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Posts tagged: NRCS

Library Garden Provides ‘Rest Stop’ for Monarch Butterflies

The pollinator garden

After one year, the pollinator garden has grown exponentially, feeding multiple species of pollinators and creating an outdoor classroom. NRCS photo by Ellen Starr.

The pollinator garden at our library in Princeton, Ill. is a popular rest stop for monarch butterflies on their cross-continental journey. My agency, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), worked with local partners and businesses to create a 2,400-square-foot pollinator garden as a way to educate the public and provide needed pollinator habitat.

We planted the garden designed by our landscape architect Vicki Morrical in 2014. It features 28 plant species and more than 700 plants. Signs help visitors identify the different plants. Read more »

Five Conservation Stories from 2015 You Should Read

2015 was a banner year for voluntary conservation efforts in the United States.  Whether protecting the farmlands, grasslands and wetlands with partnership efforts and conservation easements, helping new farmers get started with conservation on smaller scale farms or providing conservation solutions for organic, transitioning-to-organic and conventional farms or ranches across the country, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service celebrates the voluntary, private-lands conservation efforts of the partners, farmers and ranchers. Together they represent some of the strongest stewards of the American landscape. Here are five 2015 stories that highlight a big year for conservation: Read more »

Farmer, Conservationists Partner to Build a Bridge for Salmon in Southern Maine

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talking with farm owner Cynthia Hodak on the bridge

NRCS District Conservationist Wayne Munroe (right) talks with farm owner Cynthia Hodak while inspecting a bridge over the restored fish passage. Photo: Thomas Kielbasa, NRCS Maine.

A just-completed project that restored a fish passage in southern Maine may have another benefit – preventing an environmental disaster on important salmon-spawning streams.

A new bridge that now crosses the Swan Pond Creek at the Al Dube Quarterhorse Farm in York County was the culmination of a year-long quest by the Saco River Salmon Club and Hatchery and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to rehabilitate a section of the creek for fish passage and rearing of juvenile salmon. Read more »

Georgia Farmers and Ranchers are Growing Opportunities through Community Partnerships

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED

USDA StrikeForce team with partner McIntosh SEED to bring information to rural Georgia.

Today, one-in-six Americans lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—and 90 percent of counties with the highest poverty rates are in rural America. These are also communities with high numbers of historically underserved groups, like African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

Last year, McIntosh Sustainable Environment and Economic Development (SEED) partnered with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) with the goal of improving delivery of NRCS programs to Georgia’s socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers in USDA StrikeForce counties.  SEED is a grassroots, community-based organization with a mission to improve social, economic, environmental and cultural interests of the community while providing quality education, better housing, recreational facilities, business opportunities and environmental protection and restoration. Read more »

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 »