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Posts tagged: Minnesota

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 »

What’s a Pine Cone Got to do With It? Educators use them for Art and Science

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 Volunteers Help USDA Soil Scientists Collect Data in Remote Minnesota

Earth Team volunteer Meghan Zenner assisted NRCS soil scientists with taking soil samples in a remote forest in Minnesota. Photo from NRCS.

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 »

High Tunnel, Conservation Planning Help Local Food Mission

Kate Paul operates a community supported agricultural operation in Minnesota. NRCS photo.

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 »

Minnesota Farm Uses Conservation to Make Each Acre Count

Sarah Woutat founded Uproot Farm because of her love for farming. Photo courtesy of Uproot Farm

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 »