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StrikeForce helps farmer get his start

StrikeForce Landing

By Beverly Moseley

Jorge Espinoza of Laredo, Texas, worked with NRCS to install a solar-powered pump, making his farm m
Jorge Espinoza of Laredo, Texas in Webb County, recently qualified for financial assistance to install a solar pump on an existing well through the USDA’s StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.
(L to R) Flavio Garza, NRCS district conservationist in Laredo, Texas, Jorge Espinoza of Laredo and

(L to R) Flavio Garza, NRCS district conservationist in Laredo, Texas, Jorge Espinoza of Laredo and Henry Gonzalez, NRCS rangeland management specialist visit on Espinoza ranch about forage establishment.

Despite the ongoing drought in Texas, several people are still enthusiastic about entering the cattle raising business as a part-time endeavor.  A growing segment of these new beef producers are first time landowners who have purchased small tracts of rural property, but they live and work in the city.

Jorge Espinoza in Laredo, Texas just purchased his first 50 acres, and he said he quickly learned that if he was to be successful, he needed expert advice.

Through word of mouth, Espinoza heard about USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, an agency that works with farmers and landowners to implement conservation on private lands.  

“If you really want to know something about what you want to do, just go with these people. They’ll help you out,” Espinoza said about NRCS’ technical and financial assistance.

After visiting Espinoza’s land, NRCS recommended cross fencing for rotational grazing, which helps create a more diverse plant base and healthier soils that can hold more water.

NRCS also helped Espinoza install a solar pump on an existing water well with financial assistance through StikeForce. The new pump eliminated his need to pump water from the well with a generator, saving energy and money.

“The limiting factor in most of these small tracts tends to be water. Lack of water, which during a drought, that’s a big concern for them,” said Flavio Garza, NRCS district conservationist in Laredo.

The USDA StrikeForce initiative addresses high-priority funding and technical assistance needs in rural communities in 20 states with a special emphasis on historically underserved producers and communities in designated counties with persistent poverty. It provides an opportunity for beginning farmers and ranchers and others who haven’t traditionally worked with NRCS to help with financial assistance and address their resource concerns.

“The StrikeForce initiative provides a better opportunity for these small, limited resource producers to get funded,” Garza said.

It can be hard for smaller farmers and ranchers to get started in the business because of the financial capital needed to improve their lands, he added

“It’s important that more citizens choose agriculture for careers, and this initiative makes it easier for people to answer this calling,” he said.

Like Espinoza, Mississippi retirees Percy and Emma Brown found their start with StrikeForce.

For more than a year, the Browns traveled 50 miles roundtrip three times a week from their home in Vicksburg, Miss. to their farm in Port Gibson in order to water their cattle. It was a time consuming process that involved filling up eight barrels with many gallons of water for the growing cattle herd.

“We just really wanted to get started, and we didn’t really know how,” Percy said.

The Browns were able to install the farm’s first-ever water troughs with StrikeForce funds. The farm now has two water troughs located in separate pastures. That means the Browns’ days of hauling water are over, and they can now spend that time on other farm projects. 

“It gives us peace of mind knowing our cattle will always have drinking water,” Emma said.

StrikeForce is creating conservation opportunities in rural communities and tribes across the nation. Learn more.