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Posts tagged: Farmers

A Tool Helps Farmers, Conservationists Measure Cover Crop Economics

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

The cover crop tool is an Excel spreadsheet developed for easy use. Click to enlarge.

What happens when you get two energized agriculture economists together? Possibly one of the best economic tools out there for farmers using or considering cover crops. The Cover Crop Economics Decision Support Tool, an Excel spreadsheet, was created by two economists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service – Bryon Kirwan in Illinois and Lauren Cartwright in Missouri. The tool has taken off with great success, and the second version was released last fall.

“Where this tool has landed is not what we initially envisioned,” said Kirwan. “We wanted to build a tool valuable for producers and planners locally, and we have received many positive comments. Then it took off.” Read more »

Farmers Help Fight Food Waste by Donating Wholesome Food

Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions.  He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.

Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation farmer, grows 51 acres of onions. He donates excess onions that would otherwise go to waste to a food rescue organization and gets a reimbursement for his efforts.

Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm.  But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess?  Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it?  Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.

Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost.  The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer.  Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest.  City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982.  The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money. Read more »

Beginning Farmer Kick Starts Operation to Provide Local Produce Year-Round

Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.

Two years after starting Fresh Water Greens, Owner Regina Villari (left) along with her brother and Production Manager Joseph Villari, have fresh lettuces and herbs in 37 supermarkets throughout New Jersey.

It’s been two years since Regina Villari, of Sewell, N.J., stepped into unchartered territory. Her idea was so different that no one else in her New Jersey town was doing it.

“I was intrigued by the operation,” said Villari. “I always wanted to have my own business and I wanted to do something in the local community that could provide fresh, local produce all year round.”

That something turned out to be a hydroponic greenhouse. Hydroponics uses nutrient-rich water instead of soil to grow lettuce, herbs, tomatoes and other vegetables.  The greenhouse allows Villari to grow the crops year round, feeding thousands of people throughout the state. Read more »

Cover Crops: Agriculture’s Hero

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Testing can provide the vital information needed when deciding what cover crop seed to purchase. Pictured here is AMS Botanist Elizabeth Tatum identifying a weed seed. (AMS photo)

Cover crops are the real heroes in the world of agriculture. Their job starts after a field is harvested and ends just before the next season’s crop is planted. Expectations for cover crops are high because if they don’t produce, the next crop may suffer.

After crops are harvested each year, planting fields are left bare. Runoff from rainwater, wind, and other forms of erosion devastate planting fields by stripping essential nutrients from the soil – nutrients needed for the next growing season. In addition to the loss of vital nutrients, the exposed fields are prime real estate for noxious-weed seeds intent on stealing what is left of the field’s nutrients. Replacing the lost nutrients and removing the weedy invaders costs millions of dollars each year for farmers. Read more »

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Dr. Jewel Hairston

Dr. Jewel Hairston is Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU). As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders.

Dr. Jewel Hairston is Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University (VSU). As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders.

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are taking a moment to talk with prominent women in agriculture about their lives, their ideas about leadership, and how their day gets off to a good start.

Dr. Jewel Hairston is currently the Dean of the College of Agriculture at Virginia State University. As Dean, she leads in developing the strategic vision and plan for the college and develops and fosters partnership with other universities, as well as local, state and federal agencies and organizations across the state of Virginia to offer competitive educational programs to students and diverse stakeholders. Read more »

Catfish Continues to Swim to the Top of U.S. Aquaculture and Mississippi Agriculture

Catfish farming has helped Mississippi agriculture’s bottom line.  Check back next week as we spotlight another state and look at more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

Catfish farming has helped Mississippi agriculture’s bottom line. Check back next week as we spotlight another state and look at more information from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

Mississippi, commonly called the “Magnolia State”, has long been one of the most rural states in the United States. However, agriculture makes significant contributions to all of Mississippi’s 82 counties. Agriculture is a leading industry in Mississippi. According to the latest Census of Agriculture, our farmers generated $6.4 billion in market value of agricultural products sold in 2012, a 32 percent increase from the last census.

The census counted almost 11 million acres of farmland, down 5 percent from the 2007 Census. The average farm size increased to 287 acres, up 5 percent from 2007. The highest concentration of cropland is located in the Delta Area of the State. Read more »