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Posts tagged: Farmers

Commitment to Innovation and Conservation Shapes the Littles’ Family Farm

The Littles in front of their cattle

The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.

When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.

Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »

Minnesota Farmer Commits a Century of Life to Agriculture, Dedicating Three Decades to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrating Art Hulberg's 100th birthday

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini celebrates Art Hulberg's 100th Birthday and his 30 year commitment to the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Photo courtesy of Deb Mercier, News Editor, Pope County Tribune

When Minnesota farmer and conservationist Arthur “Art” Hulberg celebrated his 100th birthday this month, he also marked the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)–a program in which Hulberg has participated since its inception.  Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini traveled to Benson, Minnesota, to offer birthday wishes and hand deliver a personal letter from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

Hulberg and his brother Clifford farmed nearly 200 acres in Pope County, Minnesota.  When CRP began, the Hulbergs eventually enrolled 188 acres in the program.  When Clifford passed away in 1989, Art took over as full owner of the property and to this day works with USDA staff to manage his CRP acres.  For example, when the Walk-In-Access (WIA) program began, Hulberg immediately enrolled to allow for hunting on his CRP acreage.  WIA is supported by a grant through the USDA’s Voluntary Public Access Program that assists with public access to CRP for wildlife-dependent recreation.  Hulberg also has helped fellow farmers and livestock producers in his community by allowing them to use his CRP acres for managed haying practices. Read more »

High Tunnels Helps Community Supported Agriculture Farm

Beth Rinkenberger holding a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel

Beth Rinkenberger holds a cheddar cauliflower she grew in the high tunnel, one of the many vegetables the CSA box contains. Photo: Jody Christiansen.

Somewhat hidden in Livingston County, Illinois is a five-acre farm that is reminiscent of farms years ago. With assistance from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the farm is able to maintain a diversified operation with agritourism features and run a CSA ­– or Community Supported Agriculture.

A CSA is a way for consumers to directly invest in local farms, like Beth and Doug Rinkenberger’s Garden Gate Farms, and receive a regular delivery of fresh fruits and vegetables. Read more »

August Reports Look into Farm Economy

2015 Value of Agricultural Land Per Acre map

In 2015, U.S. farmland value averaged $3,020 per acre, a 2.4 increase from previous year’s values.

If you are interested in the farm economy, August is a great time of the year. Here at NASS, we start the month by putting out an analysis of farm production expenditures. In other words, how much does it cost to produce our foods, fuels, and fabrics. On the next day, we publish a report on the value of farmland in the United States and how much it costs farmers and ranchers to rent an acre of cropland or pastureland. This year, each one of the reports told a unique story. 

While the nearly $400 billion that U.S. farmers spend to produce food and fabric in 2014 is already staggering, it is even more interesting to see what is happening in the livestock sector. While feed has been the leading expense for farmers for a while now, the rest of the livestock expenses stayed on par with the other farm-related costs. For example, in 2010, U.S. farmers spent $24.4 billion on livestock, poultry, and related expenses, which was less than total rent costs and comparable to the $21 billion spent on fertilizer. Read more »

Vermont’s Farm to Ballet Project Shines the Spotlight on Conservation

Ballerina Megan Stearns dancing the lead role of the farmer in Vermont’s Farm to Ballet project

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 »

Listening and Learning From Local Food Stakeholders in New Mexico

AMS Local Food Research & Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper

AMS Local Food Research and Development Director Ken Keck (far right), AMS Administrator Anne Alonzo (middle), and Rio Arriba County Agricultural Extension Agent Donald Martinez, Jr., (middle in the back with red shirt), check out the 'Tequila' sweet pepper picked from the fields at Danny Farrar’s (far left) Rancho La Jolla in Velarde, NM. USDA photo courtesy of Peter Wood.

As part of National Farmers Market Week, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Anne L. Alonzo and I traveled to New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. The bustling Santa Fe Farmers Market was the perfect place to kick off the week! While there, we also traveled to the beautiful countryside and met with key local food stakeholders during a special session and visits to local farms.  

The round table forum and farm visits allowed farmers, ranchers, and local food organizations to share their experiences. We heard from Danny Farrar, who owns Rancho La Jolla in Velarde and is also a member of the Farm to School Board of Directors. He told us that many of the northern New Mexico farmers who sell at farmers markets are growing fruits and vegetables on small family farms of just 3 to 5 acres and on land passed down through generations. He told us that keeping his land as a working farm is as important to his culture and heritage as it is to its profitability. Read more »