By: Michiko Riley
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Dec. 14, 2020 – The United States Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has an opportunity to those interested in growing urban and rural produce within the Cincinnati city limits to apply for financial and technical assistance for high tunnel systems, commonly referred to as hoop houses.
Imagine enjoying freshly harvested vegetables from a local community producer all winter long. High tunnels make growing vegetables possible long after the first frost. In addition, urban and rural area farmers can build high tunnels, in or near community gardens and residential areas, allowing growers to cultivate and harvest a source of nutritious food closer to where they live, especially for populations living in a food desert.
A high tunnel sits over top of the garden and uses arch shaped aluminum poles to support removable heavy plastic sheets that trap the sun’s heat, warming the air. Most have a peak height that allows an adult to stand easily with room to spare. They look like greenhouses except plants grow in the ground instead of in pots.
Cincinnati is on the forefront of providing opportunities for diversified farming operations by offering more flexibility in allowing farming practices within the city limits. Applicants approved for a high tunnel system must adhere to local zoning and building requirements for high tunnel systems. Applicants must also have control of the land where the high tunnel system will be installed.
To apply for a high tunnel system in Cincinnati, contact NRCS’ Ms. Lori Lenhart at email@example.com or 614-653-3460. Ms. Lenhart will assess proposed high tunnel sites and help applicants through the application process. If you have an interest in a high tunnel system and are located outside of the Cincinnati city limits, contact your local NRCS conservationist as soon as possible. Be sure to check the status of your Service Center when you reach out to us. For offices with restrictions on in-person appointments, we are still available by phone, email, and through other digital tools. Your Service Center’s status is available at https://www.farmers.gov/coronavirus/service-center-status.
Applications signed and submitted to NRCS by the January 15, 2021 deadline will be evaluated for fiscal year 2021 funding. Visit Ohio NRCS website under “EQIP Funding Categories” for more details. To learn more about EQIP or other technical and financial assistance available through NRCS conservation programs, visit Get Started with NRCS or contact your local USDA Service Center.
As we all breathe a sigh of relief and welcome the new year, it’s time to start gearing up for the 2021 water sampling season! Clean water is important for everyone, and citizen water quality monitoring plays a big role in extending the range that the Hamilton County SWCD and their partner environmental organizations are able to track. If any ‘red flags’ pop up as a result, we can use that information to identify the cause and implement a solution. Additionally, we can better understand where to focus our conservation efforts on a big picture level by gaining an understanding of the general health of entire rivers and streams, all thanks to our incredible volunteers!
This year’s first sampling day will be Saturday, March 13, and will continue monthly every second Saturday through November. We are looking for volunteers to collect samples, and volunteers to process samples in both the Great Miami River watershed and the Little Miami River watershed areas. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a scientist to help! There will always be several lab leaders present to answer questions and help where needed, and we will hold a volunteer training at the start of each year. Taking pandemic safety recommendations into consideration, each testing station will be spread into separate rooms or areas, and everyone will be expected to wear a mask. Volunteer training will be in the form of videos rather than in person, and will be available in January-February. If you want to volunteer, or have questions about the best fit for you, contact Sarah Meadows, Public Involvement Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 513-284-8314.
Hi there! I’m Sarah, the new Public Involvement Coordinator here at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District. I’ve spent my first few weeks learning about all the great ongoing conservation projects across the county. While I may have my own ideas for new projects, I would love to hear from you! Are there ways you would like to get involved in Hamilton County conservation? Is there a better way to let you know about opportunities? Let us know if you have a project in mind, like a location that needs a new rain garden. If you want to get involved but aren’t sure how, if you would like to learn more about conservation in your own yard, or any other suggestions you have to engage our community and conserve the natural resources we have here in Hamilton County! Feel free to contact me via phone (513-284-8314) or by email.
By: Gwen Roth
CFW asks students to submit a proposal that answers the question:
"What can you do to improve your watershed?"
Students can work independently, or as a team of no more than four to research their local watershed, identify an environmental concern, and come up with a realistic solution.
To volunteer, please contact Gwen. We always need help mentoring students, reviewing proposals, inputting scores, etc. If you can help, we can find a task that fits your schedule and preferences.
By: Gwen Roth
Pollinator Species, such as the monarch, are experiencing population declines across the United States. To help foster the creation of monarch and other pollinator habitats, the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI) is partnering with the State of Ohio's Soil & Water Conservation Districts in a Statewide Milkweed Pod Collection.
Milkweed is essential to the survival of Monarch Butterflies in our state, due to its location along the migration pattern. The Monarch butterflies that hatch here in the summer migrate to Mexico for the winter, where they will restart their life cycle and return in the spring.
During September and October everyone is encouraged to collect common Milkweed pods from established plants. It is best to pick the seed pods when they appear dry, gray, or brown in color. If the center seam pops with gentle pressure this indicates that they are ready to be picked. Seed pods can be stored in paper bags, labeled with the county from which they came, the date and time along with species collected, if not common milkweed. Pods can be dropped off at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District by October 30th. Visit our website for additional information.
By: Gwen Roth
I’m sure many of you have heard about pollinators and their importance in our food production and ecosystems. Birds, Bats, Bees, Butterflies, Moths, Wasps and many others are crucial in the pollination process. Through pollination, these faunae help plants to create food, fiber & oil, prevent soil erosion and even sequester carbon. But many pollinator populations are declining and scientists give a variety of reasons for the decline – habitat destruction (including feeding and nesting sites), pesticide use, disease and even changes in the climate.
While there are thousands, maybe millions of pollinators around the globe, I think one of the most amazing pollinators is the Monarch Butterfly. They have such a unique life cycle and migration story. Since it’s a cycle, we’ll start the story in the winter, where Monarchs spend the winter months gathered in forests located in the mountains of Central Mexico. Once spring arrives, they begin to fly north toward the United States, mate and lay eggs before dying. The egg will then hatch into a caterpillar, where it will grow for a couple weeks eating only Milkweed, a plant that is toxic to most other animals. After a few weeks as a caterpillar, the Monarch will form a chrysalis and transform into an adult butterfly, a process which takes about 10-14 days. The adult butterfly will then continue its migration northward where it will mate, deposit eggs on the milkweed plant and die. This process continues for 3-4 life cycles until late summer or early fall when the Monarchs are triggered by daylight and temperature changes to complete the journey back to Mexico, sometimes traveling more than 2,000 miles! This 4th generation of Monarch Butterflies is often called the Super Generation because they can live as an adult for up to eight or nine months. Most adult monarchs in the summer live for only 3-5 weeks - yes, weeks! This super generation will return to the same overwintering sites in Mexico (where they have never been) and spend the next several months before beginning the journey north, mating, depositing eggs and dying - beginning the cycle all over again!
For the last several decades, the Monarch’s population numbers have decreased, and many scientists believe this is due to a lack of milkweed plants as well as habitat fragmentation and weather phenomena. In December, scientists will do their annual count of the overwintering population and we will know more about the Monarch’s overall population health.
For your part, you can certainly help the Monarch Butterfly and other pollinators by doing a few simple things around your home: