At USDA this month, we’re taking some time to focus on the work of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to conserve our planet and our resources for the future. They know, like we do, that cleaner air, water, soil and habitat are not only good for our planet, but also contribute to healthy and productive working farmlands.
At USDA we have a wide range of tools and support available to help farmers voluntarily implement conservation practices to improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. Since 2009, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has provided more than $4 billion in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. And this year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls. Read more »
Ballerina Megan Stearns dances the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project.
Vermont’s agricultural history will soon be enriched as a new Farm to Ballet project aims to celebrate the state’s farming culture and expose a new audience to the beauty of classical ballet. The endeavor is the brainchild of former professional dancer and Vermont native Chatch Pregger. His farm-based ballet tells the story of a Vermont farming operation from spring to fall.
The fertile soils of Vermont’s pastoral farmland will provide the ‘stage’ for the dancers. “Now that I’ve seen the dancers, in a farm environment, I realize this is how I’ve always wanted to see ballet–in this setting. In its grittiness, its reality–on nature’s perfect stage,” he explained. Farm to Ballet will be presented seven times throughout August at a variety of farming operations. The performances are not financially supported by USDA, so the Farm to Ballet project initiated a fund raising campaign to cover the cost of costumes, props and sets, and many of the shows serve as fundraisers to support and honor the work of Vermont’s farmers and the local food movement. Read more »
David Petersen uses a variety of conservation practices to prevent nutrients from washing off his dairy farm into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi Rivers. NRCS photo.
David Petersen takes extra steps to ensure his dairy in southeast Iowa does not impact water quality downstream. Through voluntary conservation work, he prevents manure from washing off the dairy into the nearby Cedar, Iowa and Mississippi rivers.
Majestic Manor, run by Peterson and his wife Amy, has been in the family for four generations. They milk about 120 Holstein dairy cows twice daily and also grow corn, alfalfa, oats, triticale and soybeans on about 320 acres. Petersen likes to refer to his operation as “closed-loop” where the soil feeds the crops, the crops feed the cattle, and the cattle feed the soil. “It is a benefit to everyone,” he says. Read more »
NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »
Christian Hagen, science adviser for LPCI, and Bill Barby (right), a Kansas rancher, monitor growth of sand bluestem and other native grasses on his 4,000-acre ranch. NRCS photo.
By Sandra Murphy, Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) works with ranchers and partners to improve habitat for lesser prairie-chicken through the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI). Focusing on privately-owned lands, the initiative covers five western states. About 95 percent of lesser prairie-chicken habitat is located on private lands. Sandra Murphy is communications specialist for LPCI, a partnership led by NRCS. — Justin Fritscher, NRCS
On a late April morning in southwest Kansas, sand bluestem sways over rancher Bill Barby’s head. A medley of other native grasses — little bluestem, sand lovegrass, and prairie sandreed, and more — fill the pasture around him, providing food for his cattle as well as habitat for the lesser prairie-chicken, a threatened species. Read more »
The Rosmann’s have a retail store on the farm where they sell a wide variety of goods to visiting consumers. NRCS photo.
In many respects, Ron and Maria Vakulskas Rosmann’s “Farm Sweet Farm” is a typical Iowa farm. The Rosmann’s grow corn, soybeans, cattle and hogs.
But that’s where the similarities with traditional farming operations end. A certified organic producer since 1994, the 700-acre farm near Harlan, Iowa is home to a remarkable amount of diversity — above and below the ground.
“Last year, we planted 26 different species of seeds, and this is typical,” Ron said. Read more »