As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. USDA Market News now captures data on over 85 farmers markets in the U.S. Pictured here is the Des Moines Farmers Market, which draws an average of 20,000 visitors a weekend. Photo courtesy of Des Moines, Iowa Farmers Market.
Farmers markets are an important part of local and regional food systems. Nationwide, 150,000 farmers and ranchers are selling their products directly to consumers to meet the growing demand for local food. Many sell their products at farmers markets, which can be a catalyst for future growth.
According to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory, there are over 8,400 farmers markets across the country serving as community gathering places where America’s food producers are building successful businesses and bringing fresh, local food to their communities. As local and regional food systems continue to expand, so does the need for reliable market data. 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 »
Environmental Markets graphic.
On April 13, 2015, the U.S. Water Prize was awarded to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for its innovative effort to develop and establish a multi-state water quality trading program in the Ohio River Basin. Through this program, utilities are paying farmers to implement conservation practices that reduce nutrient runoff into local waterways.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), part of USDA, has been a Federal leader in supporting the development of Environmental Markets, including the groundbreaking Ohio River Basin trading program. To help our stakeholders and the public understand our interest and role in environmental markets, I’m excited to announce that today we are launching a series of new web pages dedicated to NRCS’s work in supporting the development of environmental markets. Read more »
NRCS has updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to enable farmers and ranchers to plant milkweed and other plants to help monarch butterflies. NRCS photo by Gene Barickman.
An update to one of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) key conservation programs will enable farmers and ranchers to aid the imperiled monarch butterfly. This year, NRCS updated its Conservation Stewardship Program to include incentives for farmers and ranchers who plant milkweed and other nectar-rich plants favored by monarch butterflies.
Monarch butterflies depend on milkweed to lay their eggs during their annual journey from Mexico to the United States to as far north as Canada. Data show that monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Read more »
Thriving prairie with pollinator-friendly flowering plants, such as black-eyed susans, blooming.
James MacDonald owns 120 acres of rural land in Green County, Wisconsin. Through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), James expanded relic prairie on his land, including planting 3 acres of native pollinator mix through EQIP financial assistance. His prairie is in blossom all summer, with plants blooming at different times. “There are hundreds of prairie plants and they sort of pass off who’s in bloom, so from the end of the snow until the snow falls again there’s always something in bloom,” said James.
MacDonald says between his neighbors, there are about 100 hives within two miles of his property, so many bees use his prairie for food. James had a good idea of what bee-friendly mixes he wanted to plant so NRCS provided financial assistance, as well as technical assistance in site visits and checking to ensure his seed mix was adequate. Read more »
Implementing conservation practices on lands will help provide safe and diverse food sources for honey bees, like the one pictured.
Pam Gasper, of Chaseburg, Wisconsin, has been a bee keeper for the past three years. She recently restored 2 acres on her property to include natural habitat for bees through USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). A dry summer and harsh winter in 2014 caused Pam to lose two of her three honey bee hives. She’s done her research, received technical and financial assistance from NRCS, and made some proactive changes for 2015. Pam is expecting a good harvest and “sweet reward” due to financial and technical assistance through EQIP from NRCS. She’s a strong advocate for the program and said the sign-up process was smooth and worth it.
NRCS staff provided financial assistance through EQIP and also the technical assistance Pam needed, including, site visits, a planting plan, providing options for obtaining seeds, and completing the final inspection of the successful planting just last week. Technical and financial assistance from agencies such as USDA−NRCS and programs like EQIP work to assist land users in accomplishing their goals. Read more »