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Posts tagged: Conservation Innovation Grants Program

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 »

The Sun Shines on an Illinois Farm as Secretary Vilsack Highlights Conservation Efforts

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Farmer Wayne Erickson, now 83, and his current tractor. (NRCS photo)

Our trip to the Erickson farm in Milan, Illinois involved a three hour drive through pouring rain. But once we arrived, the rain stopped and the sun made a partial appearance. Because we had about 40 partners, guests, and several media reps invited, I called it divine intervention.

Secretary Vilsack was here to announce the national Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) awardees, using a multi-generation Illinois farm as a fitting and picturesque backdrop. The family took the Secretary on a short driving tour to show all they’ve done to protect their 100 year-old farm. Read more »

Innovative Farmer Works with NRCS to Save Energy and Water

Roger Barton’s center pivot irrigation system is running on green renewable energy. The hydroturbine system was funded by a NRCS in Utah through a Conservation Innovation Grant.

Roger Barton’s center pivot irrigation system is running on green renewable energy. The hydroturbine system was funded by NRCS in Utah through a Conservation Innovation Grant. Photo credit Roger Barton.

Like other farmers in the West, Roger Barton must irrigate the alfalfa hay he raises for horse owners. And like many farmers, Barton has to be creative to make ends meet. He has an off-farm job to support his family and is always trying to think of ways to keep his farm costs down.

When diesel costs rose to $4.25 per gallon a couple of years ago, Barton came up with a new, non-diesel-powered way to power his center pivot irrigation system, which creates those crop circles you may have noticed when flying over rural America. (The center pivot also saves lots of water by spreading just the right amount evenly over the land.) Read more »

Bringing Back the Bees

Some bees are specialists that only pollinate certain plants. This squash bee works the Cucurbita crops—squash and pumpkins.  (Photo courtesy of Nancy Adamson and the Xerces Society)

Some bees are specialists that only pollinate certain plants. This squash bee works the Cucurbita crops—squash and pumpkins. (Photo courtesy of Nancy Adamson and the Xerces Society)

A recently awarded USDA Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) will fund research into bee-friendly seed mixes.

A partnership made up of the Xerces Society, University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agriculture Systems and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Wisconsin is working to develop and test seed mixes that will provide the best habitat for native bees. CIG-funded projects use innovative technologies and approaches to address natural resources issues. Read more »

“Salmon-Safe”Certification Promotes Conservation and Restoration

Watershine Woods uses a golf cart for transportation to different areas of her Yonder Farm, in Okanogan, WA.

Watershine Woods uses a golf cart for transportation to different areas of her Yonder Farm, in Okanogan, WA.

A Northwest nonprofit organization has been using Conservation Innovation Grants it was awarded in 2010 and 2011 by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to expand efforts to improve the health of the local salmon population. Read more »

Saving Energy Never Tasted So Sweet

Inventor Rejean Laverdiere loads wood into the Hurricane Force 5 evaporator.

Inventor Rejean Laverdiere loads wood into the Hurricane Force 5 evaporator.

The Maple Guys, a two-family agricultural business in New Hampshire, was recently awarded a Conservation Innovation Grant by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The Maple Guys produces and sells maple syrup and other maple products, as well as the equipment needed to make them. Read more »