Inside the Nation’s Largest Conservation Program – Part III

Inside the Nation’s Largest Conservation Program – Part III   This blog post highlights participation of beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as well as organic and transitioning-to-organic farmers and ranchers in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and looks at trends in program participation unique to these categories of farmers.     CSP rewards farmers, ranchers, and foresters for how they grow what they grow.  The program has enrolled over 58 million acres of crop, range, and private forest land between 2009 and 2013 in advanced conservation.  This is the third and final part of a three part series.  Earlier posts looked at overall enrollment and at conservation enhancements.   Beginning and Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers NSAC pays particular attention to how federal programs impact beginning farmers and ranchers as well as socially disadvantaged producers across the country.  The data here provide an overview of how CSP impacts these farmers and ranchers and compares their participation to the general farmer population enrolled in the program.   Between 2009...
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CSP Sign Up Extended Until February 7

CSP Sign Up Extended Until February 7   The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has extended the deadline for applications to participate in the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP).   Farmers and ranchers interested in enrolling in CSP now have until February 7 to submit their initial applications to NRCS. The original deadline was January 17, which gives producers an extra three weeks to get into their local NRCS office and submit the initial application to enroll. NSAC has issued an Information Alert (PDF) with information on the timeline and process for applying to enroll in CSP, including application ranking criteria and other helpful information.   About the Conservation Stewardship Program CSP is an innovative working lands conservation program that rewards farmers and ranchers for the conservation and environmental benefits they produce.  In the first five enrollment years for CSP (2009-2013), approximately 46,000 farmers and ranchers have enrolled nearly 60 million acres of farm and ranch land.  That land is now under five-year, renewable CSP conservation contracts valued at $804 million a year.   NSAC periodically analyzes...
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Free webinars from the University of Illinois Extension

The University of Illinois Extension is hosting some free webinars that may be of some interest. You can attend these webinars from the comfort of your home, on your home computer. For those that can’t attend during the day, they will all be archived for viewing at a later date.   Topics for this years’ webinar:   Jan. 16- Organic overview Jan. 23- Pumpkins Jan. 30- Small scale composting Feb. 6- Organic insect management Feb. 13- Organic disease management Feb. 20- Organic weed management Feb. 27- Asparagus production March 6- Orchard insect management March 13- Orchard management March 20- Orchard disease management March 27- Ethnic markets.   There is no cost to attend these sessions. You must register to receive the log on instructions. Our home page allows you to register for any of our programs, simply select “winter webinar series” at web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps   They also have the previous years’ webinars archived for your viewing. These are available on our home page, under the “Local Food Systems and Small Farms” icon. Topics are varied and most will cover some...
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Class for teens at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art – Jan. 25th 2014

Teens are invited to create a totally unique piece of urban-inspired artwork with local artist Mary Zeran at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. Not only will participants create a painting on canvas, but Lar-Cyn Designs donated an EASE-L for each person, so they'll get to design a coordinating easel to really make your artwork pop! Space is limited and pre-registration is required. This class will take place on Saturday, January 25, from 12:00 to 3:00 p.m. There is a $10 free. Call Erin Thomas at 319.366.7503 ext. 203 or email ethomas@crma.org to pre-register or for more information. Photo © Cedar Rapids Art Museum ...
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Taking the Next Step For Improving the Squaw Creek Watershed

The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority involves a team of people from large and small communities, rural and urban areas in the counties of Boone, Story, Hamilton and Webster who share an interest in Squaw Creek. There has been a great deal of work conducted over the past ten years in this watershed culminating in the formation of the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority (SWMA).   Paul Toot, Story County Board of Supervisor and Chair of the Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority says, “based on feedback we’ve received from public surveys there is a definite interest in improving the quality of Squaw Creek and its tributaries.  With financial support from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the time has come to develop a comprehensive watershed management plan to provide guidance for watershed activities over the next twenty years.”   The Squaw Creek Watershed Management Authority was created in 2012.  With this foundation in place, the next step is to create a watershed management plan. ...
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Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Workshops Scheduled for Spring

