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Success Story

Conservation: A Role for All Including the Small

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A Role for All Including the Small

Small-scale farmers are benefiting from NRCS programs for conservation, increased production, and cost savings. EQIP program offers financial assistance for high tunnels, extending growing seasons and addressing conservation concerns.

Partnerships with NRCS

NRCS encourages all farmers, ranchers, and landowners to practice conservation and good natural resources stewardship. No matter the size of your operation, we want to help you help the land. That help comes in the form of technical assistance and cost-share programs for implementing conservation practices to address natural resource concerns. Many urban and small-scale farms and ranches sometimes assume that NRCS programs are only for large operations. We want to bust that myth. The fact is, NRCS leads the USDA’s Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production (OUAIP). No matter your size, NRCS offers assistance to help meet your conservation goals. If you want to know more about our programs or want to talk with a local NRCS representative, contact your local office.

Many small-scale farmers have taken advantage of NRCS programs in order to help accomplish their conservation goals. In addition to improving conservation, they may also benefit from increased production and cost savings. For instance, through the EQIP program, producers may qualify for financial assistance through co-investments for high tunnels which extend growing seasons while addressing conservation concerns. We’ve highlighted a couple of our partnerships and smaller operations that have benefited from NRCS assistance in this issue.

Donna Isaacs has partnered with NRCS through her work with Campti Field of Dreams and works to educate others on sustainability and conservation practices. Donna recently planned a couple of no-till field days for small-scale producers. We joined her events on her own farm – DelaTerre Permaculture – in Eros and at Jubilee Justice in Alexandria. These events provided a wealth of information and resources for small-scale producers and an opportunity to meet and network with other farmers and NRCS and other USDA representatives. For more information on our partnership and opportunities to learn and connect, check out Campti’s website.

Jubilee Justice is a non-profit that seeks to heal and transform the wounds suffered by the people and the land through reparative genealogy and regenerative agriculture. They were chosen as one of 21 historically underserved producers to participate in the Campti Field of Dreams No-Till Organic Market Garden program. Jubilee Justice is committed to the environment and regenerative agriculture. Through their Black Farmers’ Rice Project and a System of Rice Intensification (SRI), they are working with black farmers to change their economics. The SRI project at Jubilee Justice is the first in the US and includes a cohort of farmers in Louisiana and several other states. Simply put, the SRI method is sustainable rice production that involves fewer inputs and higher yields all while nourishing the land and results in greater income for farmers.

no till demonstration

USDA/ARS No-Till Tools Demonstration

USDA’s Agriculture Research Service participated in the No-Till Tools for Small Applications events. Dr. Ted Kornecki and Corey Kichler demonstrated a ride-on version of a patented 2-stage roller/crimper and a patented no-till transplanter for walk-behind tractors developed at the USDA-ARS, National Soil Dynamics Lab (NSDL) in Auburn, AL. They also brought along a patented powered roller/crimper for walk behind tractors.

Rainfall simulator demonstation

 

 

 

NRCS Rainfall Simulator Demonstation

NRCS also participated in the No-Till Tools for Small Scale Applications events. Local Louisiana NRCS staff along with Regional Soil Health Specialists Josh Beniston and Willie Durham from the Soil Health Division presented information and provided soil health demonstrations to show the benefits of practices such as no-till and cover crops to soil health. They stressed the four main components of ensuring good soil health – 1) minimizing soil disturbance through practices such as no-till, 2) maximizing diversity through practices such as planting cover crops, 3) maintaining live roots as much as possible through practices such as planting cover crops and using no-till techniques, and 4) maintaining cover as much as possible through practices such as cover crops to protect the soil from harsh weather and temperatures.

 

The Louisiana Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, Inc. (LGLCI) has also partnered with NRCS and works to better equip producers, agencies, and the public to make conservation and climate smart decisions for Louisiana agriculture. Through this partnership, LGLCI promotes and encourages beginning farmers and ranchers, veterans, and underserved groups to recognize the importance of soil health, range and pasture management, and nutrient management as well as other natural resource concerns associated with grazing operations.

They recently hosted a Pasture Walk at Starkey Farmstead in Greensburg. Samantha Starkey and her family are committed to becoming producers instead of consumers and have implemented a number of sustainable practices and conservation techniques that are allowing them to realize their goals of being completely self-sufficient.

 

Deep Watering

Deep watering

Samantha at Starkey Farmstead uses a deep watering method to help her plants establish deep roots and maximize watering efficiency. Samantha uses a combination of water, worm castings, compost, and rabbit manure to nourish her plants.

 

 

 

Bio-char

Bio-char

Biochar is what you get when you burn organic material in a low oxygen environment. Adding this material to soil can enrich it resulting in better health, increased production, and improved water retention of plants.

 

 

 

Worm castings

Worm castings

Worm castings is just a fancy way of saying worm poop and it’s an excellent way to amend soil. Given  the right conditions (proper temperature, moisture, and pH), the red wigglers used at Starkey Farmstead produce rich worm castings that serve as a natural fertilizer that costs next to nothing.

 

 

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