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Strawberry Fields Forever

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan tours Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch in Watsonville, Calif on May 18.

Last Friday I visited Watsonville, California.  As people know, I like to get outside the Beltway and visit with people to see how USDA programs are working.  My first stop was Driscoll’s Cassin Ranch, the site of the company’s plant breeding program.  We had a roundtable discussion about the many water management challenges faced in the Pajaro Valley watershed.  The Pajaro Valley aquifer, like too many others, is over-drafted and saltwater is intruding into the groundwater.  But action is being taken.  The Pajaro Valley Community Water Dialogue, a multi-stakeholder forum, is engaged in a series of managed aquifer recharge projects.  Not only does Driscoll’s participate in the Dialogue, but on its own, the company is also creating a new water monitoring process that is sure to improve irrigation efficiency amongst its growers.  Following our roundtable, I joined Carmela Beck (to my left) and others on a tour of the Bokariza recharge project.  Carmela is a member of the USDA National Organic Standards Board and is the manager of Driscoll’s national organic program. Read more »

On its 150th Anniversary, Indiana Honors USDA with a Proclamation

Indiana State Office staff members of Natural Resources Conservation Service, Farm Service Agency, Rural Development, and the Risk Management Agency gathered in Indianapolis earlier this week to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Department of Agriculture.

Following a luncheon, “Women in Agriculture and Natural Resources,” Indiana Lt. Governor Becky Skillman congratulated USDA attendees for their ongoing efforts and dedication to Indiana’s rural communities.  Additionally, Skillman presented a Proclamation from Governor Mitch Daniels which declared May 15, 2012, as “United States Department of Agriculture Day” in the State of Indiana. Read more »

City Girl Goes Organic in South Georgia with Help from USDA

After years of working in corporate America, Relinda Walker volunteered to be laid off to come home to Georgia and take over the family farm.

After years of working in corporate America, Relinda Walker volunteered to be laid off to come home to Georgia and take over the family farm.

Being first can have its advantages and disadvantages. Relinda Walker knows that all too well.

Walker’s Organic Farm was one of the first organic operations in South Georgia. It took root in 2005 during a time when eating organic was for foodies and white table cloth chefs. Read more »

A Year after Devastating Floods, the Missouri River Corridor is ‘‘Open for Business’’

How does a community, business owner, tourist attraction, farmer, homeowner go on after the disastrous 2011 Missouri River flood?  At a news conference on May 17, the message was clear: it took determination, community strength and perseverance. With great pride, communities and businesses announced that the Missouri River “MINK” Corridor is “Open for Business”.

The news conference was hosted by a coalition of communities and organizations in the states of Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas (MINK).  The members are in counties two deep on either side of the river. MINK knows no borders crossing county and state lines, and is helping each other in community development efforts. The genesis for MINK was a Midwest meeting in Madison, Wis. in May, 2010, hosted by the Partnership for Rural America through an agreement with USDA Rural Development. Read more »

U.S. Agricultural Statistics – A History – and New Historical Timeline

Report cover from the Division of Statistics, 1863

Report cover from the Division of Statistics, 1863

U.S. interest in dependable agricultural statistics can be traced back to the very foundation of our country. George Washington was the first U.S. President to realize the need for reliable answers to questions like: How much grain can the United States export? How much does farmland cost to buy or lease? In his 1796 State of the Union speech, President Washington proposed a “Board of Agriculture” to find the answers to these questions. Read more »

Two Hundred and Fifty Feet up with Only a Rope to Get Down

Pacific Northwest Rappel Academy students practice their trade. US Forest Service photo.

Pacific Northwest Rappel Academy students practice their trade. US Forest Service photo.

Rappellers are firefighters who are delivered to remote and inaccessible wildfires by means of dropping down a rope from helicopters hovering 250 feet high.

Earlier this month over 50 veteran Forest Service rappellers throughout the West prepared for a new fire season with training and recertification classes in Oregon and Idaho. Read more »