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Working Together to Preserve Soil, Water

At Monty Collins’ cattle operation near Pleasantville, a rotational grazing system helps protect soil and water quality. A few miles away near Prairie City, Gordon Wassenaar has used no-till farming and a precision sprayer for years to minimize pesticide use and runoff from his soybean fields. We visited both of these Iowa farmers last week, to discuss the collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and farmers, ranchers and growers all across America.

American farmers are among our nation’s first and finest conservationists. They understand better than anyone that clean water, clear air and healthy soil are the raw materials for agricultural production. From generations of experience, they know that you cannot continually take from the soil without giving back, and they have made incredible strides to protect the land they rely on. Read more »

Tin Town Arizona Residents Celebrate Earth Day by Trading Cesspools for a Safe Water System

The Bisbee, Arizona Fire Station #81 was brimming with “officials”—the mayor, city council members, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ staff representative, and the acting state director for USDA Rural Development—but the attention was all on the rest of the crowd. Most of the residents of Tin Town, a small Colonia within Bisbee, Arizona, were sitting in the audience among the officials and they rocked!

Tin Town residents had been waiting a long time for this day. USDA Rural Development (RD) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are jointly funding a $1.4 million wastewater collection system to connect the people of Tin Town to the Bisbee wastewater facility. Currently, the residents rely on failing septic systems and cesspools, a health risk for the residents and the environment they share with the rest of the area. Read more »

Colorado Students Celebrate the International Year of Forests by Planting Trees

Students from Rockrimmon Elementry School dance with Forest Supervisor during Kids4Trees event on Pike National Forest

Students from Rockrimmon Elementry School dance with Forest Supervisor during Kids4Trees event on Pike National Forest

Cross posted from the Let’s Move! blog:

More than 1,200 students, teachers and Scouts recently planted 4,500 trees at the Monument Fire Center on the Pike National Forest in Celebration of the International Year of Forests and as part of an ongoing restoration project in the area. The event brought elementary school students from Rockrimmon and Discovery Canyon Campus schools in Colorado Springs, Colo., to learn about forests, the role of fire in the ecosystem and how forests protect water. Another 1,500 trees were planted by Boy and Girl Scouts from the area. Read more »

A “Greener” Earth Begins With You and Me

Local leaders are keeping the spirit of Earth Day alive and well in rural South Dakota.  On Monday April 18, 2011, USDA, Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager announced 51 water and waste disposal and two Community Facilities projects funded as part of Earth Day 2011.  I had the privilege of spending several days in South Dakota during that week to celebrate Earth Day and highlight the efforts of rural communities who are improving the quality of life for their residents and working towards efforts to protect the environment for future generations.

In the City of Sturgis, 105 second and fifth graders celebrated Earth Day alongside local leaders outside of the Sturgis Elementary School.  The City highlighted upcoming improvements to their water system, made possible through a loan and grant from USDA Rural Development.  Students, USDA officials and the mayor shared their thoughts on why taking care of the community and the environment is an important activity for everyone at every age. Read more »

The Recovery Act Strengthened Food Security for Low-Income Families

Young mother with baby selects items in produce aisle of grocery store.

Young mother with baby selects items in produce aisle of grocery store.

Much of my work as a sociologist at the Economic Research Service (ERS) involves research on the food security of U.S. households – their ability to consistently obtain adequate food. My colleagues and I were naturally concerned about how the economic downturn that began in late 2007 would affect the food security of economically vulnerable households. It was no surprise that from 2007 to the end of 2008, households’ food insecurity increased in tandem with rising unemployment. Read more »

Organic Farm Provides a Model for New Mexico

Wildlife habitat improvements on the Rio Grande Community Farm.

Wildlife habitat improvements on the Rio Grande Community Farm.

Minor Morgan has promoted organic farming for decades. And since the early 1990s, Morgan, executive director of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Community Farm, has been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to develop a farming process that is economically and environmentally sustainable. Through its innovative use of well and surface water to support a certified organic drip irrigation system year-round, the Rio Grande Community Farm stands alone in the state as a model for sustainable farming. Read more »