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Posts tagged: Illinois

Partnerships and Volunteers Bring a Midwest Wetland to Life

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

The wetland in bloom with a more than 100-year-old oak tree standing prominently in the prairie. Natural Land Institute photo.

Now, when you look at the Nygren Wetland Preserve in Illinois, a menagerie of wildlife can be seen –  ducks and geese paddling about, white pelicans lounging, otters swimming and a pair of sandhill cranes huddling in a nest. There was talk of the endangered blanding turtles living in the wetland, too. It’s a wonderful scene, but it was much different 14 years ago.

The land, located along Raccoon Creek at the confluence of the Rock and Pecatonica rivers, was once forests and crops. The Natural Land Institute purchased the land in 1999, and that’s when transformation began. Read more »

USDA Grants Assist Small Farmers Who are Making a Big Impact in Agriculture

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Small and medium-sized farmers could see help in growing their operation thanks to programs that will be developed at 10 universities that were funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture this week.

Farming and ranching is not a one-size-fits-all approach. Agriculture in the United States is a mixing bowl of diversity, and it’s most evident when comparing large- and small-scale farming operations. Having grown up on a small, family farm in Iowa, I saw first-hand not only how important our small farmers and ranchers are to the nation, but also the challenges they face daily.

There is much variation among small family farms and ranches. No one definition comes close to capturing the richness and diversity of these operations. For example, while many farmers and ranchers are loyal to their traditional production systems, others constantly seek new opportunities and experiment with alternative crops, production methods and innovative marketing approaches. As a result, the United States produces a striking range of food and fiber, from soybeans to sesame, from beef to buffalo. Read more »

Budding Conservation Practice Helps Farmers use Technology to Control Amount, Timing of Water

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

Planting foxtail millet, a summer annual forage with low water needs, helps conserve water for subsequent crops. Photo by Scott Bauer.

An up-and-coming conservation practice offered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers manage water on their land, keep water clean and better cope with extreme weather like drought.

Drainage water management enables landowners to determine when and how much water leaves farms through underground tiles and drainage ditches. Underground tiles lay beneath fields removing excess water from the soil subsurface.

“Since landowners don’t need the same drainage intensity at all times during the year, this practice lets them use their drainage water in a way that’s most advantageous to them, their crops and the environment,” NRCS Senior Project Leader Paul Sweeney said. Read more »

Rural Development Helps Restore Water Supply to Town of Gifford after Devastating Tornado

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

Four months after a tornado ripped through the town of Gifford, Illinois, destroying its water tower, 70 homes, and damaging 40 others, visible and emotional aftereffects remain.

On November 17, the day the tornado touched down, I called my colleague and Gifford resident Molly Hammond, who wistfully noted during our conversation, that “Everyone is all right.  But not everything is all right!”

No doubt her sentiments reflected those of Gifford’s other 1,000 residents. Read more »

USDA Research Tradition Going Strong in the 21st Century

USDA research can be found in many products that you’ve probably never realized.

USDA research can be found in many products that you’ve probably never realized.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine.

There are “game changers” in politics, sports, art, music and the like. So it should come as no surprise that there are game changers in agricultural research as well—discoveries that changed the way food is produced, and even created new industries to feed a growing world.

Last week’s seminar commemorating Norman Borlaug’s work to launch the Green Revolution is a great example of how a strong science foundation has helped ensure a steady food supply as the world’s population has grown. Read more »

Acting Local, Growing Global for Good Food

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center.  The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

From left to right: Deborah Kane, USDA Farm to School Program; Tim Snyder, Seeds of Change; Leslie Fowler, Chicago Public Schools; Anne Alonzo, AMS Administrator; Jim Slama, FamilyFarmed.org; Paul Saginaw, Zingerman's; Ken Waagner, e.a.t.; and Tom Spaulding, Angelic Organics Learning Center. The Good Food Festival & Conference is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America.

For over a century, my hometown of Chicago has been a cultural, financial, and agricultural hub.  And as a hub, it has a long history of supporting innovation and opportunity.  From the first cattle drives came the great Chicago Stockyards that supplied meat to the nation.  From the early trading of the Chicago Butter and Egg Board came the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. The city’s richly-woven tapestry of cultural diversity and the success of its food businesses prove Chicago’s value as an ideal business cultivator.

That is why it was so fitting that AMS Deputy Administrator Arthur Neal and I were invited to present at the Good Food Festival & Conference in Chicago on March 14. Hosted by Jim Slama of FamilyFarmed.org, the event is the oldest sustainable and local food trade show in America. Each year it brings together stakeholders including farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and food industry representatives. Read more »