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Posts tagged: NRCS

Taking the Mystery Out of USDA Tools for Organic Agriculture

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

NRCS Resource Conservationist Joe Heller in residue-covered vegetable field in New York. Leaving the plant residue in place reduces soil erosion, increases soil organic matter and overall soil health.

Getting people together to talk can result in great ideas. 

In June, USDA hosted 100 farmers, ranchers, retailers and producers in Chester, New York, in the Hudson Valley, to discuss opportunities and challenges in organic production, and to share information on USDA programs and services available to organic producers and processors.  

Wholesalers and retailers at the meeting all had a common challenge – keeping up with increasing market demands for organic food. Organic retail sales continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. In 2014, the market reached $39 billion in U.S. sales alone. That level of demand means a lot of opportunities for organic producers, as well as those in the process of transitioning to organic production. Read more »

Building Technology that Supports Organic Integrity

Representatives of the database development team

Representatives of the database development team (from left to right) are: Jennifer Tucker (USDA), Indu Shekhar (Harmonia), Aleksey Gasnikov (Harmonia), Dirk Otto (Intact), Manisha Amdiyala (Harmonia), Stacy Swartwood (USDA), Swathy Mudhagouni (Harmonia), Kristin Tensuan (USDA), and Thomas Lorber (Intact).

If you have accessed the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) list of certified organic operations recently, you may have noticed a new look to the site, and new ways to search for organic operations.  These changes reflect an early release of the Organic INTEGRITY Database, a system funded by the 2014 Farm Bill and built by the AMS National Organic Program and Information Technology Service with support from Intact and Harmonia Holdings Group.  

The changes you see on the site are only a small part of the database development project.  For example, underlying the new site is a brand new classification system (or taxonomy) for categorizing products that carry USDA organic certification. Previously, organic certifiers reporting farm and business information to USDA submitted a single text list of certified products for each operation.  Certifiers reported data differently and there was no method to catch spelling or spacing problems. For example, one listing included the item “grapechickenapples.” An interesting appetizer or, a big data quality problem! Read more »

New Handbook Highlights Resources for Conservation on Organic Farms

National Organic Farming Handbook cover

A new Handbook supports NRCS conservation planners and other agricultural professionals as they work with organic producers.

Consumer demand for organic products continues to grow. The Organic Trade Association that represents more than 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states reports that demand for organic products exceeded $39 billion in 2014. To meet that demand, more farmers and ranchers are pursuing organic certification and seeking assistance through USDA programs.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is making sure that its people in the field are prepared to work with organic producers and those who want to get into organics. The agency has just released to staff its new Organic Farming Handbook describing things they need to know when working with organic producers. Read more »

New Farmers’ Legacy for the Land

Cameron Green standing among the tomatoes in the high tunnel

Cameron Green stands among the tomatoes in the high tunnel she operates with Eric Wittenbach.

Some people leave a legacy for their children. Cameron Green and Eric Wittenbach plan to leave theirs to Mother Nature. 

A philosophy of sustainability guides them on their eight-and-a-half-acre farm in Okanogan, Washington. Green and Wittenbach both come from a background of working the land; picking fruit in commercial cherry orchards, pruning and thinning threes, and growing vegetables in the Methow Valley for a local CSA. This has given them a close connection to nature, and when they bought their land eight years ago, their intentions were to make it as sustainable as possible. 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 »

Restoring Longleaf Forests Helps Bobwhite, Other Species Rebound at Florida Research Station

Quail flying

Coveys of quail once again populate the 4,000-acre research station north of Tallahassee, Fla. Photo courtesy of Shane Wellendorf.

Once a plantation and popular hunting spot, the Tall Timbers Plantation Research Station and Land Conservancy in Tallahassee, Florida, is home to healthy longleaf forests that are filled with a variety of wildlife, including the Northern bobwhite, a type of quail.

When the plantation’s owner, Henry Beadel, died, he willed the land and resources to create a special nature preserve to study the effects of fire on bobwhites, turkeys and other wildlife. As set out in Beadel’s will, strides have been made in re-establishing the longleaf pine ecosystem – one of the most endangered ecosystems in North America. Read more »