Today, driving out to visit the Castillo farm in Plant City, Florida, Secretary Tom Vilsack and his staff took a moment to stop at a roadside stand selling a wide variety of local produce.
We we’re pleased to see that they accept SNAP benefits with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. And their boiled peanuts were delicious.
At the farm Secretary Vilsack had a great conversation with Fidel and Hilda Castillo. He learned how they have expanded their operation from just one acre to the more than 60 acres they farm today. The Secretary then went out into the cantaloupe field and checked out the irrigation system.
Up next, Secretary Vilsack will attend an event with agriculture leaders from across the state at the University of South Florida in Tampa to talk about the strength of Florida’s agricultural economy.
By Bobby Gravitz
Farmer’s Market near Plant City, Florida accepts SNAP benefits with an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card.
By Suzanne Pender, NRCS
On a tour of Gully Branch Tree Farm, in Bleckley, Georgia, NRCS leaders and partners witnessed first-hand the benefits of the new Forestry Incentives Initiative of the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Through conservation activities including woodland management, prescribed burning, cultivation of native plants, and pond management, Earl and Wanda Barr have created habitat for diverse wildlife species on their land.
The Barrs have been extensively recognized for their work and won the 2010 Georgia Governor’s Agriculture Stewardship Award. As foresters and committed conservationists, the Barrs have provided educational programs at their farm for over 7,000 students throughout the years, using the forest as a classroom.
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr. and partners from the local Soil and Water Conservation District, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the Wild Turkey Federation, and others toured the farm and saw conservation in action. Red cockaded woodpeckers followed our wagon in the early morning mist, as we viewed native plants as groundcover, a future silvopasture site, nesting habitat and wetland area.
At one moment in the middle of the forest, we all closed our eyes to fully appreciate the symphony of diverse bird songs. Their song of conservation was brought to life in one of the largest forestry states in the country. Forests are home to 900 species of wildlife and 3,600 species of plants filter water and air and provide thousands of products.
Foresters and Conservationists Earl and Wanda Barr take NRCS and conservation partners on a tour of Gully Branch Tree Farm, Georgia.
Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS Georgia State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr., and others including Alice Rolls, the Executive Director of Georgia Organics toured Whippoorwill Hollow Farm with certified organic farmer Andy Byrd. The group discussed the new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative successes and opportunities for improvement.
Andy Byrd owns and operates Whippoorwill Hollow Farm in Walton County Georgia, a Certified Organic farm that produces fruits, berries, vegetables, and free-range eggs for sale on-farm and at the Morningside and Decatur Farmers’ Markets. Mr. Byrd is a cooperator with the Walton County Soil and Water District and worked with NRCS for several years to plan and implement various conservation practices. He is also Georgia’s first agri-ability participant.
Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Mr. Byrd has received financial assistance to implement management type practices such as Cover Crop, Irrigation Water Management, and Pest Management.
A major natural resource concern of Whippoorwill Hollow Farm is the limited amount of available water for irrigation and livestock watering. The farm is located in a region of the State that does not have an ample amount of ground water for these purposes.
Mr. Byrd worked closely with NRCS to plan and design an irrigation system which included micro-irrigation, irrigation reservoirs, and livestock watering facilities to make his system highly efficient and gives him the ability to use every drop of water as affectively as possible without putting any undue stress on the ground water system. He was also able to obtain funding for these structural practices through Georgia’s EQIP Outreach program which emphasizes the traditionally underserved groups such as Beginning Farmers, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Limited Resource Farmers and Small Scale Farmers.
Andy Byrd, Whippoorwhill Hollow Organic Farms, Walton Country, Georgia gives federal and state USDA officials a tour of his farm.
Secretary Vilsack spoke this morning at the Future Farmers of America State Presidents’ meeting. He had the opportunity to meet with FFA’s national and state leaders, and took a few minutes to congratulate them on their election to leadership posts in an organization of more than 500,000 active members. Read more »