In honor of National Homeownership Month, USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker (center with wheelbarrow), U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici (center with level), local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders join first-time homeowners Jessica and Jason Smith (far right)
Jessica and Jason Smith used to watch home improvement shows in which old and deteriorating houses are completely renovated. They never thought they’d be the ones giving a neglected home new life—until now. While building their dream of homeownership, they are quite literally helping revitalize a neighborhood.
Last week in honor of National Homeownership Month, I joined U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici, local nonprofit Community Action Team (CAT), and community leaders to meet the Smiths at their work-in-progress in St. Helens, Oregon. Jessica and Jason participate in CAT’s Self-help Acquisition Rehabilitation Program (SHARP) funded with support from USDA Rural Development. The effort allows families to use their own sweat equity as down payment on a home and provides an affordable USDA mortgage for the balance. As the local partner, CAT receives USDA Mutual Self-help Housing grant funds to qualify families, identify home sites, and coordinate professional construction assistance. Read more »
Casey Cox, Executive Director of the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District, in front of trees.
As part of our ongoing #womeninag series, we are highlighting a different leading woman in agriculture each month. This month, we profile Casey Cox, the Executive Director of the Flint River Soil and Water Conservation District. In this role, she manages the Flint River Partnership, an agricultural water conservation initiative formed by the Flint River SWCD, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, and The Nature Conservancy.
Casey is also learning her family’s farm operation Longleaf Ridge, and will be the sixth generation of her family to farm along the Flint River. Upon receiving a Bachelor of Science in Natural Resource Conservation from the University of Florida, she returned to South Georgia to support agriculture and ongoing conservation efforts in her local community. Read more »
A secret waterfall on the lost river Whychus. Photo credit: USFS (Maret Pajutee)
Sisters is a dreamy mountain town in Central Oregon with almost everything you might want in a scenic hideaway. With snowy peaks and expansive forests, it is an ideal location for biking, hiking, or simply contemplating wide expanses of blue sky. But for many years Sisters was missing one crucial thing – we had lost our river.
For thousands of years, Native Americans followed a winding course of icy snowmelt into the high country of the Three Sisters Mountains that gave the town its name. The river was full of waterfalls and wild steelhead salmon. It provided more than half of the steelhead spawning habitat in the Upper Deschutes River Basin. The river had several names, but in 1855, when Pacific Railroad Survey Engineers came through looking for a railroad route to the ocean, they recorded in their journals that the river was called “Whychus”. Read more »
Florida landowners in the Northern Everglades use conservation easements as a tool to restore their wetlands. Photo courtesy of NRCS.
Wetlands are one of nature’s most productive ecosystems. They clean and recharge groundwater; reduce the damaging impacts of floods; enhance wildlife habitat; sequester carbon; and create diverse recreation opportunities such as hunting, fishing, birdwatching and canoeing.
Thousands of landowners voluntarily take big and small actions every day to protect, restore and enhance wetlands and wildlife habitat. Seventy-five percent of the nation’s wetlands are located on private and tribal lands. Read more »
When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns. USDA photo courtesy of Ken Hammond.
USDA’s Food Waste Challenge is underway and federal marketing orders for fruits and vegetables continue to help out in the food donation effort. Under these industry self-help programs that are overseen by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), groups decide minimum quality standards that benefit the entire industry. When products do not meet a marketing order’s quality standards but are still edible, they can be diverted to secondary markets to minimize food waste while increasing producer returns.
When this occurs, businesses have a couple of options: send the food to the processed market, donate the food to charities and food banks, or process the food into livestock feed. Nearly half of the active fruit and vegetable marketing orders also include comparable import regulations to ensure foreign products meet the same quality standards as those produced domestically. Read more »
A male greater sage grouse struts at a lek, near Bridgeport, CA to attract a mate. Photo by Jeannie Stafford, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Aldo Leopold once said, “Conservation will ultimately boil down to rewarding the private landowner who conserves the public interest.” Those words are powerful, especially in the West, where ranchers are partnering up to benefit sage grouse and the 350 other species that share its vast habitat.
Today, the Sand County Foundation, a non-profit organization named for Leopold’s signature book, “A Sand County Almanac,” released a report showcasing the dedication of private landowners in conserving this at-risk species that is currently being considered for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Read more »