Growing Sweet Results in Virginia

By Samantha Blair, Latoyia Elliott and Samantha Turner, FSA, Virginia 

Meet Elisha Barnes, a fourthgeneration farmer from Southampton County, Virginia. Elisha’s love of agriculture began while working in his family’s peanut fields at the age of six. He purchased his own farm in 1989 where he continues to grow peanuts, along with soybeans, corn, and a variety of produce, only stopping to rest on rainy days and Sundays. 

Latoyia Elliott stands to the left and Elisha Barnes on the right with a sign behind them that says "USDA Service Center"

Farmer Elisha Barnes with FSA County Executive Director in Training Latoyia Elliott in front of the Southampton County USDA Service Center. Photo by Samantha Turner, FSA.

Getting Started 

At 15, Elisha wanted to quit school to become a full-time farmer, but his father insisted that he finish his formal education. His father was unable to finish school and wanted his children to have the opportunities that he didn’t.  Elisha went on to finish school and later graduate with a degree from Nashville Auto Diesel College. His degree has paid off, allowing him the ability to work on and fabricate to fit the needs of his operation.   Continue reading

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Apples Don’t Fall Far from the Tree

Chris Jaswell on the left and Allison Jaswell on the right.

Allison and Chris are the fourth generation of the Jaswell family to own and operate Jaswell’s Farm in Smithfield. Photo by Paul Marcello, Jaswell’s Farm.

By Leila Naylor, FSA, Rhode Island 

Meet siblings Allison Jaswell Molis and Chris Jaswell, fourthgeneration owners and operators of Jaswell’s Farm located in Smithfield, Rhode Island, the state’s Apple Valley. The farm consists of 80 acres, 20 of which are apple orchards producing 12 different varieties. In addition to apples, they grow an assortment of specialty flowers and vegetables, including asparagus, cucumbers, summer and winter squashes, pumpkins, sweet corn, and tomatoes. Even though most of Smithfield’s orchards have faded away, Jaswell’s Farm continues to thrive.  Continue reading

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Roots in Agriculture Run Deep

JC Chandler stands on the left, Chris Chandler stands in the center, Amy Chandler stands on the right of one of their cows.

JC Chandler with his parents, Amy and Chris Chandler. Photo by Sabrenna Bryant, FSA.

By Sabrenna Bryant, FSA, South Carolina

Meet John “JC” Chandler of Belton, South Carolina, where his herd of Charolais cattle is his pride and joy. While he’s only 17, JC has already become an agriculture leader in his school and community. Currently, JC has a total of 17 cows in his herd, including eight commercial cows, seven Charolais, a steer and a limousine cow.

The Ninth Generation

JC’s parents, Amy and Chris, run a small operation in Belton where they raise commercial cattle, particularly Black Angus and Baldy. While their operation has nurtured his passion for agriculture, his family’s long running history with the Charolais breed inspired him to start his own herd with Charolais cattle.

“Growing up, I loved listening to all the stories about the Charolais cows from my grandfather,” said JC.  “He grew up with Charolais and he loves them. I felt it was my duty to bring them back.”

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FSA Farm Loans Help Colorado Hop Farmers Get Started

Audrey Gehlhausen stands on the left and Chris Dellabianca stands on the right in between two rows of hops. Two dogs are seated in front of them.

Billy Goat Hop Farm located in Montrose, Colorado, is a dream come true for beginning farmers Audrey Gehlhausen and Chris Dellabianca. Photo courtesy of Billy Goat Hop Farm LLC.

By Elizabeth Thomas, FSA, Colorado

Billy Goat Hop Farm LLC located in Montrose, Colorado, is a dream come true for beginning farmers Audrey Gehlhausen and Chris Dellabianca. This hop farm operation was made possible with hard work, determination, and a beginning farmer loan from USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).

Getting Started

Chris and Audrey’s passion for the industry started while working in different microbreweries in Idaho, and they eventually decided to start the process of owning an operation to grow hops.

Chris found an internship with an 800-acre Idaho hop farm where he experienced all the aspects of the job throughout a full hop season. After the season, Chris and Audrey packed up their life to go on a road trip across five states to learn more and find the right land to start their own operation, eventually planting roots in Montrose in 2017.

Continue reading

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Be the Link: The Neighborhood Farmer

Photo of Josh Volk

Josh Volk runs Cully Neighborhood Farm and serves on the FSA urban county committee in Portland. Photo courtesy of Josh Volk.

By Susan Riffel, FSA, Oregon

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) annual county committee elections began June 15 and continues through Aug. 1, 2023. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members from across the nation. In our final installment of the series, we’ll meet Josh Volk of Portland, Oregon.

Community-Supported

Josh currently runs Cully Neighborhood Farm where he produces vegetables with his Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) members and sells extras on-site for the wider community.  He came to work with Cully Neighborhood Farm in 2016 after working on a handful of other farms just outside of Portland starting in 2001, including his own farm, Slow Hand Farm, which he ran from 2009 to 2012.  Continue reading

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Be the Link: Bridging Gaps in the Virgin Islands

Royce Creque takes a selfie in front of a pen of cattle.

