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.
A pine cone has many purposes. It could serve as a home for birds and insects. Pine cones contain seeds to use in reforestation projects. They even can be made into fanciful ornaments to adorn the 2014 Capitol Christmas Tree.
That’s exactly what students learned during a recent Science Fusion program at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
As part of an overarching mission to the world of science, technology, engineering and math, these special Saturday programs afford underserved Minnesota youth the opportunity to interact with local scientists, engineers, inventors and science educators through hands-on activities. Read more »
Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.
A group of dedicated volunteers helped make it possible for soil scientists with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to collect soil samples in remote parts of Minnesota.
Today kicks off National Volunteer Week, and NRCS is celebrating the hard work of Earth Team volunteers like the seven people in Minnesota who aided in the soil survey.
Earth Team volunteers, the agency’s volunteer corps, make a big difference, said Larissa Schmitt, a soil scientist with NRCS. “The volunteers’ wilderness skills were a huge time savings to the soil scientists,” she said. Read more »
Kate Paul operates a community supported agricultural operation in Minnesota. NRCS photo.
When Kate Paul was a girl in northern St. Louis County, Minn., she enjoyed working in the large family garden near her grandfather’s farm. She loved spending time amid the rows of plants, watching seeds germinate and become plants that provided delicious vegetables for her family.
When she left her hometown for college and graduate school, she was able to continue her passion for farming. While living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, she volunteered at a community supported agriculture operation (a CSA).
“I was inspired by the wherewithal of the family that worked the land,” she said. “I was also inspired by the network of community members who gained more than just healthy, fresh food from the farm but also gained a connection to the farm, the farmers and other farm members.” Read more »
Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm
When studying abroad in France and Spain, Sarah Woutat developed a love for organic farming after working on farms in both countries. The love was so strong, she retired from her New York City life working for an environmental publishing business and returned to farming.
After an apprenticeship at Fort Hill Farm in Connecticut, she returned home to her native state of Minnesota to run Uproot Farm.
Uproot Farm is a small vegetable farm just one hour north of the Twin Cities. This farm turns a profit on just five acres. The farm sells community supported agriculture, or CSA, shares to people in nearby Cambridge, Minn. as well as Minneapolis. When a person buys into a CSA, they’re guaranteed a certain amount of the farm’s harvest and the farm receives financial support up front. Read more »
Pete Berscheit uses rotational grazing on his Minnesota farm to improve production while helping the environment. NRCS photo.
Pete Berscheit has wanted to farm since he was five. But with three brothers interested in farming, he didn’t think the fourth-generation family farm in Todd County, Minn. would be large enough to support everyone.
So instead of farming, Berscheit joined the Army at 17, where he served for 20 years. Toward the end of his Army career, repeated deployments were starting to take a toll on his young family, and in 2008, he and his wife, Rosemary, decided to return to their roots.
Berscheit and his family bought a place to support a small herd of 40 Black Angus cow and calf pairs, fulfilling his nearly lifelong dream of becoming a farmer. The farm is about three miles from where he grew up in central Minnesota. The farm was a good location and was a good fit for raising a family and starting his ranch. Read more »
USDA airport biologist Bobby Hromack holds his first captured short-eared owl. Although it weighs no more than 16.8 ounces, the species can pose an aviation safety hazard due to its 33-43 inch wingspan and low, rolling flight style.
Seeing a short-eared owl in November on the Pittsburgh International Airport, where I work as an airport wildlife biologist, was a unique occasion. However, as the number of owls grew to eight, I recognized the challenge ahead: Like all birds of prey, short-eared owls are a recognized potential aviation hazard. Their low rolling flight and difficult-to-disperse reputation means they pose an aviation safety threat. From 1990-2012, short-eared owl strikes with aircraft in the United States caused over $1 million in damage, and often are fatal to the birds. Convincing them to leave would be difficult but important.
The task would be harder because short-eared owls are listed by the State as an endangered species. Common in many areas globally, Pennsylvania is the southernmost edge of their breeding range. These owls likely migrated from Canadian breeding grounds to winter in Pennsylvania. Read more »