Growing and Grafting a Dream

Dick and Jean Hoffman started Hoffman Pecan Farm in 1962 with a few pecan trees and 80 acres. Photo by Kelsey Chambers, FSA.

By Madeline Alewine, FSA, Oklahoma

Meet Dick Hoffman of Hoffman Pecan Farm in Payne County, Oklahoma. Dick and his wife, Jean, started the operation in 1962 with a few pecan trees and 80 acres. Over the course of 58 years, their small purchase has grown into a much larger farm with more than 1,000 trees and over 100 different pecan varieties.

Growing the Business

Hoffman Pecan Farm is a family business operated by Dick, Jean, and their three sons. The family attributes their success to good grafting practices and great business.

Five years after the Hoffman’s initial land purchase, they were encouraged to begin grafting pecan trees. It was in 1981 that Oklahoma State University recruited Dick to provide the grafting wood to other pecan producers around the state. Continue reading

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Creating Opportunities for Farm and Sea

Catherine Puckett, a lifelong mariner and seasoned shellfish farmer of Block Island, Rhode Island. Photo courtesy of Block Island Shellfish Farm.

By Leila Naylor, FSA, Rhode Island

Meet Catherine Puckett, a lifelong mariner and seasoned shellfish farmer of Block Island, Rhode Island. She began her journey working for Block Island Shellfish Farm before purchasing the operation 13 years later. A single mother, Catherine continues to grow and diversify her ocean farm with some help from her daughters, Pearl and Luna.

Caring for the Ocean

Restorative ocean farming helped Catherine integrate new ideas into her existing farming operation by growing quahog clams, scallops, and most recently, sugar kelp, to help revitalize the ocean’s ecosystem.

Regenerative ocean farming is free of agrochemicals, fertilizer, or antibiotics. These engineered ecosystems contain kelp and bivalves that filter the water and sequester carbon and nitrogen. The shellfish grown alongside kelp benefit from reduced ocean acidification and provide habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrates. Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: Community Connection

Lisa Taylor of Cassia County, Idaho, serves as the chairperson of her local FSA county committee. Photo by Tracy L. Hansen

By Laura Crowell, USDA Public Affairs Specialist

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members across the nation. In our sixth and final installment, meet Lisa Taylor of Cassia County, Idaho, where she currently serves as the local FSA county committee chairperson.

Farming Family

Lisa, her husband Lynn and their two sons farm 8,000 acres raising wheat, barley, sugar beets, potatoes, corn, alfalfa, and beef cattle. They also have a custom farming operation.

Before she and Lynn were married, Lisa had no farming experience. Thirty-six years later she can run every single piece of machinery used in the operation.

“When we were first married, I never saw him because he was always out in the fields, so I thought I better start learning my way around the farm. I started with running with the windrower,” she said. Continue reading

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Building Drought Resilience to Continue the Ranch

The family was named the 2019 Conservation Ranchers of the Year by the Andrews County Soil and Water Conservation District Board for their land improvement efforts. Photo by Donnie Lunsford, NRCS.

By Donnie Lunsford, NRCS, Texas

Meet the Hightowers, a West Texas farming and ranching family that raises cattle and cotton. Shelly, and her late husband Rickey, were determined to carry on the family’s ranching legacy for their children. The family was named the 2019 Conservation Ranchers of the Year by the Andrews County Soil and Water Conservation District Board for their land improvement efforts.

Building Drought Resilience

Rickey’s father lost his ranch in the 1980s due to drought, hard economic times, and high interest rates. Losing the ranch he grew up on weighed heavily on Rickey’s heart as he watched his father and mentor lose almost everything.

When Rickey and Shelly got the ranch back in 2012, they saw an opportunity to expand their legacy for their children and grandchildren. When the Hightowers were awarded their bid to lease the L7 Ranch from the University of Texas System, the state was in a drought with little cattle forage available. They hoped they hadn’t made a huge mistake. The drought eventually broke, and they were blessed with rain. Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: In This Together

Wesley Sullivan, a member of the Comanche County FSA County Committee in Oklahoma. Photo by Madeline Alewine.

By Madeline Alewine, Farm Service Agency

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ve been introducing county committee members across the nation. In the fifth installment of the series, we’ll meet Wesley Sullivan, a fourth-generation farmer and rancher in Comanche County, Oklahoma and second-year member of his local FSA county committee.

