Thanks to years of stream restoration efforts on Omak Creek and a recent infusion of $625,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds, the Confederated Colville Tribes (CCT) celebrated the return of migrating spring chinook salmon during its annual First Salmon Ceremony on June 18 at the Omak Longhouse.
The passage of spring chinook salmon was blocked by numerousbarriers for more than 80 years. The fish returned to Tribal waters in 2005, when several projects that removed those obstructions were completed. Since that time, members of the CCT have celebrated the salmon’s cultural significance through the annual ceremony. (Read more.)
The ARRA funding is helping remove other barriers that will open additional spawning waters for the salmon. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) has provided technical assistance to the CCT throughout the project, which is expected to be completed later this summer.
This year’s ceremony included the traditional sunrise service with the “Calling of the Salmon,” longhouse program and meal. NRCS Chief Dave White also presented “Legacy of Conservation Awards” to various members of the tribe and CCT Fish and Wildlife personnel during the event.
During the Confederated Colville Tribe's First Salmon Ceremony's sunrise service, participants are encouraged to click river rocks together streamside, to call the salmon home.
Photo by Ron Nichols, NRCS
Now is a good time to build a new home. Just ask any of the 213 families around Utah County who have built their own homes over the past decade through USDA Rural Development’s Self Help Program. Rural Housing Development Corporation (RHDC) in Provo, Utah is the non-profit organization created to help income eligible families achieve the dream of home ownership.
From August 2000, RHDC has built 213 homes with another 21 homes under construction. In just over six months a group in Payson, Utah completed their homes working under the direction of a construction supervisor, contributing more than 65 percent of the construction labor on each other’s homes. Each family volunteered a minimum of 35 hours per week to carry out construction activities such as framing, roofing, painting, finish work, along with landscaping their yards. The homes are three-bedroom, two-bath and measure between 1200 and 1350 square feet of finished space with full-unfinished basements. The mortgages, with structured, affordable payments will be administered through USDA Rural Development’s Direct Home Loan Program.
A ribbon cutting ceremony and open house was held recently for seven Payson families in celebration of National Homeownership Month. The program included Dave Conine, Utah State Director for USDA Rural Development who presented a “Recognition of Excellence” plaque to Brad Bishop, RHDC Director. Other dignitaries attending included, Dwight Peterson, Utah Director of Housing and Urban Development, Mike Glenn, Utah Division of Housing and Community Development, along with State, and local leaders.
“Self-help housing is an on-the-job training offering participant’s important skills in the construction trades and much more. The experience acquired in building self-help neighborhoods includes valuable workplace skills such as teamwork, time management, budgeting, organizing activities, and cooperation with co-workers. Your degrees in Self-help housing will provide to be one of the greatest treasures you earn in this program,” commented Conine. Then the state director thanked Brad Bishop, and his dedicated staff for consistently delivering great service and quality self-help homes constructed on time and within budget. He closed his comments by wishing all the new home owners a long joyful residency in the community they have created.
Siblings, Russell Collins and Christine Davis, with help from their family, lay the last piece of sod at one of the new homes they helped each other build. They will live next door to each other.
Azgad and Quetzi Garcia, with their children, standing on their new front porch with Dave Conine, Utah State Director (right) and Brad Bishop (second from right), RHDC Director. Their USDA-financed “Self Help” home was selected to be in Parade of Homes.
Written by Bill Wood, State Biologist, Alaska
Let’s say you’ve just awakened from a restless 6-month nap. You check on the kids and it seems like everyone is really hungry. On your way to the grocery store you pass a chicken take-out joint and the smell of those fryers is irresistible. With kids in tow, you perambulate into the unattended shop; by all appearances, it seems you may have discovered the proverbial “free lunch.” Who could say no?
This happens for scores of mammas and pappas all over the Kenai Peninsula every spring—mamma and pappa bears, that is. And it’s not just chicken on the menu. Equally delectable items like dog food, honey and fish, not to mention livestock feed, a wide variety of human foods and other attractive items draw hungry bears that are just following their natural instincts. Bears spend as much as 80 percent of their waking day feeding or foraging for food. So when they’re rewarded for their efforts with a fairly easy meal and experience no negative repurcussions, they can quickly become habituated to that attraction.
Bears can be destructive and these situations can potentially be dangerous for all involved. Chicken coops, beehives, smokehouses and the like can quickly become demolition sites with lost equipment, money, time and effort. Sometimes encounters between humans and bears don’t turn out so well for the people, but they never turn out well for the bear. People can be proactive in reducing the potential for these kinds of human-bear encounters in a few important and sensible ways.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (WHIP) helps provide solutions for issues like this one. WHIP’s cost-share funding assistance is used to improve a wide variety of wildlife habitat conditions and help reduce negative impacts to wildlife species on private land.
