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Posts tagged: Minnesota

Social Media, Online Resources Help a Minnesota Rancher Succeed

Keith Johnson checks the latest from NRCS Minnesota and the other people and groups he follows on Twitter on his phone.

Keith Johnson checks the latest from NRCS Minnesota and the other people and groups he follows on Twitter on his phone.

To Chisago County, Minn. farmer Keith Johnson, triathlons, swimming in clean water and conservation have a lot in common. They’re his passions, and he’s in constant pursuit of information on these topics.

Years ago, when printed publications and brochures were the norm, Johnson would find himself taking any piece of information he could get his hands on. Life-long learning was something he took a great deal of pride in.

Johnson relates his love for “information gathering” to that of a “treasure hunt.”  Over the years, since Johnson started farming, he found that he simply couldn’t learn enough.  With the advent of the Internet, smartphones and social media, his game of the “treasure hunt” has adapted. Read more »

South Dakota Partnership Helps Native American Families Own Their Future through Homeownership

“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”

“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”

With their family of eight, Myron Doud and Stephanie Richards were in tight quarters when they were living with Myron’s parents in a four-bedroom house.  Like them, Joe and Danielle Donnell and their young one had resided with Danielle’s family.

“Our daughter was very excited about her new bedroom, and she wasn’t even scared to sleep in a room all by herself!” said Stephanie Richards. “The kids now have room to have sleep-overs with their friends and a nice backyard to play.”

These South Dakota families, like many starting out in rural America, just needed a little assistance to begin their lives — and begin building assets for the future — as homeowners.  They found the help they needed through USDA Rural Development’s Direct Housing Loan, which offers 100-percent, affordable mortgages to rural homebuyers who cannot access affordable conventional financing. Read more »

USDA Helps Landowners Manage for Soil Health, Buffer Drought Effects

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

These two farms have the same soils, same crops and same precipitation. The difference is that one farm uses many conservation practices that help improve soil health helping it thrive through extreme weather conditions. NRCS photo.

Soil health is always important, but extreme weather in the last few years has shown landowners just how important managing for it really is.

“The vital part of soil is topsoil, which unfortunately is also the part most susceptible to the effects of weather. That’s what makes protecting it so crucial,” said Doug Miller, soil health coordinator with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota.

The top two components of topsoil are clay content and soil organic matter that hold nutrients and water for plant use and growth. Read more »

Restored Wetlands Provide Opportunity to See Rare Bird

Each year, volunteers gather at Glacial Ridge to look for unique wetland birds for the Shorebird Blitz. Photo by Jessica Dowler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Each year, volunteers gather at Glacial Ridge to look for unique wetland birds for the Shorebird Blitz. Photo by Jessica Dowler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

There is just something special about the marbled godwit. Maybe it’s the shorebird’s super long bill, tall legs or funny name, but I’ve called this bird my favorite for years.

I first spotted one in 1998, while taking a look at some private lands enrolled in a conservation easement program. This strange bird flew right over me, landed ahead a bit and scooted across the gravel with great speed. I didn’t know what it was at first. After I identified the creature, I had a good chuckle at the name.

I didn’t see a marbled godwit, known for their elusive nature, until several years later. Over time, I learned the best place to find them. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Protecting Our Pollinators

This week, USDA and its partners released the results of the eight annual national survey of honey bee losses. The survey shows good news—fewer honey bee colonies were lost this winter than in previous years. According to survey results, total losses of managed honey bee colonies from all causes were 23.2 percent nationwide.

That figure is a significant improvement over the 30.5 percent loss reported last winter, but it is still higher than the eight-year average loss of 29.6 percent and still far above the 18.9 percent level of loss that beekeepers say is acceptable for their economic sustainability.

While we’re pleased to see improvement this year, these losses are still too high. Read more »

Prairie Partnership Provides Habitat for Rare Orchid

The western prairie fringed orchid is one of Minnesota’s 43 wild orchids. Photo by Ben Sullivan. Used with permission.

The western prairie fringed orchid is one of Minnesota’s 43 wild orchids. Photo by Ben Sullivan. Used with permission.

My family and I enjoy natural scavenger hunts. When we explore the landscape surrounding our Norman County farm, we teach each other about the birds, animals and plants we see. It’s fun to search for native wildflowers. It’s even more fun to spot something rare.

Recently, through a school project for my son, we learned about Minnesota’s many wild orchids. Our state is home to 43 different orchids. Who knew?

We learned Minnesota is the only state with an orchid as its state flower. We also learned we live in close proximity to suitable habitat for a very special wildflower – the western prairie fringed orchid. We’re planning to search for this unique flower this summer. Read more »