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Making Artisan Cheese, a Couple Preserves a Way of Life

Nancy Mims tests a batch of cheese. NRCS photo.

Nancy Mims tests a batch of cheese. NRCS photo.

John and Nancy Mims never imagined they would be running a dairy when they met at the University of Florida and married 40-some years ago.  He was going to be an architect and a pilot, and she was going to be a nurse.

They were going to move to the Caribbean. But then John was drafted.  After a six-year stint in the Navy, Nancy’s father died, and they went home to help her mother on the dairy where Nancy grew up. They ended up buying the dairy in 1980.

It is a lifestyle the two have grown to love and they have worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to protect their way of life. Read more »

Resuscitated Biorefinery Breathes New Life into Rural Ohio Community

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)

Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.

“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »

New Biogas Opportunities Roadmap is Part of Climate Change Solution, Emerging Biogas Industry Offers New Revenue Opportunities for America’s Farmers

Farmers have long understood the need to care for our air, land and water. They know that farms are more productive and efficient when they’re properly cared for. Protecting natural resources protects their bottom lines and may be able to improve them as well.

Farmers are always looking for ways to make a living and be good stewards of the land, which is why the emerging biogas industry is so important to rural America. Across the country, biogas systems that capture methane from farming operations and use it to generate renewable energy currently provide enough renewable energy to power the equivalent of almost 70,000 average American homes. Read more »

Veterans ‘Walk Off the War’ along the Pacific Crest Trail

(Left to right) Shawn White and Tom Bielecki, both U.S. Army veterans, and Kevin Black, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spent the Fourth of July weekend in Plumas County, California.  The three veterans are part of the 2014 Warrior Hike. While in Plumas County, they took part in the Mohawk Valley Independence Day celebration. The local Portola Rotary Club and employees from the Plumas National Forest supported the veterans during their stay. (U.S. Forest Service)

(Left to right) Shawn White and Tom Bielecki, both U.S. Army veterans, and Kevin Black, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, spent the Fourth of July weekend in Plumas County, California. The three veterans are part of the 2014 Warrior Hike. While in Plumas County, they took part in the Mohawk Valley Independence Day celebration. The local Portola Rotary Club and employees from the Plumas National Forest supported the veterans during their stay. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Army veterans Shawn White and Tom Bielecki, along with U.S. Marine Corps veteran Kevin Black, set off to hike the entire Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail on April 12 as part of the Warrior Hike’s Walk Off the War program.

Along the 2,650-mile journey, they will hike through 25 national forests.

They recently passed through Plumas National Forest and stopped in Plumas County, California, where they were welcomed by the local community and invited to participate in the Mohawk Valley Independence Day festivities. The warrior hikers attended all of the weekend’s festivities, including a special recognition ceremony honoring all veterans that followed the Independence Day parade, appropriately themed “Honoring Our Veterans.” Read more »

Community Combats Pollution in Inlet, Succeeds in Restoring Oyster Populations

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

The inlet once suffered from pollution. But the nearby community gathered together to improve water quality by preventing runoff of sediment and nutrients. Now, oysters thrive. NRCS photo.

Two years ago, the Nisqually Shellfish Farm south of Belfair, Wash. didn’t have a chance. Runoff from surrounding homes and dairy farms polluted Henderson Inlet, and the state declared the water unfit for raising shellfish for human consumption.

Worsening the problem, the place was overrun with an invasive species, the Japanese oyster drill, which feeds on and kills shellfish.

But water quality in the inlet, which flows into Puget Sound, is improving. Last year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) began working with a nearby tribe and shellfish producers to monitor and remove the Japanese oyster drill. Read more »

New USDA Methods Will Help Land Owners Manage Carbon and Greenhouse Gases

A new report issued today by USDA should help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions resulting in better soil and ultimately reduce greenhouse emissions.

A new report issued today by USDA should help farmers and ranchers make informed decisions resulting in better soil and ultimately reduce greenhouse emissions.

For the past 3 years, I have worked with a team of experts and scores of reviewers on a report published today, Quantifying Greenhouse Gas Fluxes in Agriculture and Forestry: Methods for Entity-Scale Inventory.

If you are a landowner, scientist, or conservationist looking for new tools to estimate carbon storage and greenhouse gas (GHG) fluxes, you will want to take a look at this report.  It provides the scientific basis and methodology to assess the GHG benefits of conservation practices and farm, ranch and forest management. This information will help producers gauge progress in building healthy, carbon-rich soils and, ultimately, more resilient production of food, fiber and fuel. Read more »