Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District

We inspire and partner with our community to protect the natural resources and agricultural future of our District.

Automated bird laser at Summerhill Road Vineyard, Australia

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$5 Million Available for Farm to School Grant Projects

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America’s family farmers are planting, harvesting, and selling fresh, healthy produce year-round. They’ve got the farming thing down; but barriers exist that often prevent them from reaching new and expanding markets for their products, including customers that might be in the same town or state. One way the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hopes to help solve that problem is by building up the “farm to fork pipeline” through programs and policies that better connect family farmers with new market opportunities and customers. Institutional purchasers are a big part of supporting the farm to fork pipeline, and USDA’s Farm to School Grant Program helps to facilitate the relationship between institutional school food purchasers and local farmers and ranchers.

The Farm to School Grant Program provides grants on a competitive basis to increase local food procurement for school meal programs and expand educational agriculture and gardening activities. These grants can be used for training and technical assistance, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs.

For fiscal year (FY) 2018, USDA is making up $5 million available in competitive grants. This year’s Request for Proposals (RFP) invites applicants to apply for one of three different types of grant categories:

  • Implementation grants enable schools or school districts to expand or further develop existing farm to school programs. Implementation awards range from $50,000 – $100,000.
  • Planning grants are for schools or school districts just getting started on farm to school activities. Planning awards range from $20,000 – $50,000.
  • Training grants are intended for eligible entities to support trainings that strengthen farm to school supply chains, or trainings that provide technical assistance in the area of local procurement, food safety, culinary education, and/or integration of agriculture‐based curriculum.Training awards range from $20,000 – $50,000.

Complete applications must be submitted via grants.gov by 11:59pm EST on December 8, 2017.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, October 21, 2017


Threats to Conservation Easement Funding Put Farmland and Wetlands at Risk

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America’s wetlands, grasslands, and farmland are under increasing threat of conversion to other land uses – wetlands and grasslands are routinely targeted for conversion to crop production, while existing farmland is often threatened by conversion to commercial or residential uses. It is critical that we protect these lands and their existing uses because each serves an important function in our society and ecosystem. Without farmland, we lose our nation’s food security as well as the livelihoods of food producing and rural families. If we convert our wetlands and grasslands, we lose highly productive ecosystems that support an abundance of plants and animals, and provide a wide range of ecological benefits such as water filtration, flood mitigation, and carbon sequestration.

The US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) helps landowners, land trusts, and other entities protect these lands with long-term and permanent easements. ACEP, which was established under the 2014 Farm Bill and is administered by USDA’s National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), has two easement components – one for wetlands and one for agricultural land. The agricultural land easement component also includes a funding pool for Grasslands of Special Environmental Significance.

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Source:  National Sustainable Agricultural Coalition, September 27, 2017


The great nutrient collapse

The atmosphere is literally changing the food we eat, for the worse. And almost nobody is paying attention.

Increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is reducing the protein in staple crops like rice, wheat, barley and potatoes, raising unknown risks to human health in the future.

Irakli Loladze is a mathematician by training, but he was in a biology lab when he encountered the puzzle that would change his life. It was in 1998, and Loladze was studying for his Ph.D. at Arizona State University. Against a backdrop of glass containers glowing with bright green algae, a biologist told Loladze and a half-dozen other graduate students that scientists had discovered something mysterious about zooplankton.

Zooplankton are microscopic animals that float in the world’s oceans and lakes, and for food they rely on algae, which are essentially tiny plants. Scientists found that they could make algae grow faster by shining more light onto them—increasing the food supply for the zooplankton, which should have flourished. But it didn’t work out that way. When the researchers shined more light on the algae, the algae grew faster, and the tiny animals had lots and lots to eat—but at a certain point they started struggling to survive. This was a paradox. More food should lead to more growth. How could more algae be a problem?

Loladze was technically in the math department, but he loved biology and couldn’t stop thinking about this. The biologists had an idea of what was going on: The increased light was making the algae grow faster, but they ended up containing fewer of the nutrients the zooplankton needed to thrive. By speeding up their growth, the researchers had essentially turned the algae into junk food. The zooplankton had plenty to eat, but their food was less nutritious, and so they were starving.

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Source:  Helena Bottemiller Evich, Politico, September 13, 2017


The zoo beneath our feet: We’re only beginning to understand soil’s hidden world

The gardener has a long, touchy-feely relationship with the soil. As every good cultivator knows, you assess the earth by holding it. Is it dark and crumbly, is there an earthworm or beetle in there, is it moist, and when you smell it, are you getting that pleasant earthy aroma?

All these signs are reassuring, and have been through the ages, but they are mere indicators of something much greater and infinitely mysterious: a hidden universe beneath our feet.

This cosmos is only now revealing itself as a result of scientific discoveries based on better microscopic imaging and DNA analysis. There is much still to learn, but it boils down to this: Plants nurture a whole world of creatures in the soil that in return feed and protect the plants, including and especially trees. It is a subterranean community that includes worms, insects, mites, other arthropods you’ve never heard of, amoebas, and fellow protozoa. The dominant organisms are bacteria and fungi. All these players work together, sometimes by eating one another.

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Source:  Adrian Higgins, The Washington Post, August 9, 2017