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Posts tagged: Conservation Innovation Grant

Agricultural Lands Key to a Healthy Chesapeake Bay

A farmer with a NRCS employee

To improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, farmers and forest landowners are using conservation systems that reduce nutrient and sediment runoff.

A vibrant and healthy agriculture sector is a critical component of restoring and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and I’m proud of the steps that our Bay-area agricultural producers are taking to protect this national treasure. Agricultural producers have implemented nearly $1 billion worth of conservation practices on 3.6 million acres – an area three times the size of Delaware – since 2009 with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

From coastal communities in Virginia and Maryland to the hills of West Virginia and Pennsylvania, farmers and forest landowners are voluntarily making conservation improvements to their land that reduce erosion, manage nutrients and protect stream corridors – all contributing to cleaner water downstream. We celebrated the accomplishments of producers today at Y Worry Farm in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, bringing together producers, agricultural groups, non-government organizations and others to celebrate these investments in cleaner water. 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 »

Cleaner Air through Cleaner Burning

Cindy Collins in Oregon's Hood River Valley

Cindy Collins (pictured) and about 20 other growers in Oregon’s Hood River Valley use an environmentally-friendly ‘burn box’ to eliminate pruned and diseased wood from their orchards.

“The burn box lets us burn during the summer months, when normally there’s a ban. It’s a useful tool. It burns really clean.” — Cindy Collins

See more photos from the Hood River Air Quality Project on Flickr.

When Cindy Collins wakes up in Oregon and looks out at her 46-acre orchard—with Mt. Adams towering in the background—she feels like she’s at summer camp. Read more »

A High Five for Innovative Conservation Projects

“The Conservation Innovation Grant program has an impressive track record of fostering innovative conservation tools and strategies,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack as he announced $20 million in new funding for the program. “Successes in the program can translate into new opportunities for historically underserved landowners, help resolve pressing water conservation challenges and leverage new investments in conservation partnerships with farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders.”

Conservation Innovation Grants (CIG) fosters innovation in conservation tools and strategies to improve things like on-farm energy and fertilizer use as well as market-based strategies to improve water quality or mitigate climate change. Last year CIG began supporting the burgeoning field of conservation finance and impact investing to attract more private dollars to science-based solutions to benefit both producers and the environment. Read more »

Bioreactors Form a Last Line of Defense against Nitrate Runoff

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management (DWM). Image by John Peterson.

Illustration of how a denitrifying bioreactor fits in with drainage water management

NOTE: This year, we’ll be highlighting some of 2015’s conservation practice innovations in a monthly series. NRCS supports science-based conservation by offering technical and financial assistance for nearly 170 conservation practice standards. As conservation science and technology advances, NRCS reevaluates each standard every five years and incorporates new advancements into conservation practice standards.

Walk to the edge of certain crop fields in Iowa and look down. You might not notice anything unusual, but just beneath the surface hordes of woodchip-dwelling microorganisms are busy removing excess nitrates from water before it leaves the field. By filtering nitrates, this organic gauntlet safeguards local streams and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico. Read more »

Silvopasture: Adding a Little Forest to the Farm

Hezekiah Gibson

Hezekiah and Francis Gibson’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA works with NRCS staff to help other small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources.

Lifelong farmer Hezekiah Gibson, and his wife Frances, farm 1,200 acres in Manning, South Carolina. They have been working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for years to improve conservation on their farm.

In 2013, the couple’s non-profit organization, United Farmers USA―dedicated to helping small farmers succeed through a wide range of outreach and technical assistance, educational programs and resources―received an NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG). These grants help NRCS support public and private entities to accelerate technology transfer and adoption of promising technologies and approaches to address some of the Nation’s most pressing natural resource concerns. Read more »