For the 2011 fiscal year, NRCS has developed a new initiative available to landowners only on the Kenai Peninsula. The new project idea seeks to reduce potential up-close-and-personal interactions between people and bears at sites of human-induced bear attractants and provides matching funding to landowners to install permanent electric bear fencing. This type of fencing is an effective technique to exclude bears from areas where they should not seek food.
After receiving their first shock, many bears seem to sense the electrical charge in the fence lines and avoid those fences. When the fences are properly designed, even their appearance can remind bears of their previous unpleasant encounter.
NRCS, in cooperation with Alaska Department of Fish and Game, will also provide fence designs and site management plans and recommendations for the installation of the fences. Site inventory and assessment is part of the technical assistance landowners will receive, in addition to help with purchase and installation costs.
To find out more about the program contact the NRCS Kenai Field Office at (907) 283-8732, the NRCS Homer Field Office at (907) 235-8177, or the office of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Kenai at (907) 262-9368.
A mamma grizzly on the hunt for food in Alaska.
Written by Allen Casey, NRCS Soil Conservationist, Kansas
The Manhattan Plant Materials Center (PMC) is recruiting Earth Team volunteers to participate in a butterfly count on July 14, 2010.
The count, sponsored by North American Butterfly Association (NABA), will help scientists monitor butterfly migration and get a good estimate of the different species and their numbers.
Volunteers will meet at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Plant Materials Center and disperse into the surrounding area, Wednesday, July 14, 2010, from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. While knowledge of butterflies is a plus, it is not necessary.
In conjunction with the butterfly count is an optional Butterfly Identification Workshop on Thursday, July 8, from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Working as a partner with the PMC, the Konza Prairie Biological Station will host the workshop to help prepare volunteers to identify butterflies. Please register by Tuesday, July 6, at (785) 539-8761.
Those attending the event will also learn more about the PMC and its purpose of developing plants for conservation, as well as have a chance to look at some of the pollinator projects.
There is no charge for participating in the count, but attendees need to register by calling (785) 539-8761 by Monday, July 12, to assure adequate supply of materials. Those attending should bring a sack lunch and bug spray—and binoculars and camera (if you have them)—and dress appropriately for the weather conditions. You must provide your own transportation. If special accommodations are needed for the count or workshop, please let the PMC know when you register.
Earth Team volunteers expand NRCS services with volunteer time, talent, and energy. If you are interested in participating in the count but aren’t already an Earth Team volunteer, it is easy to become one. Earth Team application forms will be available the day of the butterfly count, or you can call (888) 526-3227. Anyone 14 years or older who is interested in conserving our natural resources is welcome to become a volunteer. (Minors aged 14 to 18 years need a parent’s signed consent form.)
Butterfly on red clover.
USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico Celebrates Homeownership Month Activity at the Southeastern Affordable Housing Management Association (SAHMA) Convention
By Miguel A. Ramírez, Public Affairs Coordinator
Last week the Southeastern Affordable Housing Management Association (SAHMA) held its annual convention in Puerto Rico. Three hundred eighty housing managers participated in the convention. Arlene Zambrana, USDA Rural Housing Program Director and her staff were also present.
Rural Development Officials talked about the Homeownership Month Celebration and the success stories we had with funds provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Officials explained the current funding availabilities the Agency has under consideration during June 2010, and the Multifamily Housing Program and Civil Rights Program that protect the residents of the housing projects.
The Housing Administrator had a face to face meeting with Federal, State and Municipal Agency’s representatives where they discussed the things we are doing well and the things that needed improvement.
USDA Rural Development Puerto Rico is working really hard promoting our Rural Housing Programs this month, with meetings around the island, newspapers articles and TV appearances of José Otero-García, State Director, promoting our Agency’s Rural Housing Program and success stories.
Cross-posted from the Let's Move Blog
By Tom Vilsack, Agriculture Secretary
I’ve just received an important report about diet and health, and wanted to share with you some of what it says. The Advisory Report is from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and it is directed to me and to Secretary Sebelius at Health and Human Services. We will be using this report as the basis for finalizing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans by the end of the year. This report is a summary of the absolute best and most up-to-date science available, written by a group of 13 prominent independent experts in nutrition and health.
Their guidance is important because their recommendations provide the basis for important policy decisions related to the Food Pyramid, school meals, the WIC program, and other nutrition programs that USDA manages. The report highlights four major action steps for Americans to improve their diet and health:
The first is to reduce overweight and obesity by reducing overall calorie intake and increasing physical activity. The committee said that the obesity epidemic is the single greatest threat to public health in this century.
