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Category: Conservation

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 »

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 »

Minnesota Farm Uses Conservation to Make Each Acre Count

Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm

Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm

When studying abroad in France and Spain, Sarah Woutat developed a love for organic farming after working on farms in both countries. The love was so strong, she retired from her New York City life working for an environmental publishing business and returned to farming.

After an apprenticeship at Fort Hill Farm in Connecticut, she returned home to her native state of Minnesota to run Uproot Farm.

Uproot Farm is a small vegetable farm just one hour north of the Twin Cities. This farm turns a profit on just five acres. The farm sells community supported agriculture, or CSA, shares to people in nearby Cambridge, Minn. as well as Minneapolis. When a person buys into a CSA, they’re guaranteed a certain amount of the farm’s harvest and the farm receives financial support up front. Read more »

Wetland Provides Sanctuary for People, Wildlife

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.

About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.

But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.

In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »

Young Farmers Build a Network to Grow Connecticut’s Farming Future

This committee planned the “Build Your Network, Grow Our Future.”

This committee planned the “Build Your Network, Grow Our Future.”

Getting the younger generation interested in farming is important for the future of American agriculture, and a recent event in Connecticut served as an education and network opportunity for beginning farmers.

The “Build Your Network, Grow Our Future” event held last month in East Windsor, Conn. attracted about 60 people to share resources and learn.

The purpose of the event was to help people new to the world of agriculture meet, make contacts, compare notes, give advice and inform others of services. Read more »