AUSTIN — March 22-27 is National Ag Week, a week to honor farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners. This year’s celebration takes on special significance because of the coronavirus pandemic and the challenges it presented.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) joined other federal agencies, organizations, universities, and stakeholders to recognize farmers, ranchers and forest landowners, their families, and workers who produce food, fiber, and fuel for the nation and the world.
This year’s National Ag Day theme, “Food Brings Everyone to the Table,” demonstrates the importance of conservation programs, effective risk management tools, and safety-net programs in helping agriculture thrive. NRCS salutes our nation’s farmers, ranchers, and private forest landowners for their unwavering commitment to providing affordable, safe, and abundant food, fiber, and fuel to the nation and the world.
Thousands of agricultural producers have voluntarily used NRCS programs and services to protect their natural resources, invest in their operations, and manage their risks very successfully. Meet a few of them from across the country.
Meet Kerry Thornhill Houston, farmer, Asherton, Texas
Near the small southwest Texas town of Asherton, there is a sight that surprises everyone the first time they enter Kerry Thornhill Houston’s ranch. As you top the hill, the land transforms into a rolling valley with a vibrant green olive orchard that some would compare to pictures of Tuscany. One of the most impressive factors is this orchard was only established seven years ago. Taking care of the land and natural resources is important to Houston, who believes the impact of these conservation efforts will translate improved production and a high-quality olives and oil.
In 2015 she began working with the NRCS. The conservation technical assistance of the NRCS, along with the financial assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), helped her install the recommended conservation practices to improve her operation. It also helped Houston stay prepared for the farming challenges, while supporting the management of three different and distinct soil types within the orchard.
Meet Kimberley Ratcliff, rancher, Oakwood, Texas
Kimberly Ratcliff manages Caney Creek Ranch, a diversified ranch in east central Texas, started by her parents. She joined the ranch in 2007 after leaving her job with Bloomberg as a branding specialist. In addition to managing Caney Creek, Ratcliff also owns Farm to Freezer Beef, a locally owned, family-run business that offers fresh, wholesome beef direct from east Texas ranches. They provide the highest quality ranch-direct beef possible, in a simple, convenient, and responsible manner.
Meet Rodney and Susan Schronk, farmers, Hillsboro, Texas
Rodney and Susan have been in the business of producing food for American families their whole lives. Despite hardships and adversities, it is their passion and life calling. They work to help others understand all that goes on behind the scenes of a family farming operation. They regularly host educational tours and workshops. They feel strongly that food really does bring everyone to the table. Two years ago, they hosted some of most influential food and lifestyle bloggers from across the state of Texas. And the dinner? It was master chef prepared homegrown Texas cuisine served outdoors with a corn field back drop, while the Schronk’s cattle looked on.
Meet Russ and Lori Studebaker, farmers, Fredricksburg, Texas
Studebaker Farms, near Fredericksburg, is one of the farms you will likely see with a peach stand waiting for you to arrive. Russ Studebaker began Studebaker Farms in 2002 with his wife, Lori, and their three sons. From May to August, Studebaker Farms market their peaches by roadside sales to consumers. With the help of the NRCS, Studebaker installed high tunnels to grow and protect his peach trees. NRCS provided Russ with technical and financial assistance he needed to plan and install high tunnels to protect his trees from severe weather and allow him to extend the growing season much like a greenhouse without the heating system and raised beds.
Meet the Griffin Family, ranchers, Howard, Borden, Oldham and Hartley counties in Texas
Ranching is deep rooted in some folks. For the Griffin family in west Texas, it goes back five generations with their hope of a sixth generation growing the passion they have for living on the land. Today, Thomas Lane Griffin and his three sons, Tom, Dan, and Ben, operate and manage their successful ranching businesses on an estimated 43-sections in Howard, Borden, Oldham and Hartley counties. With ranching in their blood, each of them has an interest in taking care of the land and the environment. Applying conservation practices is a natural piece of their management, so it makes sense they reached out to NRCS.
NRCS offers various conservation programs to help agricultural producers in the United States weather market changes and recover from natural disasters. In addition, there are programs to help agricultural producers and forest landowners improve their operations. Learn about additional programs .
For more information about USDA programs and services, contact your local service center
–Kristy Oates, NRCS State Conservationist
USDA NRCS Texas
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