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Posts tagged: NRCS

Navajo Nation Highlights the Value of the Environmental Justice

Arthur “Butch” Blazer and colleagues on a tour of Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona

Arthur “Butch” Blazer and colleagues on a tour of Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona led by Michelle Curry. Diné College is a community college serving the Navajo Nation

I recently traveled to New Mexico and Arizona to visit with local Navajo government leaders, Tribal College officials, and community members to hear about life on the Navajo Reservation. Michael Burns, from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was also there to discuss an important new collaboration, the College/Underserved Community Partnership Program (CUPP).

CUPP develops partnerships between underserved communities and geographically close colleges and universities to provide technical support through faculty, students and staff at no cost to those communities. One of my top priorities is for USDA to help EPA expand the CUPP program to involve Tribal communities and colleges to advance the cause of environmental justice. 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 »

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

Students in the STEP UP program taking part in a short course in environmental soil science

Students enrolled in the STEP UP to USDA Career Success program take part in an intense short course in environmental soil science. (Photo courtesy of Tanner Machado)

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields. Read more »

Designated Promise Zones Keep Rural America Strong

A child smiles after poking his face out in a hole on the Local Food Tastes Better sign

Kentucky Highlands Promise Zone invests in local foods.

As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin.  Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter.  They are some of our country’s finest.

But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.

That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education.  That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries. Read more »

Farming Nature’s Way

The left sample, after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The right sample, conventional tillage

These two soil samples are the same soil type. The one on the left is after 11 years of continuous no-till farming. The one on the right is conventional tillage.

No-till farming used to be only about reducing soil erosion. Today, continuous no-till is the preferred tillage system in some areas. Why? It’s all about soil health.

The loss of organic matter in soil, which is the lightest soil component and the first to wash away, is the healthiest portion of our topsoil. It is the house where the biological systems in our soils live and includes everything from the tiniest organisms like bacteria, algae, fungi, and protozoa to the more complex nematodes, micro-arthropods (think tiny spiders), and the more visible earthworms, insects, small vertebrates, and plants. They are all part of healthy soil. Read more »

Oregon Organic Farmer Unlocks Soil Health Secrets and Boosts Production

Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm with tomatoes

Becoming a certified organic producer presents a unique set of restrictions and challenges. Oregon Farmer Chris Roehm overcomes those challenges with the help of a powerful ally: healthy soil. Photo by Bob Stobaugh

For agricultural producers, it’s an age-old question: How do you grow the largest, healthiest, most-profitable crops possible? Oregon organic farmer Chris Roehm says the secret is in the soil.

Co-owner and operator of Square Peg Farm in Forest Grove, Roehm is among a growing number of producers, both conventional and organic, who are realizing the benefits of improving the health and function of their soil through working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »