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Posts tagged: Farmers

Virginia Is for Lovers – and Silvopasture

Fields-Johnson rotating his goats and sheep through the thinned stands

Fields-Johnson rotates his goats and sheep through the thinned stands to browse on honeysuckle and other understory vegetation. (Photo courtesy of Tom Ward and Colleen Rossier)

Throughout his life, Chris Fields-Johnson has been keenly aware of the need to preserve the natural landscapes, which provide us with clean air to breathe, water to drink and food to eat. As a graduate student of soil science at Virginia State and Polytechnic University, a forestry undergraduate, a student of Tom Brown, Jr.’s Tracker School and a former employee of the Virginia Department of Forestry, he also knows much of the science behind soil restoration and forestry. These experiences have given him a strong desire to turn his knowledge into action by managing land in the most beneficial way possible.

To make this dream a reality, he began converting a 250-acre loblolly pine plantation in Scottsville, Virginia., into a goat and sheep silvopasture system that resembles a pine savanna landscape. Silvopasture combines trees with forage and livestock production. The trees are managed for high-value sawlogs and, at the same time, provide shade and shelter for livestock and forage, reducing livestock stress and sometimes improving forage quality. Fields-Johnson and friends have spent many weekends thinning and pruning trees by hand, conducting controlled burns, fighting invasive plants and experimenting with forage establishment while they also learn how to raise goats and sheep. Read more »

A Special Invitation from Deputy Secretary to Join a Google+ Hangout on Veteran Farmers

A man holding plant seedlings with the USA flag behind him

Helping our Returning Heroes find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Tune in live on Thursday, September 17, 11AM ET at

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring Service members and launch an expanded collaboration between USDA and the Department of Defense at a Transition Assistance Program class hosted at the Pentagon. This collaboration will integrate agriculture into the career training and counseling programs Service members receive as they transition out of the military. Information about USDA resources and programs will now reach 200,000 transitioning Service members every year.

It’s exciting to see veterans — many of whom come from rural communities — drawn back to the land, and USDA is here to provide support for military veterans and their families, from nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and homeownership opportunities. In conjunction with Monday’s announcement, USDA also launched a new website, This site is specifically designed to educate veterans about USDA programs and the support available for all active duty military and veterans. Read more »

Montana Soil Conservationist, Organic Farmer Work Together to Reach Conservation Goals

Ben Ferencz and Julie Pavlock of Foothills Farm in St. Ignatius, Montana with their hoop house in background

Ben Ferencz and Julie Pavlock of Foothills Farm in St. Ignatius, Montana discuss working with NRCS. Their hoop house is in the background. Photo credit: Suzanne Pender

When I learned that the “This American Land” public television series was headed to Montana, I knew this would be a great opportunity to highlight organic producers and the work USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is doing to increase conservation across the state. I’ve been working for NRCS for 10 years and in the Ronan, Montana, field office since 2010. Since transferring to Ronan, I’ve devoted much of my time to providing technical and financial assistance to beginning farmers in the area – especially landowners who are engaged or interested in diversified organic vegetable production for local markets. 

Building lasting relationships goes hand-in-hand with getting conservation on the ground. So, when Ben Ferencz and Julie Pavlock of Foothills Farm in St. Ignatius were interested in expanding their farm, they reached out to me about available NRCS programs. Read more »

Helping our Returning Heroes Find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout!

A man holding plant seedlings with the USA flag behind him

Helping our Returning Heroes find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Tune in live on Thursday, September 17, 11AM ET at

On Thursday, September 17, at 11 a.m. Eastern, Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden will sit down with a panel of veteran farmers and veteran training organizations for a live Google+ Hangout to discuss opportunities available through USDA for returning service members who are looking for long-term careers in farming, ranching and agriculture. Use the USDA Google+ page or to join us.

If you are a military veteran living in rural America, you are not alone. Today, more than five million veterans live in rural areas, a higher concentration than in any other part of the country. Many veterans show interest in agriculture because they feel that working on the land helps them successfully transition to civilian life and provides them with a way to continue serving their community. As part of the beginning farmer community, many veterans are eligible for a wide variety of USDA programs and resources that include access to capital through our beginning farmer loan program, farm ownership loans or microloans. Read more »

Conserving Water, Soil and Habitat on Private Lands

Two men looking at plans on a truck in front of farmland

NRCS works with private landowners to develop conservation plans that benefit the environment and farm productivity.

For 80 years, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has worked with agricultural producers to make conservation improvements to their farms, ranches and forests. These improvements help clean and conserve water, boost soil quality and restore habitat, and also make their agricultural operations more resilient.

Born amid the Dust Bowl, when persistent drought and dust storms swept through the nation, NRCS worked with stewardship-minded producers to heal the land. That work continues today, as producers voluntarily step forward to conserve natural resources, having tremendous positive impacts across the country. Read more »

USDA: Leading the Way Towards Preserving and Restoring Our Water, Soil and Lands

A man canoeing on Little Bear Brook Pond

Across our 175 national forests and grasslands, we provide American people and visitors from across the world opportunities for both adventure and solitude.

Conservation of our nation’s natural resources is at the heart of USDA’s mission.  Our work on public and private lands supports clean air, clean water, and thriving wildlife habitat.  These conservation efforts strengthen rural economies by providing farmers and ranchers the resources they need to thrive and feed our nation. And this conservation allows us to support gateway communities and a robust recreation economy.  

USDA’s management of our national forests and our support for farmers’ and ranchers’ stewardship of private working lands helps us meet our moral obligation to the next generation to leave our land, water, and wildlife better than we found it. Read more »