Soils protected from the impact of intense rainstorms by a layer of mulch between rows of lettuce growing at Harvest Valley Farm in Valencia, PA. Photo credit: Franklin Egan, Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) Director of Educational Programs, a USDA partner
The Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) sponsored a field day on June 2 to talk about growing vegetables in a changing climate. The discussion focused on climate change, its impacts on the farming system, and strategies to effectively adapt through increasing biodiversity on the farm.
PASA’s Director of Educational Programs, Franklin Egan, provided an overview of climate change trends and projections. Dave King and others who farm 160 acres of vegetables and small fruit all sold within 25 miles of the farm, talked about their challenges and sustainable farming practices. Among them, high tunnel beds have more aphids and pill bugs in the winter, downy mildew appears earlier in the summer, weeds are not any easier to manage especially without degrading soil health, irrigation costs are rising, and deer pressure rises during droughts. Practices being continuously adapted to respond to changing conditions include a highly diversified crop production system, use of beneficial insects, crop rotations, cover cropping, and rye straw mulch. Read more »
Farmers Scott and Susan Hill in front of their pollinator garden. “We had an agricultural specialist visit our farm operations who told us we needed more pollinators,” explained Susan Hill. “We initially added two bee hives and established a pollinator garden. It was amazing, our tomato production increased by 25 percent in the first year!”. Photo by Hill Farm
Since it’s National Pollinator Week, it seemed fitting to express my thanks to farmers Scott and Susan Hill – who run the Hill Farm outside Charlottesville, VA. Earlier, I had the chance to visit their 10-acre property former tobacco farm to see firsthand how hard they are working to grow a variety of produce for the local customers. But there are more little workers helping on the Hill Farm too. Pollinators!
In the United States, about one third of all agricultural output depends on pollinators. Insects and other animal pollinators are vital to the production of healthy crops for food, fibers, edible oils, medicines, and other products. It’s clear that pollinators are important to the Hill Farm for their production of their artisan and specialty varieties of several vegetables, including lettuce, asparagus, tomatoes and even golden beets. And the first year, the addition of bees increased their tomato production by 25 percent. Read more »
The U.S. soy industry continues to reach new heights in producing soybean products to help feed the world.
It takes more than just a bountiful harvest to succeed in today’s agricultural marketplace. Many farmers find strength in numbers by pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their businesses in both the U.S. and international markets. For soybean farmers, the United Soybean Board (USB) works to maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets and uses for soybeans and soybean products.
Working through the U.S. Soybean Export Council, the USB annually conducts about 140 projects in international markets to promote U.S. soy products. Comprising 70 soybean farmers, the USB facilitates trade servicing and technical support programs with importers, processors, livestock producers, and aquaculture operations. Another important component of the soybean marketing effort is to invite international buyers, processors, and other users of U.S. soy products to the United States to understand and see firsthand the U.S. soybean production, processing, distribution and transportation systems. Read more »
Columbia Heights Farmers Market shoppers enjoy locally-produced food. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) grants are helping farmers markets implement creative programs to support local food producers and build healthy communities. Photo courtesy Mr T in DC.
Nutritional classes, purple beets, basil pesto and dark roast coffee – it’s not your father’s farmers market. The entire local food system is maturing and farmers markets are offering more and more community-focused services. Many farmers markets now give their customers a chance to learn about locally-produced foods, in addition to buying and consuming them.
USDA is a proud partner and supporter of local and regional food systems through our programs, grants and technical services. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) grants are helping farmers markets implement creative programs to support local food producers and build healthy communities. One example of an AMS grant success story is Community Foodworks, which manages the Columbia Heights Farmers Market and six other markets across Washington, DC, and Northern Virginia. Read more »
Risk Management Agency Associate Administrator Tim Gannon speaks with farmers at a public forum May 25 in Prosser, Wash. Photo courtesy: Jo Lynne Seufer, RMA
We take our responsibility to America’s farmers and ranchers very seriously at the Risk Management Agency (RMA), and we value our time spent with them and other stakeholders getting feedback on our programs and policies that are so vital to America’s food supply.
I welcome these face-to-face opportunities, and last week was fortunate to spend a few days in Washington state that culminated in a public forum to discuss the enhancements we’ve been making to the Federal crop insurance system. Read more »
New recruits in the battle against climate change.
California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.
Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD. Read more »