AMES, Iowa—Along with the increasing consumer interests in buying locally grown foods come food safety expectations from buyers. Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP, certification can be used by fruit and vegetable producers to meet buyer requirements for food safety.  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will hold GAP workshops this fall for farmers who sell directly to consumers and those considering sales to retail foodservices. The one-day workshops are offered as Level 1: KNOW and Level 2: SHOW. Level 1 is training for growers who provide food to consumers through community–supported agriculture or farmers’ markets, or are considering retail foodservice sales. Training covers good agriculture best practices and market considerations. Level 2 workshops guide farmers in the development of a written farm food safety plan. Farmers considering sales to retail foodservices such as grocers, restaurants, hospitals and other institutions, and those interested in adding value to fresh produce and selling products in a convenience form will have the tools to demonstrate GAPs...
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Impacts of Cold on EAB??

Some of you might be wondering or have seen articles about EAB mortality due to extreme cold. While this may be true further north; Iowa didn't really get the sustained, intense cold required to kill EAB. The temperatures need to be -38 F for a minimum of two consecutive days to cause mortality in emerald ash borer. Wind chill factors do not affect the beetles. The beetles will be more susceptible to cold in black ash, white, and then green. Green ash bark helps insulate the larvae better. Based on the temperature maps, it's not likely that the cold will really impact the EAB population levels. However, a group of researchers tagged downy woodpeckers years ago to see how they followed the EAB migration. They are reporting that the woodpecker population is on the move. Obviously, the beetle is not moving this time of year; so the source of the woodpecker movement is not due to it following mobile beetles. The suspicion...
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UI plans to use threatened ash trees to power campus

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - An invasive beetle that attacks and kills ash trees are threatening a large portion of eastern Iowa. There are about 25 counties and an estimated 60-million ash trees across eastern Iowa threatened by the Emerald Ash Borer. However, researchers in the Iowa City area may have found a way to reuse ash tree wood. They say the wood from threatened ash trees, mixed coal produces steam providing electricity as an energy source. Ferman Milster, principle engineer for University of Iowa Office of Sustainability says they could use the renewable fuel to help power the campus. “The university has a goal to be 40 percent renewable by 2020,” said Milster. “Rather than having all this wood in the landfill or burned, we'll be able to use it for energy recovery.” The power plant facility is the sole source of steam for the university and the hospital complex, providing heating and cooling for most if not all the buildings on campus. Milster says they’re hoping to...
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AmeriCorps VISTA Members Making a Difference on Food Day

Check out the blog post written by the AmeriCorps Vista member Caroline about the school gardens, Kate Mitchell and Sawyer. Visit the link here to go to the blog.   My name is Caroline Parks, and I recently graduated from Iowa State University with an M.S. in Sustainable Agriculture and Sociology. I am currently serving one year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and have the opportunity to be a school garden coordinator in two elementary schools in Ames, IA. Along with my AmeriCorps partner Rebekka Brown, we organized two events to celebrate Food Day at the schools we serve. At Kate Mitchell Elementary, we had a food tasting event during recess, where students from all grades participated by sampling a variety of vegetables. Through an Iowa Farm to School grant, we were able to provide fresh and local vegetables from Table Top Farm, a local CSA. Vegetables included celeriac (celery root), beets (golden, red, and chiogga), carrots (bolero), kohlrabi, and rainbow radishes. Student receiving...
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Interesting Thoughts On The Bee Problem

Crashing bee populations have been a concern around the world. A group of economists were interested in how the lack of bees was affecting various industries. So the economists did a study of some apple orchards in China, where, to compensate for the drop in bee pollination, the farmers hired humans to hand pollinate their trees. "What they learned (and published) was a shocker. First, the apple farmers reported that apple production was not hurt by the absence of bees. In fact, the apple harvest was "30 to 40 percent greater" when humans did the pollinating. "Human pollinators," wrote J.B. MacKinnon, "were better at getting to every blossom, performed cross-pollination more efficiently, and could work in windy, rainy weather."" But the article continues interestingly: "The problem is, it's not easy to do. It may be impossible. Yes, we can measure a bee's contribution to the apple business. But bees also make honey and can see things we can't (with eyes that may one...
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