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In Oregon, Finding the Lost River Whychus

A secret waterfall on the lost river Whychus

A secret waterfall on the lost river Whychus. Photo credit: USFS (Maret Pajutee)

Sisters is a dreamy mountain town in Central Oregon with almost everything you might want in a scenic hideaway. With snowy peaks and expansive forests, it is an ideal location for biking, hiking, or simply contemplating wide expanses of blue sky. But for many years Sisters was missing one crucial thing – we had lost our river.

For thousands of years, Native Americans followed a winding course of icy snowmelt into the high country of the Three Sisters Mountains that gave the town its name. The river was full of waterfalls and wild steelhead salmon. It provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. The river had several names, but in 1855, when Pacific Railroad Survey Engineers came through looking for a railroad route to the ocean, they recorded in their journals that the river was called “Whychus”. Read more »

Big Data for Small Producers – USDA Market News Now Covers 85 Farmers Markets

The Des Moines Farmers Market

As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. USDA Market News now captures data on over 85 farmers markets in the U.S. Pictured here is the Des Moines Farmers Market, which draws an average of 20,000 visitors a weekend. Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa Farmers Market.

Farmers markets are an important part of local and regional food systems.  Nationwide, 150,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers to meet the growing demand for local food.  Many sell their products at farmers markets, which can be a catalyst for future growth. 

According to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are over 8,400 farmers markets across the country serving as community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to their communities.  As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. Read more »

Through Conservation, an Iowa Farmer Keeps Water Clean Downstream

David Petersen at his farm

David Petersen uses a variety of conservation practices to prevent nutrients from washing off his dairy farm into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. NRCS photo.

David Petersen takes extra steps to ensure his dairy in southeast Iowa does not impact water quality downstream. Through voluntary conservation work, he prevents manure from washing off the dairy into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi rivers.

Majestic Manor, run by Peterson and his wife Amy, has been in the family for four generations. They milk about 120 Holstein dairy cows twice daily and also grow corn, alfalfa, oats, triticale and soybeans on about 320 acres. Petersen likes to refer to his operation as “closed-loop” where the soil feeds the crops, the crops feed the cattle, and the cattle feed the soil. “It is a benefit to everyone,” he says. Read more »

Urban Garden Tackles Hunger, Boosts Nutrition

Lee and Linda Marshall harvesting herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel

Lee and Linda Marshall harvest herbs in the church’s seasonal high tunnel (NRCS photo by Barbara Bowen).

One high tunnel can’t feed the world, but it can make a world of difference in providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those with limited access to healthy foods. These plastic covered structures use natural sunlight to create more favorable conditions for vegetables and specialty crops. And for the 31st Street Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., one high tunnel has given them a new identity as an urban farm and model for community agriculture.

The church’s senior pastor, Dr. Morris Henderson, began this new chapter in 2009 when he expanded their small garden to meet a growing need.  The local soup kitchen had closed and members of the congregation were bringing their own food to help the local poor and homeless. During this time, Vernon Heath, a small farm agent with Virginia State University, suggested the pastor contact the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to submit an application for a seasonal high tunnel. Read more »

Rural Community Development Spurs Growth

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.

Though many of us don’t see farmers every day, we certainly see and benefit from the products of their farms every day. Rural America makes many cameos in urban and suburban life, from the array of foods we eat to the sweaters our Olympic and sports champions wear and the batteries that power our cars. A recent White House blog states that although Rural America provides the vast majority of food and energy benefits for the rest of the country, too many Americans in rural areas are not sharing in the nation’s economic growth. Infrastructure development, technological advancement and school improvement can contribute significantly to rural and community development strategies that could spur economic growth. USDA is committed to spreading the Nation’s prosperity to rural areas, and has a long history of funding programs aimed at promoting rural America. Read more »

Arkansas Woman Graduates from Youth Loan to Become FSA’s 13,000th Microloan Recipient

Dakota Williams with cattle

Dakota Williams said raising cattle is her career. At age 18, she already has plenty of experience and within the next 10 years she hopes to own her own farm. Photo by Kim Whitten Photography.

At age 18, Dakota Williams knows exactly what she wants to do with her life — own a farm and raise cattle.

“[Farming] is all I’ve ever known. I’m a third generation farmer, working the same land as my grandparents and I don’t want to see it end,” said Dakota. A member of the Cherokee tribe, Dakota said her ancestors lived off the land and she wants to honor them in her work. “Not many people can say they live in an area where their ancestors came from and they are still trying to make that land better.”

Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to improve housing, better educational opportunities, improve infrastructure and create employment and business opportunities for Native American families, including veterans and youth. Read more »