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Category: New and Beginning Farmers

RMA Serves Veterans Year-Round Through Risk Education

Risk Management Education workshops help veteran, women, minority and other farmers learn strategies to successfully manage risk for their operations.

Risk Management Education workshops help veteran, women, minority and other farmers learn strategies to successfully manage risk for their operations.

For some Americans, Veterans Day is the time that their thoughts turn to the men and women who have served in our Nation’s military.

But at the USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA), we’re always thinking about the welfare of our nation’s military veterans and the rural communities in which some 5 million of them live. Read more »

Advocacy and Outreach – Keys to Success in Serving Farmers, Ranchers and the Future of Agriculture in Underserved Communities

Ribbon Cutting for the Socially Disadvantage Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University

Ribbon Cutting for the Socially Disadvantage Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University

Day in, day out, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) brings programs to many farmers and ranchers as well as opportunities to students. As I meet with farmers, ranchers and USDA interns, a sense of great appreciation and anticipation wells up for the future of agriculture. One of the USDA offices that serves these farmers and students is the Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO). OAO staff connect with farmers, community organizers, veterans, educators and students to bring opportunities and services.

OAO works with community-based organizations to ensure access to USDA programs and services for underserved and limited-resource communities and farmers. A major program is the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the 2501 Program).  Forty-five projects from organizations representing 25 States were awarded $8.8 million in 2016. This included a second year of $400,000 for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University. Read more »

USDA Helps Iraqi War Veteran Enhance Conservation On Farm

Adam Boge shows the height of the elevated ridges on his cropland and corn residue, key elements in his ridge till system to manage soil erosion and improve soil health.

Adam Boge shows the height of the elevated ridges on his cropland and corn residue, key elements in his ridge till system to manage soil erosion and improve soil health.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping Iraq War veteran Adam Boge improve technology and other efficiencies in his new farming operation, allowing the Ventura farmer to prepare for long-term success in the first full year on his own.

Boge enlisted in the Army directly out of high school. After his initial military service, he attended Iowa State University for Ag Systems Technology and Mechanical Engineering. College was interrupted, however, by his Iraq deployment. Boge represented the Army National Guard’s 1133rd Transportation Company out of Mason City for 15 months throughout 2003 and 2004 in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Read more »

Growing Farmers

Suraj Budathoki

Suraj Budathoki grew up farming next to a Bhutanese refugee camp. MFA’s Farmer Training Program helped him to pursue his passion for sustainable farming in MN. Photo by Laura Hedeen, employee at Minnesota Food Association.

Fresh. Local. Honest. This motto underscores the guiding philosophy of the Minnesota Food Association (MFA). To achieve its goals of promoting healthy food and regenerative agriculture, the MFA offers workshops for farmers and helps immigrants learn how to farm sustainably in local conditions.

The MFA manages Big River Farms, a 150-acre certified-organic teaching farm. Farmers can enroll in a three-year training program, during which they’re taught about local soils and growing conditions, trained in organic certification and farming methods, and provided a large plot of land to manage. Many of the farmers are immigrants and refugees.

“I thought America was all cities and buildings. I didn’t picture the farmland,” said Suraj Budathoki, a Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. He is a recent graduate of Big River Farms. Read more »

Military Experience Opens Door for Soldier to Return to the Farm

Veteran Tracy Robinson

Veteran Tracy Robinson’s military experience counted toward farming experience, allowing him to access USDA microloan funding.

Graduating from high school in the small town of Blakely, Georgia, Tracy Robinson was required to take an armed forces aptitude test. When asked what he wanted to do with his life, Robinson said he wanted to farm. The Marine recruiter told him he would be a great field artilleryman.

“I heard the word field and thought it had something to do with farming,” said Robinson. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and after finding out field artillery had nothing to do with farming he stayed and fought for his country for 24 years, serving in Desert Shield, Afghanistan and Iraq. Read more »

NRCS Helps Young Iowa Farmer Plan New Grazing System

Ryan Collins (center) with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell

Ryan Collins (center) stopped to meet with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell June 1 at his farm near Harpers Ferry. Photo: Jason Johnson.

When Iowa livestock producer Ryan Collins bought his 170-acre farm near Harpers Ferry, he knew from experience with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that the agency could help him plan a rotational grazing system.

A rotational grazing system—also known as prescribed grazing—divides pastures into four or more small paddocks with fencing. The animals move from paddock to paddock on a schedule based on the availability of forage and the livestock’s nutritional needs.

Collins says he has a lot more grass available than before. “I attribute it to the rotational grazing,” he said. “I like to have plenty of grass. The cows and calves both do, as well.” Read more »