Royce Creque is a farmer and FSA county committee member on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Photo courtesy of Royce Creque.

By Savanna Turner, FSA, Florida & U.S. Virgin Islands   

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) annual county committee elections began June 15 and continues through Aug. 1, 2023. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members from across the nation. This week, meet Royce Creque of Greenridge Guavaberry Farm, LLC, on St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  

Finding His Passion 

Royce’s uncle, Myron Henneman, started the farming operation in 1984 in Bordeaux, St. Thomas. Before Royce became a full-time farmer, he originally started working on the farm during the weekends while he started his career in film production.  

“I have a college degree in film production and had a professional job,” said Royce. “I decided to go into farming full-time in 2012 because I was driven to push the farm to its potential. The only way we could get the farm to where it is now is if I put more time into the operation.”  Continue reading

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Be the Link: A Community Commitment

Renee Foster with her urban farm and high tunnel in background

Renee Foster operates Hampton Roads Urban Agriculture in Newport News, Va. Photo by Joseph Slattery, FSA.

By Joseph Slattery, FSA, Virginia

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) annual county committee elections began June 15 and continues through Aug. 1, 2023. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members from across the nation. This week, meet Mallenia “Renee” Foster, of Newport News, Virginia.

Community Engagement

The granddaughter of a Georgia farmer, Renee began her urban farm approximately 10 years ago. She operates Hampton Roads Urban Agriculture in Newport News, an operation she started as a community garden.

“Growing up in Georgia, where having a garden and fruit trees in the backyard was a norm, I didn’t know the meaning of food insecurity until I got out of the Navy as a single parent of two, Renee said. “Choosing healthy, nutritious food, versus food to sustain us for the week, was not very easy.” Continue reading

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Inflation Reduction Act in Action | Farm Loans: Harvesting Resilience

Jimmy Stevens standing in his field.

Jimmy Stevens is the owner and operator of Stevens Produce and Grains in Whiteville, North Carolina. Photo by Linda Gerron, FSA.

The Redemption Story of a North Carolina Farmer

By: Linda Gerron, FSA North Carolina

Through no fault of their own, our nation’s farmers and ranchers have faced incredibly tough circumstances over the last few years. That includes James “Jimmy” Stevens of Whiteville, North Carolina, who is one of the more than 20,000 producers who received life-changing, transformational support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) provided $3.1 billion for USDA to deliver expedited assistance to distressed borrowers with certain Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans whose agricultural operations were at financial risk. USDA has provided approximately $1.1 billion in immediate assistance for distressed borrowers to help make them current.

This has helped producers like Jimmy who were at risk of losing their operations due to several unprecedented challenges, including trade disruptions, a worldwide pandemic, continued impacts on input costs and markets, and more frequent, more intense, climate-induced natural disasters.

Jimmy owns and operates Stevens Produce and Grains, a business he has gradually developed since his younger years. He had the love of farming instilled at a young age since both of his parents were tobacco farmers. When he was 17 his dad passed away, and for the next 20 years, Jimmy and his mother continued farming tobacco. Over the years, his mother’s health slowly deteriorated, causing Jimmy to leave tobacco production and grow alternative crops – green beans and corn. Continue reading

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Be the Link: Building Relationships

Chris Linville sitting in his tractor.

Chris Linville raises corn, soybeans and wheat, along with cattle, on his farm in Osgood, Ind. Photo by Angie Stuehrenberg.

By Angie Stuehrenberg, Farm Service Agency

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee elections began June 15 and continues through Aug. 1, 2023. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members from across the nation. This week, meet Chris Linville of Osgood, Indiana.

Generations Farming Together

Chris grew up farming with his father, and never questioned what career path he would choose. He knew from a young age that agriculture and farming would be his lifelong career.

Chris and his wife Tammy operate Linville Farms. They began farming in 1987, the year they were married. Their operation has expanded over the years, and they now farm 2,800 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat and raise beef cattle, while Chris also works as a seed specialist for a seed company. In his spare time, he restores tractors for neighbors and friends. Continue reading

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Inflation Reduction Act in Action | Farm Loans: From Tragedy to Hope

The Sparks family stands in front of one of their poultry houses.

Milton and Abbie Sparks, along with children WesLeigh and Walker, have a poultry operation in Waldron, Arkansas. Photo courtesy of the Sparks family.

By: Billie Hall, Key Program Technician, Franklin County Service Center, FSA, Arkansas

Through no fault of their own, our nation’s farmers and ranchers have faced incredibly tough circumstances over the last few years. That includes Abbie and Milton Sparks of Waldron, Arkansas, who are part of the more than 20,000 producers who have received life-changing, transformational support from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provided $3.1 billion for USDA to provide relief for distressed borrowers with certain Farm Service Agency (FSA) direct and guaranteed loans.  USDA has provided approximately $1.1 billion in immediate assistance for distressed borrowers, including those who were behind on their USDA farm loans, to help make them current.

This has helped producers like the Sparks who were at risk of losing their operations due to several unprecedented challenges, including trade disruptions, a worldwide pandemic, continued impacts on input costs and markets, and more frequent, more intense, climate-induced natural disasters. Continue reading

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