USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)
Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.
“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »
The volunteers worked four hours to get the 710 plants in the ground. NRCS photo.
What’s the buzz going on in Princeton, Ill.? A food fest for our pollinator friends, that’s what.
This is a People’s Garden designed specifically for pollinators such as bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. The idea came to Ellen Starr, area biologist with the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, while walking her dog one day.
“Populations of many pollinators are in serious decline,” said Starr, a fan of pollinators. “So what better way to educate the public about the issue than create a garden?” Read more »
Loveless uses smoke to calm the bees when he opens the boxes for inspection. Smoking the bees allows the beekeeper to work in the hive while the colony's defensive response is interrupted.
This post is part of a disaster assistance program feature series on the USDA blog. Check back every Wednesday as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
Larry Loveless of Gillespie, Ill., works full-time at a factory by day, but spends his evenings and free time beekeeping.
The harsh winter of 2013 brought devastating losses to many livestock producers, including beekeepers. Loveless lost more than half of his colonies due to several days of sub-zero temperatures. He started with 20 colonies and was down to only seven by the end of the winter.
“I’ve lost a few colonies here and there, but I’ve never experienced this horrific of a loss,” said Loveless, whose hives were already at a disadvantage because of last year’s drought. Read more »
The Sumner family moved into their USDA-financed home just four days before baby Holly was born.
As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Homeownership Month, I visited several communities bordering Illinois and Missouri last week to meet some of the people whose lives have been changed with homeownership.
Joe and Heather Sumner had been renters in Highland, IL, who needed more space for their growing family. They were struggling to find affordable financing options, until they learned about Rural Development from their real estate agent. They soon qualified for a USDA Direct Housing Loan, and they were able to move into their new home in time for their new baby, who arrived just four days later. Mrs. Sumner told me they were especially pleased with the amount of house they could afford through the Rural Development program. Read more »
Tim Malone, center, is a NRCS district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. Here he leads a watershed tour. (NRCS photo)
Rivers are special places, and for me, the Illinois and Macinaw rivers in central Illinois are my special places. Both rivers eventually send their waters to the Mississippi River, and the area provides habitat for wildlife as well as recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing.
But the rivers suffer from streambank erosion, soil erosion, sedimentation and nutrient runoff. We all hear about the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi, which is caused by high levels of nutrients in the water.
Water quality is important to me as a conservationist and motivates me as a conservationist. I am interested in conservation and wildlife habitat – both as a citizen that enjoys the outdoors as well as my job as a district conservationist in Tazewell County, Ill. with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Light Detection and Ranging LiDAR image shows the archaeological mounds in this restored wetland in Illinois. NRCS photo.
Sometimes to stop soil erosion, prevent nutrient and sediment runoff and improve habitat, conservation work does disturb the ground. Because of this, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service relies on its archaeologists on staff to review locations prior to implementing these conservation practices. As the cultural resources specialist for NRCS in Illinois, I’m never quite sure what will turn up in my daily work.
Field investigations by NRCS archaeologists are conducted to look for surface indications of cultural resources, such as historic farm remains, prehistoric artifacts and above-ground structures. I have had opportunities to visit about 2,000 archaeological sites and to record about 400 new sites on private working lands throughout the state. Read more »