A Family Tradition

Wesley farms with his brother, Joshua, and father, Joe. Once solely a dairy farm, the Sullivan family has transitioned their operation to now include 3000 acres of cotton, alfalfa, hay, oats, sorghum forage, turfgrass, and millet, in addition to beef and dairy cattle.  Wesley chose to pursue a career in farming because it is all he has ever known.

“Some of my favorite memories growing up was the chance to come home from school and go straight to the farm,” he said. “My friends and I would always go straight to the tractors and cows. It was great to spend time with my friends and get a head start doing what I love.” Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: Serving Our Neighbors

Lois Manigold, a member of the Grand Traverse FSA County Committee in Michigan. Photo by Savannah Halleaux.

By Savannah Halleaux, Farm Service Agency

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ve been introducing county committee members across the nation. In the fourth installment of the series, we’ll meet Lois Manigold, a member of the Grand Traverse FSA County Committee since 2020.

A Fruitful Business

Although she’s new to serving on the committee, she’s not new to the hard work of farming.

“I grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin with seven siblings, so I learned how to work hard early in life,” said Lois. “I’ve been part of the Manigold Orchard cherry crew for 38 years, since Rob and I were married.”

Lois and her family grow sweet and tart cherries, wine grapes and apples on over 400 acres of Old Mission Peninsula on Lake Michigan. Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: Giving Back to the Ag Community

Paula Sue Steffen currently serves as chair of the Richardson County FSA Committee. Photo by Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, FSA

By Bobbie Kriz-Wickham, Farm Service Agency 

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ve been introducing county committee members across the nation. In the third installment of the series, we’ll meet Paula Sue Steffen. She and her husband, Ben, have a diversified farming operation in the western part of Richardson County, Nebraska, near the community of Humboldt. Paula Sue is currently in the first year of her final three-year term on the Richardson County FSA Committee and serves as committee chair. Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: Growing in the City

Maureen is an accounting professor at Drexel University and a small urban homesteader. She currently serves as a member of the Philadelphia County FSA Committee. Photo courtesy of Maureen Breen.

By Keith Beattie, Farm Service Agency

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ve been introducing county committee members across the nation. In the second installment of the series, we’ll meet Maureen Breen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Maureen is currently a member of the Philadelphia County FSA Committee.

The Urban Homesteader

Maureen, an accounting professor at Drexel University, is a self-described small urban homesteader. She grows produce and raises up to six chickens for eggs and to research the value of backyard chickens in reducing food waste. Maureen’s interest in growing her own food has multiple components.

“I like the self-sufficiency,” she says. “I want to preserve biodiversity by growing crops that are not commercially popular. The food tastes great, and I think we should respect the land by not covering it with lawn grass.” Continue reading

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Lead Your FSA: Keeping Local Farmers Informed

Charles Wesson currently serves as chairman of his local county committee in Jefferson County, Arkansas.

By Lauren Moore, USDA Public Affairs Specialist

The nomination period for the USDA Farm Service Agency’s annual county committee election began June 15 and continues through Aug. 2, 2021. Throughout the nomination period, we’ll be introducing county committee members across the nation. This week meet Charles Wesson of Jefferson County, Arkansas, where he currently serves as the chairman of his local FSA county committee.

Starting a Farm

Charles started farming in 1972 and grows around 260 acres of rice, soybeans, wheat, hemp, watermelon, peas, and several varieties of greens on his property in Altheimer.

“I was working for the railroad when I married a young lady back in 1969,” he said. “Her father and brother were farmers. I bought a cotton picker and did custom work on the side.”

After a few years, his father-in-law noticed Charles’ interest in agriculture and encouraged him to start his own farm. “And that’s what I did,” he said. “I started renting some land and I kept working on the railroad. I’ve been farming ever since.” Continue reading

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Family Dairy Shows Resiliency in Uncertain Times

Clayton Wright is a fourth-generation dairy farmer. Photo courtesy of Wright’s Dairy Farm and Bakery

By: Leila Naylor, FSA, Rhode Island

Meet the multi-generational family owners of Wright’s Dairy Farm and Bakery, one of the oldest dairy operations in Northern Rhode Island. They focus on cow comfort, value-added products, and accommodating the needs of their customers.

Focusing on the Future

On their 200 acres of land, the Wright family grow corn and hay to feed their 115 Holstein cows. Over the past three years the Wrights have worked to transition to a no-till cropping system, which helps store carbon in the soil, improves soil structure and biodiversity, and minimizes tractor time. They’ve noticed an increase in worm activity, which is a sign of healthy soil. Continue reading

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