After one year, the pollinator garden has grown exponentially, feeding multiple species of pollinators and creating an outdoor classroom. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.
The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.
We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants. Read more »
NRCS is working with farmers and ranchers to create and enhance habitat for monarchs. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
No matter where you grew up, you are likely familiar with monarch butterflies. You may have childhood memories from science class when you watched those peculiar green caterpillars transform into beautiful butterflies. Depending on where you live, you may have seen masses of their orange-and-black wings fluttering in the sky while the butterflies were on their annual cross-country migratory journey.
Today, the iconic monarch butterfly is under pressure. Habitat loss has led to a steady decrease in their numbers. Read more »
Bison on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Photo credit: Gary Chancey, US Forest Service.
Guest Post by Hannah Ettema of the National Forest Foundation.
It was like stepping back through time on the Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. Some 200 years ago, when bison prominently roamed the Illinois landscape, kicking up dust as they ran in the herd before settling against a back-drop of tall prairie grasses.
That scene from the past is actually part of the Midewin’s future as four bulls and 23 cows were introduced to their new 1,200 acre enclosure. The first to arrive were the bulls, one 2-year-old and three 3-year-olds, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service at the National Wildlife Research Center in Fort Collins, Colo. Read more »
Students and teachers at Ready School, Prosperity Garden’s staff and volunteers tend the gardens to provide fresh produce to the surrounding community.
On a small parcel of land in the heart of the City of Champaign, Illinois, are two gardens that offer opportunities for neighbors and the community to learn about growing food, eating nutritious food and earning a living. The Prosperity Gardens are educational, bringing at-risk students to work the ground, grow the plants and sell the produce at local farmer’s markets.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) was able to help support this important endeavor through The People’s Garden, USDA’s collaborative community garden initiative with more than 1,300 local and national organizations all working together to establish community and school gardens across the country. Read more »
Jack, the Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60) Program’s Delaware State Ambassador, visits Chicago’s “Bean” sculpture during the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Student Ambassador Summit. Photo courtesy of Fuel Up to Play 60.
Meet Jack, a sixth-grader who is eager to become a school nutrition and fitness game changer. He is one of nearly 20,000 student ambassadors with Fuel Up to Play 60 (FUTP 60), a program launched by the National Dairy Council (NDC) and National Football League (NFL) in collaboration with USDA. FUTP 60 empowers youth like Jack to improve nutrition and physical activity at their schools and in their communities. Jack serves as student ambassador for his home state of Delaware.
In late July, he and a select group of top ambassadors trained like athletes at the 2015 Fuel Up to Play 60 Summit in Chicago—his first visit ever to the Windy City. In addition to playing flag football, making friends and having a great time, the ambassadors learned all about nutrition and the benefits of getting at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity. Most importantly, they learned the leadership and communication skills necessary to work with students and school staff to deliver FUTP 60 activities that meet their school’s wellness goals. Those goals could include introducing salad bars, planting and harvesting fruit and vegetables in a school garden or inviting an NFL player to talk about all aspects of wellness, to name a few. Read more »
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 »