Finberg last month, our eyes were opened to both the beauty of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta Region and the challenges of living in that landscape.  We were heartened to see firsthand that USDA’s investments are improving the lives and well-being of Village residents and their communities.  That support will be augmented by the expansion of USDA’s StrikeForce For Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative (StrikeForce) into the western and interior regions of Alaska.

The StrikeForce Initiative is part of USDA’s commitment to growing economies, increasing investments, and creating opportunities in rural communities facing extreme poverty. Ten southeastern Alaskan boroughs and areas joined the StrikeForce efforts in 2013.  This year, we expanded the number to eighteen to reach the northwest and interior of the state. Read more »

Why You Should Know the Name Norman Borlaug

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.

Most Americans have never heard the name Norman Borlaug—and that’s ironic, considering that he is hailed around the world as one of the greatest Americans ever.

Compared to storied politicians, creative industrialists, brilliant inventors, or military heroes, Borlaug’s accomplishments have never been the topic of discussion at the dinner table — he merely set the world’s table. But what a table. The simple Iowa farm boy is credited with saving a billion people around the world from starvation and malnutrition. Read more »

World Water Day: Reflecting on the Importance of Water to the World

I care deeply about conserving our land, soil and water and know that farmers are incredible stewards of the land. Prior to coming to USDA, I served as CEO of the National Association of Conservation Districts.  I know firsthand that improving water conservation requires innovative technologies and partnerships.

In honor of World Water Day, I spoke to the U.S. Water Partnership on the critical role conservation plays in agriculture. According to the 2012 National Intelligence Community Assessment, about 70 percent of the global fresh water supply is devoted to agriculture. USDA and its partners play an important role in ensuring that producers have the water resources necessary to produce the food, fuel and fiber needed by Americans and our trading partners around the world. It’s an important part of our mission. Read more »

Conservation Easement Enables Landowners to Restore Wetland, Help Protect Fish

Oregon landowner Dave Budeau said he dreamed of protecting wetlands. An NRCS-led conservation partnership helped Budeau restore and enhance these wetlands, providing habitat for native fish and birds. NRCS photo.

Oregon landowner Dave Budeau said he dreamed of protecting wetlands. An NRCS-led conservation partnership helped Budeau restore and enhance these wetlands, providing habitat for native fish and birds. NRCS photo.

Through conservation easements, people like Dave Budeau are able to protect and restore important landscapes, like wetlands, grasslands and farmlands.

Budeau wanted to restore and protect a wetland. When the wildlife biologist searched for a new home in 2003, his passion for wildlife and nature led him to purchase what may have seemed to some as an unfriendly plot of land for wildlife. But a conservation program helped him change that.

The recently passed 2014 Farm Bill continues to provide financial and technical assistance for farmers, ranchers and forest landowners wanting to put their land into easements. But rather than separate programs, the major easement programs offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service have been bundled into one – the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, or ACEP. One additional easement program, the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, remains separate. Read more »

A Wisconsin TV Crew Sees How Dairy Farmers May Soon Turn Manure into Money

U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab researcher John Hunt (front, right) shows panels made with manure to former USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left).  Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker, representatives from Noble Environmental Technologies, an agency partner, look on. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service Forest Products Lab researcher John Hunt (front, right) shows panels made with manure to former USDA Under Secretary Harris Sherman (front left). Jim Jensen and Caleb Walker, representatives from Noble Environmental Technologies, an agency partner, look on. (U.S. Forest Service)

A film crew from Discover Wisconsin, a television program showcasing the many treasures of the Badger State, recently visited the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Products Laboratory in Madison, Wis., as part of their America’s Dairyland series. This series takes a look at Wisconsin’s largest and most important industry.

So, what does this have to do with forest products? Read more »