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Posts tagged: Iowa

Local Food Systems at Work in the Driftless Area

Acting Administrator Elanor Starmer at Dubuque Food Co-op

Everybody is welcome at the Dubuque Food Cooperative, which features local, organic, and sustainably produced food. USDA photo by Bill Menner.

So called because it was left untouched by retreating glaciers that flattened much of the Midwest, the Driftless Area of northeast Iowa, southwest Wisconsin, and bits of Minnesota and Illinois is home to more than just beautiful rolling hills. It’s also the site of inspiring efforts to develop a strong regional food economy. I had the honor of visiting the region in my first trip as Acting Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

With Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA has put local and regional food front and center over the last seven years. We realize that consumer demand for local food can create economic opportunities, help develop systems that bring healthy food to underserved communities, and better connect consumers with agriculture. Building these systems often brings together unlikely partners – farmers, economic development experts, local government, school officials and supply-chain businesses – in the pursuit of shared goals. Read more »

A High Five for Farmers and the Conservation Stewardship Program

At USDA this month, we’re taking some time to focus on the work of farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to conserve our planet and our resources for the future. They know, like we do, that cleaner air, water, soil and habitat are not only good for our planet, but also contribute to healthy and productive working farmlands.

At USDA we have a wide range of tools and support available to help farmers voluntarily implement conservation practices to improve the health and productivity of private and Tribal working lands. Since 2009, the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) has provided more than $4 billion in assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest managers to enhance conservation on more than 70 million acres. And this year, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) plans to add an estimated 10 million acres to the rolls. Read more »

Chicken Ranching Boosts Pasture Soil Health on Iowa Farm

A woman with the hens

The hens rotate 72 hours behind the cattle herd to provide insect control, and the bus provides easy mobility from paddock to paddock.

When bison roamed the Great Plains, prairie chickens and other fowl played an important role as the clean-up crew. They would follow the herds feasting on the larvae in bison manure.

In Doug Darrow’s 160-acre mob grazing system near Oxford, Iowa, his 300 chickens have the same job, but they ride in style from paddock to paddock in an old school bus that doubles as a chicken coop. “This means there are fewer flies to pester the cows,” said Darrow. This natural form of pest control, improves herd health and rate of gain, while providing another income source from the eggs laid by the clean-up crew. Read more »

How Sacrifice and Sense of Duty Drive Our Veterans

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm

Kevin Brown, NRCS State Conservationist and Deputy Secretary Harden talk with Jason Seaton, Sevier County landowner, about the conservation practices he has installed on his farm. NRCS photo.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the hard work and dedication of America’s veterans.  After serving our country so honorably, many of our veterans feel a sense of duty to continue to give back to the land they love and have fought so hard to protect. And we want all veterans to know about the many ways USDA can support military veterans and their families.

USDA offers incentives and other benefits for veterans interested in everything from farm loans to conservation programs to nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and home ownership opportunities. We also offer a wide variety of loans, grants, training and technical assistance to veterans who are passionate about a career in agriculture. That is why this fall, USDA and the Defense Department came together in an effort to enable every single one of the more than 200,000 service members who leave the military each year to access the training they need to start their own farms or ranch businesses. Read more »

NRCS Partners with Farmers, Ranchers to Aid Monarch Butterflies

A butterfly on a flower

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 »

A Commitment We Must Keep

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, with their dog in front of their handicapped-accessible ramp

Leon Kauzlarich (left) and his son, David, are both U.S. Army veterans with critical home repairs in place, including a handicap-accessible ramp.

When Ivory Smith of Poplarville, Mississippi separated from the Army after ten years of service – including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – he attended a USDA-sponsored workshop held through our partner, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. At this ‘Armed to Farm’ workshop for returning Veterans, he learned about small-scale sustainable agricultural practices, and from there developed his microgreens company, SmithPonics, that now supplies fresh salad microgreens to restaurants in his area.

Many of our Veterans, old and young alike, are dealing with the physical and mental scars of combat. USDA Rural Development has been able to provide real support to those Veterans who need care when they return from service – Veterans like Leon Kauzlarich from rural Appanoose County, Iowa. Leon got help to repair his home, and make it accessible to help with his mobility issues. Read more »