For generations, children have been singing about the farmer, his wife and kids, and even the mouse and the cheese. But today, a modern farmer is more likely to be using the mouse on his computer (or more realistically, a smartphone or tablet) than dancing around a small wooded valley with his family and farm animals.
The website of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, nrcs.usda.gov, has been evolving to keep pace with the needs of today’s farmer, says NRCS Webmaster Elisa O'Halloran.
"Our mission is to provide American farmers, ranchers and other visitors with the tools and resources they are looking for on a site that is easy to use and navigate."
The most-effective websites combine clear and readable text, usability, functionality and simple navigation. NRCS writes the text for targeted audiences, which includes farmers and ranchers, as well as people who use NRCS online tools, such as Web Soil Survey, PLANTS database and COMET-FarmTM.
Recently, the agency created a new Get Started with NRCS page. This new webpage helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners learn how they can make improvements to their land with conservation.
This webpage features the five steps to getting assistance from NRCS, so that farmers, ranchers and forest landowners can know about the process of applying for assistance from the comfort of their own home, barn, tractor or wherever else they hop online.
Also, NRCS revamped its About and Drought Resources pages and created a Resources for Small Farms page. About NRCS provides an overview of what NRCS offers, including those popular tools that bring many visitors to the website.
Drought Resources houses information on assistance and resources that can help farms and ranches be more resilient to drought. And finally, the Resources for Small Farms page pulls together information and resources that may be of interest to owners and managers of smaller farms, such as information on organics and seasonal high tunnels.
NRCS uses a number of tools to help create these pages, including site traffic and customer experience information. "We’ve found that more than 61 percent of people coming to our website were new visitors, many of whom were farmers, ranchers and forest landowners looking for information on conservation programs," O'Halloran said.
NRCS has about 13,000 visits per day on its national website. Some of the most popular pages deal with soils, Web Soil Survey and the Farm Bill.
"We hope you enjoy these new and revamped pages, and we welcome feedback on how we can improve our 'digital' service center," says O'Halloran. "We’re excited to have the opportunity to help you get started with NRCS!"