- Tall fescue helps protect peach trees from nematodes
- Using ground covers in organic production
- In organic cover crops, more seeds means fewer weeds
February 4, 2013
Farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.
Production expenses for high-value organic crops like lettuce and broccoli can exceed $7,000 per acre, so producers often try to streamline costs with an annual two- to three-crop rotation. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) horticulturalist Eric Brennan designed a long-term investigation that examined several different cover cropping strategies for an annual organic lettuce-broccoli production system. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.
The researcher selected three winter cover crops often grown in the Salinas, Calif., area—rye, mustard, and a legume-rye mix—and planted each cover crop using either a typical seeding rate or a seeding rate that was three times higher. Seeding rates can influence a cover crop's ability to smother weeds.
During lettuce and broccoli production, Brennan ensured all systems received the same fertilizer and irrigation inputs and pest management. The harvest and sale of the crops, which met all USDA organic standards, were conducted by a commercial harvester.
Brennan's results indicated that all three cover crops yielded more dry matter than the two tons of crop residue per acre often recommended for maintaining soil organic matter. The legume-rye and rye cover crops produced approximately 25 percent more dry matter biomass than the mustard crops. But effectively suppressing weeds with the legume-rye crops required seeding at three times the typical rate, while rye and mustard crops appeared to suppress weeds adequately with typical seeding rates.
The long-term study also provided Brennan with more data about year-to-year yield variations in the legume-rye mix, including why legumes, which make up most of the seed costs, are not consistently abundant. Brennan thinks cooler early-season weather helps legumes compete with the rye. So when a hot and dry autumn is expected, producers might want to use a rye cover crop and skip spending the money on a cover crop with legumes.
Read more about this research in the February 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Soil and Water Conservation Society Members Join Feds, Farmers and Friends in Food Drive to Feed Families
Written by Dick Tremain, NRCS Iowa
There’s a little less hunger in St. Louis this summer, thanks to convention-going soil conservationists and scientists. When members of the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS) preparing for their annual international conference heard about the national Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families (F5) food drive, they decided to help by bringing food to the St. Louis convention, where it was collected and weighed.
“We collected 250 pounds of food and donated it to the St. Patrick Center of St. Louis, which is the largest provider of homeless services in Missouri,” said Jim Gulliford, SWCS executive director. “When you consider that much of the donated food was packed in luggage and went through airport security, this is a great effort. I’m proud of our members and the success of our food drive.” SWCS is a professional society dedicated to promoting the science and art of natural resource conservation.
Gulliford credits Bonnie Allely, an exhibitor at this year’s SWCS conference, with the idea of having the organization participate. Allely is the Earth Team national volunteer liaison with USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “When Bonnie contacted us about participating in the NRCS F5 food drive, we jumped at the chance. We asked the 615 people attending our conference to ‘pack for two, bring food, and help “starve” hunger in St. Louis,’” Guilliford said. Allely’s Earth Team exhibit served as the food donation collection point.
Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families is a national program that contributes foods to communities across the country. Allely says she handed convention attendees fliers promoting the F5 partnership. “I’m hoping this hunger-fighting effort continues when the conference-goers return home,” she said. “This is a great program.”
Want to help? Between now and August 31, 2010, NRCS, Farm Service Agency and Rural Development field offices across the country are collecting non-perishable food items that will be delivered to local area food banks. Click here to find a nearby service center.
Bonnie Allely, NRCS Earth Team national volunteer liaison, and Jim Gulliford, SWCS executive director, collected more than 250 pounds of food from SWCS conference attendees to fight hunger in St. Louis through the Feds, Farmers and Friends Feed Families food drive. Photo courtesy of SWCS.
Audrey Rowe, USDA Deputy Administrator of Special Nutrition Programs
I recently had the honor of speaking at the National Urban League Centennial Conference in Washington DC. The National Urban League is a partner in our efforts to combat obesity and hunger, particularly in African American communities. I was happy to have the opportunity to explain the role USDA’s nutrition assistance programs play in combating obesity and hunger and to emphasize the need for us to work collaboratively to solve these issues.
Nutrition assistance programs are very important to the country. One of the biggest challenges many families face, especially during tough economic times, is putting food on the table. Food insecurity is on the rise with many more people reporting hunger at different points during the year. Fortunately, our nutrition assistance programs are making a difference and are providing record numbers of people access to healthful food. For example, more than 40 million people participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) alone each month -- 33 percent of whom are African American. SNAP helps put nutritious food on the table and provides families the means to sustain a healthful diet. One-half of all children will participate in SNAP at some point during their childhood--including 90% of African-American children. Equally troubling is the obesity epidemic. Currently one in three children is either overweight or obese. We need to act now to address these seemingly opposite but related problems of childhood hunger and childhood obesity – both fueled by lack of access to proper nutrition.
At the conference, I encouraged members of the league to explore ways they can further partner with USDA on nutrition issues. The First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign emphasizes the need for each of us to work with all sectors of society to address obesity. She has set a goal of solving the problem of childhood obesity within a generation. We define solving the problem of childhood obesity in a generation as returning to a childhood obesity rate of just 5 percent by 2030, which was the rate before childhood obesity first began to rise in the late 1970s.
Many partnerships are already taking shape with organizations like the NFL, Major League Baseball, and even large health care providers like Kaiser Permanente. Support from outside government is crucial in order to achieve the First Lady’s goal. We have to work with a wide range of partners to take a holistic approach—from parents and teachers to medical care providers and food manufacturers. I am excited about the difference we can make with help from organizations like The National Urban League and our other partnerships. I am looking forward to continuing to work with organizations like the National Urban League to accomplish the dual goals of ending child hunger and turning the tide on obesity.
Administrator Audrey Rowe discusses childhood obesity during a panel discussion at the National Urban League Conference in Washington, DC.
By Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan
On Friday afternoon, I had the opportunity to meet with some inspiring African businesswomen who are visiting the United States for the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program and the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) Forum. This unique group of 36 successful women is here to participate in a two week fellowship training program that will introduce them to American trading partners and investors, expose them to American advocacy, and business models and will offer extended support to them when they return to their countries.
We were joined by two USDA employees who manage programs which involve and benefit women throughout the world and right here in the United States- Ann Tutwiler who coordinates the global food security initiative, "Feed the Future," and Judith Canales, USDA business administrator.
Our group discussed local and regional food systems, a subject very dear to my heart. Last year, I initiated the Know your Farmer, Know your Food program to encourage eating locally; American farmers feed our nation and the world, but they are all local to somewhere. Choosing regional produce encourages healthy eating with fresh food, vibrant communities, a strong connection between cities and the countryside, and support for this and the next generation of farmers and ranchers. This initiative will lead farmers to retain more of their food dollar while helping the public to understand agriculture and where their food comes from.
These benefits aren’t specific to America- I expressed to the African women, many of whom manage their own farm businesses, that this kind of promotion and mentality can be just as beneficial to them as it has been to our producers. Women in both America and African countries are slowly ascending into higher ranks, and it would be mutually beneficial to continue engaging with each other to overcome struggles through working groups as well as government collaboration.
I’d like to share with you the story of Oluyemisi Yetunde Iranloye, chief operating officer of Ekha Agro Farms Limited in Nigeria, which employs 200 people and supplies a quarter of the country’s demand for a glucose syrup used in pharmaceuticals, food, and brewing. Ms. Iranloye explained that her factory operates under capacity because local farmers cannot produce enough to meet her factory’s needs. She took matters into her own hands, and with the help of USAID, she helped organize female cassava farmers into co-operatives. They began to acquire tools and micro-finances needed to meet production needs.
In our meeting, it was apparent that despite cultural or language differences, women throughout the world have similar ideas and aspirations and work tirelessly to achieve their goals. I look forward to seeing these women at the African Growth and Opportunity Act Forum this week and I wish them the best of luck as they seek to expand their own businesses and create a stronger business climate back home.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan listens on as Oluyemisi Yetunde Iranloye talks about overcoming finance and production charges to become a major glucose syrup supplier to Guinness, Nigeria.
USDA Business Administrator Judith Canales, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Coordinator of the Global Food Security Initiative Ann Tutweiler, and Foreign Agricultural Service General Sales Manager Janet Nuzum are pictured here with the group of African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program participants.
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA's rich science and research portfolio.
By Tara Weaver-Missick, Branch Chief, with the USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS)
Summer field sports are under way, and sports fans around the world are having spirited discussions on their favorite team’s chances of winning. A key factor of sports success is the condition of the field, and USDA scientists are just as interested in those field conditions—but from the angle of fighting the bugs that could be eating the field!
Mole crickets—tunneling pests that damage golf courses, recreational fields and lawns—are a top insect pest of lawns and turf, and cost millions of dollars annually in damage and control measures.
To help “level the playing field” in the battle against bugs, USDA-Agricultural Research Service scientists in Tifton, Ga., in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Georgia, developed and released TifEagle, a bermudagrass that resists hungry insect pests. This high-performance, high-quality grass is particularly suited for golf greens in Florida, Georgia and other southern states.
TifEagle has short, narrow leaves and a dense, fast-spreading root system, making it ideal for putting greens. The ideal putting green also must be able to withstand the daily stress of close mowing that gives the North’s cool-season bentgrass varieties their prized putting speed. TifEagle soars in that regard, too.
TifEagle’s lush, carpet-like canopy helps the ball roll faster and more smoothly, and it’s environmentally friendly, crowding out weeds and algae so there’s less need for chemical controls.
USDA scientists also developed and released TifSport, another bermudagrass that’s cold-tolerant, has increased pest tolerance, greens up earlier in the spring, and withstands frequent mowing. It stands up to heavy use, so universities, high schools and local recreation departments across the South have installed it on their athletic fields.
There’s no guarantee that these high-performing USDA grasses will improve your score, but they could make playing more fun. Fore!
TifSport is an integral part of Kenan Stadium at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
TifSport gets tender loving care at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
USDA Rural Development Provides Grant Funds for a Maine Grange Hall Renovation to Process and Distribute Local Farm Products
By Virginia Manuel, USDA Maine Rural Development State Director
USDA Rural Development provided a Rural Business Enterprise Grant to assist the Maine Alternative Agriculture Association (MA3) to renovate the former Grange Hall in Starks into a modern facility for processing and distributing local farm products.
An open house was held on July 28th to celebrate the completion of the project, which now includes a new kitchen and cold storage facility. The association will contract with local farmers to provide farm products that will be collected, processed and distributed from the new facility. The farm products will be ‘beyond organic’ by emphasizing sound soil management as well as being pesticide free.
USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel emphasized the trend towards local food movement and the USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer Know Your Food’ initiative which emphasizes building sustainable food systems and the importance of the public being aware of and involved in knowing the source of their food. Manuel also said that this project was about building partnerships with the community and others, and that this facility is exactly the type of project that USDA Rural Development should support. “It is great to see our funding come to life in this type of project and we are pleased to be part of this.”
This Grange Hall was renovated with USDA funds provided to the Maine Alternative Agriculture Association (MA3) and is now a local farmers food processing and distribution facility.
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel (center) poses with contributors to the project. Paula Day, the President of Maine Alternative Agriculture Association presented a cake thanking USDA Rural Development for their support and funding. Pictured from left to right wearing presented by USDA are: Ed Ross, Arlene Walker, Ernie Hilton, Virginia Manuel, Ian Baxter, Paula Day, Kathie Duncan, and Pat Manley, the mason who built the oven.
By Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary
I recently spoke at the BIG TEN conference in Minneapolis. The BIG TEN is a USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) sponsored event focused on improving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) performance at the state and local level. Participants are from the Midwest States: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin. In the past few years, they’ve worked with decreasing resources while managing an increasing workload. So when I walked into a room full of dancing and cheering human service workers, I was taken aback. The energy was just incredible!
Turns out, that “energy” is one of the reasons the Midwest Region FNS holds this conference every year. It’s to invigorate and rejuvenate those who really put federal nutrition assistance programs to work: the state and local agencies. Most days out of the year, these people look hunger in the face, the face of children, of families, of the elderly. But that Wednesday, the day was laden with dancing, cheering and encouragement. I’m sure I saw a fist-pump or two, and Wisconsin state workers even showed up in themed T-shirts. States were awarded for their SNAP accuracy and participation achievements and applauded for being a large part of America’s safety net against hunger that now touches 1 in 4 Americans. They were also invited to workshops to help them improve how they implement SNAP, with topics ranging from effective interviewing to workload management to successful payment accuracy. But perhaps most importantly, and I heard this from several event participants, is the opportunity this conference provides for networking. With over 400 attendees, BIG TEN is an ideal place to share best practices and effective techniques for managing SNAP. Because the goal is the same across the states: help low income people access nutritious food.
It was certainly a pleasure to be amongst those who help feed those in need, and to see the pride they take in making sure that every person who needs help receives it.
Wisconsin wins annual Most Improved State award at the BIG TEN SNAP conference in Minneapolis.
Arizona Rural Development State Director Alan Stephens Joins Congresswoman Kirkpatrick to Announce $10 Million Recovery Act Broadband Project for San Carlos Apaches
By Nancy Conway, USDA Rural Development, Arizona
A group was on hand for Arizona Rural Development State Director Alan Stephens announcement that the San Carlos Apache Telecommunications Utility, Inc. (SCATUI) will receive a grant of $5.2 million and a low-interest loan of $5.2 million through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act). The loan/grant combination will be used to design, engineer, and construct a fiber-to-the-premises network to service the San Carlos and Bylas communities. “This project will bring broadband and telephone services and will serve a hospital and several doctor facilities that are currently unserved in the San Carlos area,” said Stephens. Joining in the announcement was Arizona U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick.
“In small communities, even small grants and loans are significant,” said Stephens. “When you start infusing more than $10 million into a region like San Carlos and Bylas, you are really having a huge impact on the people who live there.”
The Recovery Act project was funded through USDA Rural Development’s Broadband Initiatives Program.
USDA Rural Development State Director Alan Stephens (standing) announces Broadband funding for Arizona’s San Carlos Apaches. Congresswoman Kirkpatrick attended the announcement.
Scouting for Conservation – NRCS Shares Its Conservation Know-How at the National Boy Scout Jamboree
By Brad Fisher, Public Affairs Specialist
Right now, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service is sharing the agency’s conservation expertise with more than 42,000 scouts at the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A.P. Hill, Virginia.
Scout jamborees are always jammed with excitement, but this one is extra special – a celebration of BSA’s 100th anniversary. Congratulations BSA from everyone at NRCS on your century of service and adventure!
“NRCS is thrilled to be part of this amazing event,” said NRCS Chief Dave White, touring the jamboree. “It’s great being here and meeting so many of our nation’s future conservation leaders.”
NRCS, now celebrating its 75th anniversary, is supporting the jamboree in a big way with more than 40 employees and Earth Team volunteers (some from as far away as Pago Pago) staffing exhibits and giving lessons in conservation.
NRCS expects more than 27,000 scouts to take to the jamboree’s Conservation Trail, featuring the agency’s 3-acre site that spotlights the benefits of healthy soils, clean air and water, the importance of pollinators, and how everyone can incorporate conservation into their daily lives.
Adding to conservation education NRCS-style are soil stations where scouts build mini-soil profiles to take home and learn lessons about soil erosion. A scout who completes the NRCS stations earns credit toward a Soil and Water Conservation merit badge. Many thanks to folks from Virginia’s Hanover Soil and Water Conservation District who are here to help scouts finish up their badge requirements.
“The scouts are about conservation”, Chief White added. “We’re proud to be a partner with BSA on its Conservation Good Turn, an effort that’s bringing the benefits of natural resources conservation to communities throughout the country.”
NRCS conservation contingent takes Fort A.P. Hill. NRCS staff and Earth Team volunteers from across the country and the Pacific, along with conservation district employees, (pictured here with agency Chief Dave White in pale blue shirt) offer their conservation expertise to 42,000 scouts at the National Boy Scout Jamboree.
Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern
Throughout July, the People’s Garden Healthy Garden Workshops have been focused on plants and their problematic pests – diseases, fungi, viruses, harmful bugs, and environmental stressors. Today’s workshop covered a range of these, and included lots of local examples from gardens right here on the National Mall.
Mary Kay Malinoski and David L. Clement are regional specialists in Integrated Pest Management (IPM) from the University of Maryland, with specialties in Entomology and Plant Pathology. Today they combined resources with Graham Davis, the IPM Coordinator from the Smithsonian Institution, to provide an educational workshop.
While aphids are not bugs people are fond of having in their gardens, many natural enemies will come to control the problem. Green lacewings, lady beetles, and syrphid flies are attracted to and devour aphids. In fact, green lacewings will find patches that are infested and lay their eggs in that area, so that when the larvae hatch they have plenty to feed on. While the larvae of these helpful insects can sometimes be mistaken for bad bugs, they all feed on aphids and other plant pest bugs too.
Damage by other garden pests such as lace bugs, whiteflies, and spider mites can be detrimental. If your garden is heavily infested, you may want to think twice before using remedies such as spraying pesticides or using soap on the plant. These quick fixes can fry the plant by being absorbed into the bitten, infected foliage, and harm them further. In this case, the best option may be to remove the contaminated plant altogether.
Environmental factors make or break a growing season for a plant. Here in Washington, DC it has been an uncharacteristically hot summer. Resultingly, many plants, trees, and even turf have sun scald and/or heat damage. Relocating plants to healthier places out of direct sunlight can help the plant remain happy and healthy.
This coming August, the People’s Garden workshops theme is different types of gardens. We hope to see you there!
Graham Davis showed a photograph of a lady beetle larvae, a helpful young insect that eats aphids.
David Clement takes an infected leaf to show workshop attendees an example of several pests.
Mary Kay Malinoski and Graham Davis provided examples of plants with pest problems, to demonstrate what elements to watch out for in the garden.
By Debra Baczewski, USDA Rural Development, Amherst, Mass.
In support of the Feds Feed Families summer food drive, employees at the USDA Rural Development State Office in Amherst, Massachusetts have been collecting non-perishable food donations in their office. On Tuesday July 27, 105 pounds of non-perishable food items and fresh produce harvested from the Massachusetts State Office’s People’s Garden were delivered to the Amherst Survival Center (ASC.)
Since 1976, the ASC has promoted the health and well being of residents of Franklin and Hampshire counties with a wide variety of programs designed to help people meet their basic needs. The Center serves over three thousand people each year, and all of their services are free. In addition to helping to feed those in need through their Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen, the Center also provides a drop-in health clinic, a free store, and a variety of other support programs.
When Massachusetts State Office employees Deb Baczewski and Laura Barrick arrived at the Center Tuesday morning to drop off the donations from their office there was already a line forming to receive the day’s hot lunch and emergency food. The image was a sobering reminder of the problems families are facing today. Laura Barrick noted, "I had a renewed perspective of what true need was today as I watched a large group of people, including the elderly and women with young children wait in 90 degree heat to receive food donated from folks like us at USDA. It was very touching. As government employees, we are very fortunate and we should count our blessings.” Deb Baczewski reminded Rural Development employees of the importance of their contribution, saying, “You should know that your donations and volunteerism are providing a vital service to the friends and neighbors of the community we work in.”
Deputy USDA Under Secretary Announces Grant Awards that Support Local and Regional Food Systems in Oregon
By Vicki Walker, USDA Rural Development Oregon State Director
Victor Vasquez, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development, delivered a strong, upbeat message to grant recipients at the Community Services Consortium Youth House Gardens in Corvallis, Oregon on July 12. The Deputy Under Secretary was in Oregon to highlight the USDA “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative, and to emphasize the importance of Rural Development programs in delivering on economic recovery efforts.
Vicki Walker, Oregon Rural Development State Director, and Katy Coba, Director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, joined Under Secretary Vasquez at the gardens that provide youth with “workforce training, education, and the skills to foster community engagement.” The garden space is donated by a local business, and the food is grown and harvested for distribution at the Corvallis Farmers’ Markets and donations to the local food bank, Linn Benton Food Share. Director Coba noted that these same kinds of partnerships are valued between the state and federal departments of agriculture.
USDA has a tradition of supporting Know Your Farmer-styled projects in support of rural agricultural producers and food business. Examples include a well-established network of over 90 farmers markets, Ecotrust’s Food Hub, cooperative associations of cattle producers, and enthusiasm for local foods in grocery stores and food co-ops.
State Director Walker also took the opportunity to share information about USDA’s participation in “Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families,” the second annual food drive spearheaded by the Office of Personnel Management. Food barrels from the Oregon Food Bank will be placed in the office building that Rural Development shares with other federal agencies with a goal of raising 50,000 pounds of food for Oregonians, part of a national effort to raise over one million pounds of food for struggling families.
Under Secretary Vasquez then awarded certificates to several Oregon recipients of the Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), a program that provides funding to nonprofits, public bodies and Tribal governments to support small business development. Vasquez also announced on behalf of Secretary Vilsack that Torii Mor Winery, LLC in Dundee, Oregon, would be the recipient of a $6 million guaranteed loan under the Business & Industry Guaranteed Loan Program.
At a July 12 event, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Victor Vasquez congratulates grant recipients as well as partners working to advance Oregon’s local and regional food systems.
Victor Vasquez, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development presented a partnership award to the young men and women involved in the Youth Garden at the Community Services Consortium in Corvallis, Oregon.
Written by Rachael Dubinsky, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development Intern
As the sweltering summer sun beat down on the storefront of Ocean Fresh Seafood in Harrington, Del., Kathy and Randy Cagle beamed with pride as they saw the fruits of the labor finally paying off. With their retail seafood market up and running, the Cagle’s were filled with gratitude.
Wednesday, USDA Rural Development’s Rural Business Administrator Judy Canales highlighted a $41,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) awarded to the YWCA’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship in Georgetown, Del. The Center received the Recovery Act grant last year to focus on serving small businesses in Kent and Sussex Counties.
Earlier in the day, Canales addressed the Delaware Bankers Association on the Delaware State Fair Grounds in Harrington. She called upon local bankers to promote the expansion of rural economies by participating in Rural Development Business and Industry programs.
After her speech, Canales recognized Raymond Childs, a local seafood broker who received business development assistance from the Center.
Brenda Whitehurst, the Center’s Southern Delaware Marketing Manager, helped Childs successfully complete the Center’s eight-week business development course. Childs, who is also visually impaired, is now providing seafood to the Cagle’s and examining other entrepreneurial opportunities, including opening his own restaurant.
This ‘Recovery Summer’ event highlighted the value of successful business partnerships in rural communities. Not only is the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Delaware, so is great seafood.
Jayne Armstrong, Delaware District Director, Small Business Administration, Administrator Canales and Denise MacLeish, USDA Rural Development Business and Community Program Director discuss small business support efforts in Delaware.
Raymond Childs, owner of Pacific-Atlantic Seafood hands fresh fish to Randy and Kathy Cagle, owners of Ocean Fresh Seafood, Harington, DE. Looking on are: Larry Windley, representative for Senator Thomas Carper; Denise Johnson, employee of Ocean Fresh Seafood; USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton; Administrator Judith Canales; Brenda Whitehurst, Southern DE Market Manager, Center for Women's Entrepreneurship; and Jayne Armstrong, District Director, SBA.
By Gail Bennett, Public Affairs Specialist, WV USDA Rural Development On Behalf of State Director Bobby Lewis
They say “a picture is worth a thousand words” and this happy young man brings meaning and life to the cliché.
Jamalyn Sexton and her three year old son, Connor, are happy new homeowners. A celebration was held in their honor during National Homeownership Month in Elkins, West Virginia. Federal, State and local government officials, stakeholders, lending partners, and family members were present.
Distinguished guests and speakers included staff from the office of Representative Shelley Moore Capito, West Virginia Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis and state and local officials including Elkins Mayor Duke Talbott.
Officials at USDA approved mortgage funds for low- and moderate-income homebuyers in Central Appalachia through JustChoice Lending, a regional non-profit financial intermediary backed by the Federation of Appalachian Housing Enterprises (FAHE). Loans originated through this pilot program feature payment assistance and interest rates as low as 1 percent to ensure affordable payments. The demonstration is the first partnership of its kind nationwide, wherein non-profit lenders are being given unprecedented access to fast-track the deployment of federal funds. Locally, the HomeOwnership Center of Elkins is connecting homebuyers with this financing program.
In May, 2010, the first West Virginia homebuyer to benefit from the program closed on her home. The home purchased was built by Highland Community Builders and is located in Highland Meadows, a new neighborhood located in Elkins.
USDA Rural Development has several housing programs available to rural residents. For more information click here.
Rural Development employees with West Virginia homeowners in front of their new home. Row 1: Connor Sexton. Row 2 (l to r): Penny Thaxton (Housing Specialist); Shelly Hickman (Area Specialist); Homeowner Jamalyn Sexton; and Craig Burns (Area Director). Row 3 (l to r): Jeff Hunt (Area Specialist); David Cain (Acting Housing Program Director); and Bobby Lewis (State Director).
By Peter Rhee, Creative Media Director
In a few days, USDA will launch a newly revamped and refreshed Blog, bringing key enhancements to our current offering. You will notice a new look and feel, enhanced search capabilities, easier navigation, categorization, and faster access to previous blog posts.
For over a year, USDA has been sharing stories and information on a wide array of topics, from Economic Job Forums and nutrition efforts, to beehives and gardens at USDA facilities. Through an unprecedented collaborative effort behind the scenes at USDA, we’ve been working hard to post blogs about our projects and initiatives, from Agency offices worldwide, and messages from the Secretary and Deputy Secretary. Our goal has always been to feature interesting articles in a more conversational and accessible way that allows for public discussion.
We’re really excited about our new Blog and hope that you’ll check it out, and consider adding it to your daily feed and regular blog reading. Stay tuned for the switch and let us know what you think!
By Stacy Porto, Special Assistant
Federal employees from across the country are coming together to do what the USDA does every day – increase food security and reduce hunger by providing low-income people access to food.
Inspired by President Obama’s United We Serve Act, the Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families food drive began as a response to serve in your own community. USDA is leading the effort and Secretary Vilsack reminded us that while the needs of those who are hungry are great, “our opportunity to make a difference in their lives is also great.” No one should go hungry, and no one should be without access to healthy, nutritious foods.
Yesterday, the Department of Energy (DOE) coordinated an event with help from the USDA at L’Enfant Plaza. Along with Secretary Steven Chu and Director John Berry (OPM), USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon, gave remarks in front of federal employees as well as representatives of the Capital Area Food Bank.
Under Secretary Concannon stated that while USDA nutrition assistance programs help fight hunger, they cannot reach everyone in need, especially during the summer. He highlighted USDA local efforts, such as the partnership between the Agricultural Research Service and Choctaw Nation in Lane, Oklahoma. Together, they gleaned 2100 pounds of produce from the Oklahoma’s People Garden in just one month. Heading east, in Pennsylvania, Rural Development field offices collected over 300 pounds of non-perishable food in just two weeks.
The event also included live music and a discounted lunch for any federal employee who donated food. USDA continues to accept fresh produce as well as non-perishable donations. To date, USDA employees nationwide have donated 34,000 pounds of food to this year’s drive and are currently in 2nd place in the federal government.
Only one month remains to help combat hunger and feed our nation’s hungry. USDA employees, friends, and farmers can donate non-perishables at the USDA Headquarters in labeled boxes anytime, and can donate fresh produce at the People’s Garden tent on Tuesdays and Fridays. USDA state and local offices are encouraged to coordinate their own food drive. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org more information.
Inspired by President Obama’s United We Serve Act, the Feds, Farmers, and Friends Feed Families food drive began as a response to serve in your own community.
USDA employees, friends, and farmers can donate non-perishables at the USDA Headquarters in labeled boxes anytime, and can donate fresh produce at the People’s Garden tent on Tuesdays and Fridays.
By Lisa Wallenda Picard, Food Safety and Inspection Service Chief of Staff
“Stop! She has to eat some fruit! Don’t give her MORE chips! MOM – Cassie’s going to kill her daughter with all this junk food!” Ceci Picard, aged 11, while playing one of the Apps for Healthy Kids entries.
I admit the quote above isn’t the usual nightly exchange I hear between my two tween daughters. This week they have been happily trying all the new games in the Apps for Healthy Kids gallery. Since their mom works at the Department of Agriculture, they have been exposed to the idea of healthful, safe food frequently in their young lives. But as all parents finally admit, kids often choose to do the opposite of what we tell them to do. These apps have been great at reinforcing the points I’ve been making for several years now, but in a much cooler way!
While my daughters’ were playing one of their favorite apps, they got to see that if you feed your virtual child lots of unhealthy food it makes him or her weak and slow. My 10 year old was able to quickly grasp that eating too much of the wrong food would make her “child” not feel well. “So that’s why you make me eat lots of fruits and healthy stuff, Mom,” she said.
In another favorite app, they learned that carbo-loading with a huge bowl of pasta is fine before a swim meet, but not something you do before going to sit and watch movies. I heard lots of giggling over the app which features an alien, who while visiting planet earth, ends up eating so much junk food that he gets too fat to get back in his spaceship. Kids learn that you are what you eat, and the affect caloric intake has on your body, while laughing all the way through the lesson.
These games are a hit in my house and I love knowing that my daughters are learning about habits that will make them healthy for a lifetime. I encourage you to take some time with a young person in your life, log on and vote for your favorite games or apps until August 14 at: http://www.appsforhealthykids.com/
By Wayne Maloney, Office of Communications
Officials from USDA and the Department of Education met at the Agriculture Department yesterday with National FFA student leaders from across the country. The students are visiting Washington, D.C., for the annual National FFA State President’s Conference.
Among those addressing the students was Department of Education Assistant Secretary for Vocational and Adult Education Brenda Dann-Messier, Dr. Roger Beachy, Director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager.
Dr. Beachy noted that the world’s population continues to increase, and the generation represented by the FFA leaders will be challenged to double food production with a limited amount of water and land. He also said that while the students should specialize in a chosen field, they should always be aware of how their area fits into “the context of the world.” Dr. Beachy and Ms. Dann-Messier also took a moment to acknowledge the work of Dr. Larry Case with the Department of Education, who is planning to retire after 40 years of work, much of it with the National FFA. Ms. Dann-Messier said she is impressed by the National FFA’s “strong leadership skills.” She called on the students to be effective communicators, and to seek advanced degrees.
Under Secretary Tonsager told the students that what is needed most is leadership. Rural America, he said, is losing population, and it is up to young leaders to “turn that around.” The Under Secretary noted that with support from Congress and the Obama Administration, funding is being provided to improve infrastructure in rural America, but it is up to a new generation of leaders to “put the pieces together.” Biofuel production, he said, is one of the “single greatest economic opportunities” in history for rural America. That, coupled with broadband, will help make rural America a better place. Under Secretary Tonsager concluded his remarks by challenging the students to become “educated advocates, community leaders, willing to take risks and make choices.”
One of the student leaders on hand for the event was Lydia Shumaker, of Palmer Alaska. A recent graduate of Palmer High School, she lives on a farm in the Mat-Su Valley about 50 miles north of Anchorage. Her father raises vegetables and also has swine and dairy cows. She said her association with the National FFA is “the best thing that ever happened to me, giving me leadership and communications skills. I would recommend FFA to every student in the nation.” Ms. Shumaker says she plans to pursue a degree in animal sciences and wants to be a veterinarian. Before she does that, she plans to participate in the Market Beef competition at the Alaska State Fair.
