Deputy Under Secretary Ann Mills meets with producer Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. USDA photo.
Recently I traveled to California to meet with farmers who are coping with the state’s historic drought. This was my second trip to the Golden State in recent months to see first-hand how USDA’s disaster assistance and conservation programs are helping producers and rural communities, and to continue the conversation about how USDA and the federal government as a whole can support efforts to build long term resilience to drought.
My first visit was with Rick Martinez at his Triad Farm in Dixon, California. Rick practices land stewardship on the 4,000 acres he farms and through his leadership as a member of the area Resource Conservation District. While he doesn’t face the exact same set of water shortage pressures experienced by California’s Central Valley farmers, Rick recognizes that the state’s drought may well extend into the foreseeable future and has a long-term plan to build resilience for his operation. As he has done over the past several years, he continues to install drip irrigation in his tomato fields and is experimenting with drip irrigation for his alfalfa and corn crops. The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides cost share assistance for some of these investments – but Rick pays for 100 percent of other investments because it makes good business sense. He is able to reduce water use and input costs while increasing yields. Read more »
Left to right: Coach John Galbraith, with students Tyler Witkowski, Kyle Weber, Emily Salkind, Caitlin Hodges, Nancy Kammerer, Bianca Peixoto, Julia Gillespie, Brian Maule, and Coach Chris Baxter.
While many tuned in to watch the World Cup to see which team would become the globe’s soccer champs, others watched a competition of a different kind: one that named the earth’s best identifiers of slices of earth.
College students from the United States competed with teams from nine other countries to see who could best interpret soil. America took first and second in the inaugural International Soil Judging Contest. And American contest Tyler Witkowski also won second place overall of 45 contestants.
“Soil and land judging at the high school and college level is a baseline entry for young people to study the land and learn to read the landscape so that they can better manage and protect it,” said Maxine Levin, with the National Soil Survey Center of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service. NRCS is the United States’ premier private lands conservation agency, originally founded to conserve and map the nation’s soils. Levin helped prepare the contest and served as a judge. Read more »
Mike Liskey, right, refers to a site map while discussing ongoing conservation projects with Chase Milner, with the foundation, and Amy Roscher, with the Virginia Farming television program. NRCS photo.
Three out of every five Civil War battles were fought in Virginia, so it should come as no surprise that some of the work of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is taking place on hallowed ground. In Winchester, Va., the agency is partnering with the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation to protect historic and natural resources on part of the Third Winchester Battlefield.
The foundation has discovered that keeping these sites in agricultural use is an economical way to maintain them. They have worked with NRCS since 2009 to preserve and conserve Huntsberry Farm, a 209-acre farm where cattle still graze today.
NRCS District Conservationist Mike Liskey helped Chase Milner, the foundation’s manager of stewardship, with conservation planning to address their concerns about water quality and invasive species while protecting vital cultural resources. Read more »
A youngster relaxes on a piece of driftwood, watching the beautiful sunset over Lake Michigan. Photo by Tom Gill.
I have the Great Lakes in my blood. Born and raised on the shores of Lake Huron, my sisters and I spent countless summer days playing in the water and running along the beaches of soft singing sand.
The Au Sable River, a clear blue ribbon trout stream, empties into Lake Huron in Oscoda, Mich., my hometown. We canoed the river frequently, noticing eel-like lampreys undulate menacingly upstream in the water beneath our paddles.
We carefully maneuvered past sunken logs, remnants of the logging era, to avoid tipping and spilling into the water, imagining that this hideous creature with its huge circular, tooth-lined mouth would affix itself painfully, firmly and fatally onto our flesh! Read more »
For 70 years, children and adults have written to Smokey Bear, the U.S. Forest Service symbol for wildfire prevention. So many letters were sent in the 1960s that the U.S. Postal Service authorized a ZIP code – 20252 – just for Smokey. (U.S. Forest Service)
Smokey Bear, the iconic symbol of wildfire prevention for 70 years, is for many people a comforting symbol of a promise that everything will be okay. As long as we all work together, as one of Smokey’s young pen pals wrote recently.
“Dear Smokey: I would like to be a Junior Forest Ranger and help the big rangers. I promise to look after the forest and watch out for baddies making fires and damaging trees. Love Adam”
The letters come one-by-one or in neatly piled stacks, with carefully drawn portraits and hastily scrawled letters. They want to know if Smokey Bear is okay. They ask if he can write to them. They show compassion, knowing Smokey’s mother did not make it out of the fire. Read more »
A recent tree planting and habitat restoration service project at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge was part of activities to announce $6.7 million in grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands. From left, Erin Connelly, Forest Supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forest and Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands; Agnes Mukagasana a youth from Groundwork Denver; Daniel Jirón a regional forester with the U.S. Forest Service; and USDA Deputy Undersecretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer were part of the tree planting and habitat restoration service project. (U.S. Forest Service)
Agnes Mukagasana, an eager, next-generation youth involved in conservation, paused for a moment to adjust her hat in the afternoon Colorado sun and assess her well-honed tree-planting technique.
She learned her skills as an employee of Groundwork Denver, an organization dedicated to the sustained improvement of the physical environment through community-based partnerships including federal land management agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service.
Mukagasana and other area youth recently took part in a ceremony where the U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Interior joined representatives of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and several other partners at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. The ceremony announced $6.7 million in joint USDA, Department of Interior and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation grants to support conservation employment and mentoring opportunities for youth on public lands around the country as part of the President’s 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) Initiative. Read more »