Angus cows on Tom Finnegan’s farm grazing cover crops.
Last spring, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Minnesota named five watersheds eligible for funding through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative (MRBI). Dobbins Creek, located in Mower County, was one of the selected watersheds.
About 25,700 acres in size, the Dobbins Creek watershed winds through prime farmland and flows along the northeast edge of the city of Austin. NRCS has committed $488,000 for conservation activities in the watershed over the next 5 years and obligated $51,402 through its Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in fiscal year 2015. Read more »
Jonathan Cobb says that with a new focus on soil health, "We got rid of all of the tillage equipment, and just dove in,” with cover crops. Photo: Ron Nichols.
NOTE: This week on the USDA Blog, we’ll feature the stories of America’s Harvest Heroes who, like farmers across the nation, are working this harvest season to secure the bounty of healthy food American agriculture is renowned for. From laying the foundation for the next generation of farmers putting down roots in rural America, supporting the fruit and vegetable growers who are helping to build healthier communities, bolstering new markets for the products of agricultural innovation, to harvesting renewable energy that is made in Rural America, with USDA’s support our farmers are yielding strong results for every American. For these reasons and more, America’s Harvest Heroes deserve our thanks.
Texas Producer Changes his Mind about Leaving the Farm
Jonathan Cobb had made up his mind. He was leaving the farm.
“I was disillusioned with farming in general because we were just pushing long days and chasing acres and it didn’t seem like there was very much reward,” Cobb said. “That quality of life was not very good. My wife was having to work a lot of hours full time and really support the family. Twenty-five hundred acres really didn’t support two families, and we weren’t living extravagant lifestyles by any means.” Read more »
The Littles have a diversified farming and ranching operation. Photo: Dan Zinkand for NRCS.
When you stop on a bridge that crosses the Big Sioux River in Hamlin County, South Dakota, and look south you can see how well Donnie, Barry and Eli Little manage their cows and crops to improve soil and water quality and increase productivity.
Cows graze in one of 24 paddocks that the family manages with a computer program Eli made after graduating from South Dakota State University in 2013. An electric fence along a buffer strip following the river keeps cows out, protecting the source of drinking water for the city of Sioux Falls. Read more »
The crop nutrients removed by baling and removing corn stalks can be costly to replace.
Of the several practices USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service recommends to improve soil health and sustainability one of the most important is to keep the soil covered.
In corn and soybean fields, the starting point is maintaining the post-harvest crop residue on the soil surface. Crop residue is plant material remaining after harvesting, including leaves, stalks, and roots. Read more »
Emily handles the day-to-day operations on the farm, but everyone in the family does their part, which is what makes Diamond Family Farm such a successful family business. Photo courtesy of Emily Diamond, used with permission.
Emily Diamond is a wife, mother, and farmer. She and her family own and operate the Diamond Family Farm in LaGrange, Kentucky. Emily’s farm supplies meat for her family and to the surrounding community through Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Through CSAs, the community commits to buying the farm’s harvest, sharing both the bounty and risk of farming.
As new farmers, the Diamond family had a dream of producing healthy meat for their family on their own farm.
After hard work and saving their earnings, the family purchased land and began farming. “We built it all from scratch,” Emily said, “but looking back, it would have been easier if we would have purchased land with fencing and a barn already in place.” Read more »
As soil health improves, so too does its hydrologic function. This graphic illustrates how much additional water could be stored in the soil of all U.S. cropland with the addition of 1 percent of organic matter.
While most look to the sky for drought relief, an increasing number of farmers are looking to the soil. And for good reason: Healthy soils capture and store much more water – which can come in handy during dry spells.
Through its “Unlock the Secrets in the Soil” campaign, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is leading the effort to get more farmers and ranchers to adopt soil health management systems for a wide range of on- and off-farm benefits – including drought resiliency.
So what’s the water-banking secret in healthy soil? Read more »