The second step is to eat more vegetables, cooked dry beans and peas, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. In addition, eat more seafood and fat-free and low-fat milk and milk products, and moderate amounts of lean meats, poultry, and eggs.
The third step is to cut out most added sugars and solid fats. Foods with added sugars and solid fats have unneeded calories and few, if any, nutrients. Also, to reduce sodium and eat fewer refined grains, especially desserts.
The final step is to “Meet the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.” This means to get up and move more—lots more! It is important for overall health and it helps burn calories to keep weight in balance.
How to put all of this advice together? The Committee identified several ways to build a total diet that meets nutrient needs, but stays within a person’s “calorie budget.”
The Advisory Committee was very concerned about the health of children—as we are at USDA. Obesity in children has tripled in the past 30 years, and we need to tackle that problem.
Between now and July 15, the public will have an opportunity to read and comment on the Advisory Report. You can find the report online. In early July we’ll also be holding a meeting here in Washington where the public can come provide oral testimony on the Advisory Report. We look forward to receiving and reviewing your comments. After evaluating your feedback, USDA and HHS will work together to develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which we expect to release at the end of the year.
By Phil Sammon, USDA Forest Service Public Affairs
Try something a little different for breakfast over the next three weeks with the USDA Forest Service – “Hot Links”! The agency has developed a three-week informational series centered around wildfire prevention and awareness, community planning, wildfire response and resource and landscape restoration information.
Wildfire is a “hot” topic that garners significant national attention each year. But it is the local interest that the agency seeks to address in this web-based campaign. Each of their daily messages and points of interest will be accompanied by a “link” to one of many wildfire-focused websites that the agency or other wildfire agencies hosts and supports.
The three week-long themes will focus on Fire-Adapted Communities; Wildfire Response by the agency; and Landscape and Resource Restoration activities the agency conducts. The information presented comes in short notes that direct readers or followers to a Forest Service or interagency web site where readers can find more details and get recommendations for other wildfire resources and information.
The agency seeks to capitalize on the growing number of followers on both the USDA Facebook profile and numerous Forest Service twitter accounts across the country, and anticipates reaching as many as 500,000 ‘followers’ through these social media websites. As the Department of Agriculture finalizes overall department-wide guidance and regulation for new media, the Forest Service is actively engaging this valuable communication and social networking opportunity to convey the vital role the agency plays in the everyday lives of Americans from coast to coast.
Make sure to check out “Hot Links” every morning – you’ll only need to follow the USDA Facebook page, or keep up with the Forest Service on Twitter.
Written by Katherine Belcher, Kentucky USDA Public Information Coordinator
As USDA kicked off National Home Ownership Month, more than 115 volunteers from 25 churches across the state of Kentucky gathered in a vacant lot in Whitley City to build a house for a woman many of them have never met. They are camping near the construction site, working long days to see that the project is completed by the home’s dedication date of June 19.
In Kentucky’s first homeownership event of the 2010 campaign, Rural Development staff joined representatives from other state and federal agencies, non-profit groups and community leaders to participate in the opening ceremony for the “Extreme Build” that will provide a new home for a very deserving, hard-working single mom.
Kristi Wilson was chosen to be the recipient of the fifth annual Extreme Build in McCreary County by the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship (KBF) – because of the struggles she has overcome in her life and her dedication to providing the best life possible for her two children. McCreary County is one of the state’s 43 persistent poverty counties.
KBF volunteers will build a new home for Wilson, who received a Rural Development Direct Loan to make the purchase and other assistance from local non-profits and state and federal agencies.
Wilson was overwhelmed and awed by the number of people that have shown up to assist in building her new house from the ground up.
“It’s amazing that you can find so many people with that big of a heart,” said Wilson. “It’s answering my kids’ prayers. I wanted this for my kids – I want them to have a home.”
After the home’s foundation was laid, a crane placed an 8,000 pound “core” unit containing a pre-fabricated kitchen, bath and utility room onto it. The core is pre-wired and the unit was provided by Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation and built off-site by residents at Kentucky Foothills Academy – a licensed, residential treatment facility for state-committed youth.
As many of the guest speakers reiterated throughout the opening ceremony, this project is truly a partnership among numerous people and local, state and federal agencies – all working to make possible one woman’s dream of providing her family with a safe, affordable decent place to live.
It was truly an honor and privilege to be a part of it.
Kentucky State Director Tom Fern (second from right) congratulates new homeowner Kristi Wilson, who was selected
by the Kentucky Baptist Fellowship as the recipient of this year’s McCreary County Extreme Build.
A crane is used to place a pre-fabricated unit consisting of a kitchen, bathroom and utility room
onto the foundation of Kristi Wilson’s new home.
