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Category: Conservation

Georgia Farmers and Ranchers are Growing Opportunities through Community Partnerships

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED to bring information to rural Georgia.

Today, one-in-six Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and 90 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates are in rural America. These are also communities with high numbers of historically underserved groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Last year, McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the goal of improving delivery of NRCS programs to Georgia’s socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in USDA StrikeForce counties.  SEED is a grassroots, community-based organization with a mission to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural interests of the community while providing quality education, better housing, recreational facilities, business opportunities and environmental protection and restoration. Read more »

Strength in Our Numbers—Even Small Ones Thanking Farmers, Ranchers, and Veterans

Barn side flag in rural america.

Barn side flag in rural america.

 There’s always something to give thanks for at harvest time, but our gratitude shouldn’t be limited to this page of the calendar. Farmers, ranchers, and veterans come to mind as leaves become memories and daylight diminishes. This small portion of our population ensures that what we sometimes take for granted as plans for the holiday season unfold, is also available for all year round. 

     When you think about it, each time we lift a fork from our table, a farmer or rancher makes possible almost every morsel of food on the plate.  At night as we enjoy resting peacefully in the comfort of our homes, a member of our military is somewhere in harm’s way providing a blanket of security for our uninterrupted sleep. The men and women responsible for these gifts display the best of rural America’s cultural landscape. Read more »

Taking the Mystery Out of USDA Tools for Organic Agriculture

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

Getting people together to talk can result in great ideas. 

In June, USDA hosted 100 farmers, ranchers, retailers and producers in Chester, New York, in the Hudson Valley, to discuss opportunities and challenges in organic production, and to share information on USDA programs and services available to organic producers and processors.  

Wholesalers and retailers at the meeting all had a common challenge – keeping up with increasing market demands for organic food. Organic retail sales continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. In 2014, the market reached $39 billion in U.S. sales alone. That level of demand means a lot of opportunities for organic producers, as well as those in the process of transitioning to organic production. Read more »

New Handbook Highlights Resources for Conservation on Organic Farms

National Organic Farming Handbook cover

A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers. Read more »

New Farmers’ Legacy for the Land

Cameron Green standing among the tomatoes in the high tunnel

Cameron Green stands among the tomatoes in the high tunnel she operates with Eric Wittenbach.

Some people leave a legacy for their children. Cameron Green and Eric Wittenbach plan to leave theirs to Mother Nature. 

A philosophy of sustainability guides them on their eight-and-a-half-acre farm in Okanogan, Washington. Green and Wittenbach both come from a background of working the land; picking fruit in commercial cherry orchards, pruning and thinning threes, and growing vegetables in the Methow Valley for a local CSA. This has given them a close connection to nature, and when they bought their land eight years ago, their intentions were to make it as sustainable as possible. Read more »

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm. NRCS photo.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses. Read more »