Goodfoot Farm: Conservation Champion
Eight years ago, Beth Hoinacki began an ecological transformation on her farm in Kings Valley Oregon.
But she didn’t do it alone.
With support from the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), Goodfoot Farm — certified organic and biodynamic — aligned recommended conservation practices with her already principled approach to farming. “Biologically diverse systems are, by nature, systems in balance; that, in turn, leads to productive [farm] systems,” said Hoinacki.
From 2009-2015, two consecutive three-year NRCS contracts permitted Hoinacki to make structural improvements and conservation-focused changes at her farm.
Before receiving NRCS support, a ditch in the center of her property connected water from the Coast Range runoff to the Luckiamute River. Hoinacki described issues of erosion, noxious weeds, and runoff increasing sediment in the river. Funding through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) enabled NRCS to work closely with Beth and her husband to design and engineer a grassed waterway. The changeover decreased soil loss and weeds while improving the farm’s accessibility.
NRCS provided testing, planning and financial incentives to help Hoinacki implement farm practices ranging from cover cropping to nutrient and pest management. She credits NRCS for getting the ball rolling, creating priorities and enabling her to stick with it after the partnership ended. “The idea with the NRCS grant is to help [you] design and implement the practices; it’s something that we have kind of kept at.”
Located in Oregon’s Coast Range, surrounded by wild areas, Goodfoot Farm is in an ideal spot for promoting on-farm conservation. Hoinacki acknowledges not all farms may not be so fortunate. However, access to NRCS staff and financial support across the U.S. can help them improve their farms just like she did.
Hoinacki worked with NRCS to enhance biodiversity on her farm — a core requirement for her organic and biodynamic certifications. Together, they installed a hedgerow and native plants, which attract pollinators responsible for her one and a half acre blueberry plot, as well as nearby fruit trees.
Beth values the work NRCS brought to her farm, but she knows the location of her farm is ideal for conservation, and that NRCS is even more vital for farms in less prime locations. “A lot of farms out there are ‘conservation deserts,’ where they’re isolated, and there’s not a lot of biological diversity,” she said. “Programs like the NRCS has been key for reintroducing biodiversity into areas that don’t have them.”
Each farm is different, and conservation goals of a farm often reflect the place and people. A farm in a low precipitation zone may be more focused on preserving soil moisture, while a farm with fruit trees may want to attract native pollinators. For organic farmers, conservation is an integral part of their practice. Between organic’s focus on soil stewardship and biodiversity and the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Services’ (NRCS) mission to “help people help the land” a partnership between Oregon Tilth and NRCS is only natural.
NRCS and Oregon Tilth partner to offer conservation know-how to a wider range of farmers, as well as boosting professional development on organic practices for conservation specialists. Together we assist more farmers in becoming better land stewards for future farmers and generations.
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