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager addresses National FFA officers from around the nation at the Department of Agriculture’s Whitten Building.
Lydia Shumaker, a recent graduate of Palmer, Alaska High School and a FFA officer, says her association with the FFA was “the best thing to ever happen to me.”
Written by Adam Czech USDA Minnesota Public Affairs Specialist
If Tami and Kim Bredeson have their way, Minnesota will be known as more than just the Land of 10,000 Lakes. It also will be recognized for its wineries and vineyards.
The Bredeson’s own Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, Minn. During a special event on July 12, USDA Minnesota Rural Development State Director Colleen Landkamer recognized Carlos Creek for receiving a Value-Added Producer Grant. The grant will help Carlos Creek grow its customer base and increase distribution of its locally produced wines.
The Bredeson’s purchased Carlos Creek in 2008. The couple did not have any previous wine-making experience. Before purchasing the winery, Tami worked as marketing director for a bank and Kim owned and managed a custom wood carving business.
That business and leadership experience has helped the Bredeson’s grow Carlos Creek exponentially. Its Minnesota Nice brand – a group of specialty wines with titles like “You Betcha Blush” and “Hot Dish Red” -- has been the most popular. The value-added grant will help Carlos Creek meet increasing demand, which also may result in more full and part-time jobs at the winery. Tami said she hopes to increase production by 200 to 300 percent.
“Carlos Creek is a wonderful Minnesota small business success story,” Landkamer said. “We need to make sure businesses like these receive the support necessary to continue growing. Carlos Creek and other emerging small businesses will lead the way in rural job creation as our economy continues to rebound.”
The winery also is a valuable asset to other businesses in the Alexandria area. Tami estimates that about 40,000 people visit the winery each year and that 90 percent visit from outside the Alexandria area. Many visitors stay at local hotels and shop at other area businesses. Tami estimates that Carlos Creek helps bring in about $1.9 million for surrounding community businesses each year.
Local agriculture also benefits from the winery. About 90 percent of the grapes and apples used to create the wines made at Carlos Creek are either grown at the winery or purchased from local producers. The winery also recycles all of its bottles and uses only real cork, a sustainable material. The winery currently supplies customers in a 100-mile radius. The value-added grant will help distribution grow further, even beyond Minnesota.
“We’d like to have Minnesota Nice wines in every state in America,” Bredeson said. “Wouldn’t that be something?”
A staff member of Carlos Creek Winery in Alexandria, Minn., demonstrates the wine corking process. Carlos Creek is the largest winery in Minnesota and was recently selected to receive a value-added producer grant.
By Jill Lee, National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Jim Hafer’s passion for teaching is second only to his savvy in leveraging opportunity. He noticed many retirements at the local power plant and coal mines and saw opportunity for his agriculture students at Chief Dull Knife College in Lame Deer, Mont. With funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), he decided to train students to fill the upcoming talent gap.
“The Cheyenne average salary is $12,000–$15,000 annually. The starting salary for a welder is $45,000, with experienced welders earning $65,000,” Hafer said. “My students won’t stand a chance, however, unless they can prove they can do the job, and do it safely."
To create this program, Hafer combined funding from NIFA with a Rural Development grant to finance a vocational facility, classroom renovations and support facilities. The NIFA Tribal Colleges Education Equity Grants Program helped to pay salaries and develop a welding curriculum.
NIFA’s Equity program strengthens instruction at the 32 1994 tribal land-grant institutions. The funding is used to design curricula, provide equipment, promote learning through real life experiences, recruit and retain students and collaborate with larger schools.
“NIFA’s program helped our college leverage its first-time USDA Rural Development brick-and-mortar monies,” Hafer said. “The Equity grant gave me the first step on a ladder of credibility and confidence that let me take the next step to complete this project.”
As director of the school’s agricultural program, Hafer teaches a host of classes to help students successfully manage tribal lands. When he offered the welding class in the fall of 2009 it filled up in days—the school had to open up another section to accommodate student interest. He also brought in Kirk Denny, an MSU extension agent and experienced welder. Denny is not only a good instructor—he’s also a role model for his students.
“I learned how to weld in high school,” Denny said. “I worked as a welder during my last three years of college. Welding not only paid for my education, it’s what kept me in school. It wasn’t about having honors classes, it was about having a skill that I could always fall back on.”
Hafer is counting on USDA’s grants programs to help provide that skill to fill the void of retiring workers and improve his students’ quality of life.
Tyrone Woodenleg, a student at Chief Dull Knife College, works on a project in Jim Hafer’s welding class.