Field crops on the Homeless Garden Project. NRCS photo.
The Homeless Garden Project (HGP) in Santa Cruz, California provides sanctuary, refuge and meaningful work for homeless citizens within the healing environment of a three-acre organic farm in Santa Cruz, California. This unique urban garden and farm is inspired by the joy that comes from growing and sharing healthy food, the well-being created by vibrant social and natural ecosystems, and every individual’s potential for growth and renewal.
HGP Director Darrie Ganzhorn said, “Our vision is to create a thriving and inclusive community, workforce and local food system. Our goal is to create a world-class farm.” Read more »
A veteran and participant of the Veterans Sustainable Agriculture Training program handles living basil at an organic hydroponic farm, which grows plants in water as opposed to soil. USDA is committed to introducing agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day.
Before serving in my current role at USDA, I served eight years in the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard, including a 15-month mobilization and deployment as a combat engineer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During my tour, I saw firsthand the tremendous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who serve in our armed forces.
Those exact same skills can be an excellent fit for farming and ranching, which is why USDA is increasing its efforts to introduce agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day. Read more »
Photo of prairie after redcedars are removed.
A new study offers the first empirical data proving that female lesser prairie-chickens avoid grasslands when trees are present. The study, highlighted in a Science to Solutions report by the Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative (LPCI), underscores the importance of removing woody invasive plants like redcedar to restore grassland habitat. The new data will help guide USDA’s conservation efforts.
Though sometimes called the “green glacier” for its steady progress across the prairie, redcedar encroachment is far from glacial in speed. Open grasslands can become closed-canopy forest in as little as 40 years, making the land unsuitable to lesser prairie-chickens and other wildlife. Read more »
Xavier Montoya, State Conservationist for NRCS New Mexico (left) and Mark Rose (center left), NRCS director of financial assistance programs manager, talk about the successful partnerships and teamwork that led to the completion of the Las Joyas Acequia improvements near Nambe, New Mexico. Kenneth Salazar (center right), former president of the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and current President Jim Berlier (far right).
Spaniards built the Acequia de Las Joyas approximately 300 years ago. The acequia, a community irrigation watercourse or ditch, was the principal method of providing water to the farmers for their crop and rangelands in northern New Mexico. The parciantes (also known as acequia members) worked together to maintain the acequia and each member in return received a portion of the water.
Three centuries later, the practice is still key to making the land bloom. But, time and the elements have taken their toll on acequia and repair costs have escalated to the point that members can no longer shoulder the burden of maintaining the critical community resource alone. Read more »
Ben Barnette explains the significance of the rock formation in a two-day training session. Photo: Chris Robbins.
The day was brisk, the air was fresh, and the subject of the day was captivating. Sixteen Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field conservationists in California had just sat through a day of classroom-style instruction on cultural resources policy, law and identification. Now they trudged along behind California State Archaeologist Ben Barnette to practice their skills in a field setting.
“It all seemed fairly ordinary,” said Soil Conservationist Chris Robbins. “We stopped at a ranch and hiked over to an unremarkable rock formation jutting from the rolling landscape. But it turned out to be a rock shelter that was used by Native Americans—with plenty of evidence to prove it. They left their marks on the walls as well as pieces of artifacts scattered nearby.” Read more »
Burchel Blevins of Knox County, was named the ‘Landowner of the Year’ for the southeastern region, by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife.
When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.
“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.
Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land. Read more »