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Posts tagged: Conservation

Experimental Farming in the Name of Soil Health: Steve Siverling’s Story

Steve Siverling

Steve Siverling narrates his journey in soil health.

NRCS thanks Steve for sharing his firsthand successes with cover crops. Our goal is to share ideas on how to implement soil health principles and cover crops on your farm. Steve Siverling has seen many benefits on his farm through the use of cover crops including increased soil structure and organic matter, less soil compaction and erosion, improved water holding capacity in the soil, improved quality of crop test weights and protein, less purchased fertilizer inputs, potential grazing during fall and spring, increased wildlife habitat, weed suppression, and breaks in pest cycles. “Steve is an active member of our NRCS farmer network with cover crops in Chippewa County and has done a great job networking with other farmers and helping NRCS advance the soil health movement one farm at a time,” said Tammy Lindsay, Chippewa County District Conservationist.

My name is Steve Siverling, and I plant corn, soybeans and a few small grains on 350 acres in northern Wisconsin.  But what I am growing is soil health; I am a biological farmer.

I began my soil health journey and evolution to a biological farmer 20 years ago when I purchased 80 acres near my farm. The soil pH was low, around 5.5, and there was less than one percent organic matter. I couldn’t make immediate improvements to the land that would allow me to plant a crop that could tolerate those conditions, but I had to try something. Read more »

Meet Connecticut Earth Team Volunteer: Misha Rosado

NRCS Earth Team Volunteer Misha Rosado

Misha Rosado’s superior skills in math, knowledge of surveying with the use of a transit and laser level, and her preference for working with adults has made her the quintessential engineering assistant.

At 5’1”, Misha Rosado is a tiny, 16-year-old powerhouse whose least favorite thing is to sit around with nothing to do. So, in addition to school and a part-time job, she donates 60-80 hours each year as an Earth Team Volunteer for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

You may wonder how this bright and very funny teen—whose interests include gymnastics and playing the flute—got involved in the agency. To her, the NRCS staff in Connecticut are like family. They practically are, seeing as how her dad has worked there for 32 years. Read more »

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by Supporting Local Producers

Gene Thornton with his produce at Ag Heritage Park

Gene Thornton is a sixth-generation farmer who sells fresh, organic produce at The Market at Ag Heritage Park each week during market season.

It’s a simple sign that has a pretty easy request, “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.”

It’s one that Gene Thornton hangs at his market stand each week at The Market at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus in Alabama. During market season, the sixth-generation farmer travels more than 40 miles from his small, organic farm in Roanoke to Auburn each week of market season. But he says the drive from Sneaky Crow Farm is worth it. Read more »

Report: Maintaining Sagebrush-Covered Landscapes Keeps Water on the Land for Ranchers and Wildlife

Sage grouse

Sage grouse are the iconic species of the West’s sagebrush sea. Photo by Tim Griffiths, NRCS.

Removing invading conifer trees improves the health of sagebrush ecosystems, providing better habitat for wildlife and better forage for livestock. And now, new science shows these efforts may also help improve late-season water availability, which is crucial for ecosystems in the arid West.

According to the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI)’s newest Science to Solutions report – which summarized research from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) – a sagebrush-dominated watershed holds water in snow drifts an average of nine days longer than one dominated by juniper trees. Read more »

EPA and USDA Pledge Actions to Support America’s Growing Water Quality Trading Markets

Cross-posted from the EPA Connect blog:

In September of 2015, EPA and USDA sponsored a three-day national workshop at the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute in Lincoln, Nebraska that brought together more than 200 experts and leaders representing the agricultural community, utilities, environmental NGOs, private investors, states, cities, and tribes to discuss how to expand the country’s small but growing water quality trading markets. Recently we released a report that summarizes the workshop’s key discussions and outlines new actions that we and others will take to further promote the use of market-based tools to advance water quality improvements.

Over the last decade, states and others have discovered that they can meet their water quality improvement goals through lower costs and greater flexibility by using a voluntary water quality trading program. Trading is based on the fact that sources in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs (like a wastewater treatment plant or a municipality with a stormwater permit) to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing lower cost environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions (or credits) from another source, including farms that use conservation practices to efficiently reduce the movement of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from their fields into local waterways. For example, Virginia’s nutrient trading program to offset stormwater phosphorous loads from new development has saved the Commonwealth more than $1 million in meeting state water quality goals while providing economic incentives to local agricultural producers to reduce soil erosion and runoff. Read more »

NRCS Helps Young Iowa Farmer Plan New Grazing System

Ryan Collins (center) with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell

Ryan Collins (center) stopped to meet with NRCS District Conservationist LuAnn Rolling (right) and Iowa NRCS State Public Affairs Specialist Laura Crowell June 1 at his farm near Harpers Ferry. Photo: Jason Johnson.

When Iowa livestock producer Ryan Collins bought his 170-acre farm near Harpers Ferry, he knew from experience with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that the agency could help him plan a rotational grazing system.

A rotational grazing system—also known as prescribed grazing—divides pastures into four or more small paddocks with fencing. The animals move from paddock to paddock on a schedule based on the availability of forage and the livestock’s nutritional needs.

Collins says he has a lot more grass available than before. “I attribute it to the rotational grazing,” he said. “I like to have plenty of grass. The cows and calves both do, as well.” Read more »