Written by Fay Garner, Public Affairs Assistant, NRCS, Alabama
NRCS Chief Dave White joined members of the United South and Eastern Tribes (USET), Inc. and other agency leaders at the USET semi-annual meeting in Mobile, Alabama, June 14-17, 2010. USET’s 25 Tribal members are dedicated to enhancing the development of Indian Tribes and improving the capabilities of Tribal governments. They also assist the member Tribes and their governments in dealing effectively with public policy issues and in serving the broad needs of Indian people.
On Tuesday, June 15, a number of people, including Chief White, toured the PBCI reservation to view practices installed using NRCS financial assistance programs. The group also included Chairman Buford Rolin of the Atmore, Alabama Federally recognized Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PBCI); NRCS Assistant Chief Walt Douglas; and Alabama NRCS State Conservationist Bill Puckett. The group saw diverse projects such as cross-fencing, watering facilities and livestock shade structures. They also viewed improvements on the Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve timber property and recreational facilities.
On Wednesday, June 16, Chief White will speak to the USET Board of Directors to inform them about the technical and financial assistance available to implement conservation activities on Tribal lands that conserve soil, water, air and wildlife resources.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians installed 41 watering facilities. The watering facilities improve plant health by
allowing forage plants to rest, making it easier to manage animal waste and improving water quality.
Written by Darrell J. Mowery, USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator
Christal Stidham has been chosen as the National 2010 Site Manager of the Year for Family Housing for the USDA Rural Development’s Multi-Family Housing program. Ms. Stidham operates Village Apartments II in Scottsburg, Indiana.
Originally selected as the Indiana Site Manager of the Year for Family Housing, Stidham then competed for the national honor. The award was formally presented to her Tuesday morning, June 15th, at the Ritz-Carlton-Pentagon City, Arlington, Virginia.
A Site Manager of the Year sets a standard of excellence; excellence in tenant satisfaction, maintaining curb appeal of the project, accurate and complete record keeping, and generally performing above and beyond normal expectations. Christal Stidham has achieved this and much more. Village Apartments II of Scottsburg is well maintained and managed. The tenants are very satisfied and happy to have her as a manager.
Village Apartments II had a fire which took place in May 2009. Christal went above and beyond the call of duty that day. She took charge and only thought of the safety of her residents and their pets during the extreme situation. Christal’s true character came out when faced with this emergency.
Phil Lehmkuhler, USDA Rural Development Indiana State Director said, “The site managers guarantee the success of our housing complexes. They make sure the day-to-day operations go smoothly and they often invest a great deal of their own free time in providing tenants with a safe and cohesive community. Although these managers would do their jobs whether or not they received recognition, we believe we should reward excellent performance.”
USDA Rural Development administers a national loan portfolio of over 16,000 rural rental housing complexes. In partnership with private sector and nonprofit borrowers, RD houses very low- and low-income rural families, elderly people, and farm workers. The site managers of the housing complexes are employees of private companies, not the U.S. Government. Also receiving awards yesterday were Nancy Fargo of New York and Tami Egeland of North Dakota.
Further information on rural programs is available at a local USDA Rural Development office or by visiting USDA’s web site at http://www.rurdev.usda.gov
Christal Stidham (left) and Tina Richardson, USDA Rural Development Area Technician for
the Indiana North Vernon Area Office, celebrate Tuesday’s award presentation.
Dick Tremain, NRCS Iowa
Amy Plavak of Hillsboro, Oregon, used to lead multi-million dollar projects as a certified professional project manager. Now she is one of 36,000 Earth Team volunteers working to improve the environment and restore wetlands which can clean water, reduce flooding and provide wildlife habitat.
Earth Team is the volunteer program of USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). NRCS helps private landowners, farmers and ranchers conserve, maintain and improve natural resources and the environment.
Plavak joined the Earth Team and learned about wetlands, the NRCS Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) and worked with NRCS conservationists on soil-saving and water-enhancing projects. She eventually became responsible for updating the wetlands restoration specifications for six WRP projects totaling over 1,000 acres and preparing a detailed agreement and construction bid package for a 350-acre WRP project. Plavak’s volunteer work is credited with saving the government money and allowing the WRP project to be completed on time.
Plavak was the 2009 Earth Team Individual Volunteer Award winner for NRCS.
Michele Eginoire, national Earth Team volunteer coordinator, says all Earth Team volunteers make a difference. “We try to tailor our volunteer jobs to our volunteers’ likes and abilities. Their work can include field work, administrative support and conservation education. Our volunteers are a diverse group 14 years and older who support NRCS conservation efforts,” said Eginoire. “Every Earth Team volunteer makes a contribution and every volunteer has the potential to improve the land as much as Amy Plavak.”
NRCS has over 3,000 offices nationwide. To learn more about being an Earth Team volunteer in your area, call 1-888-LANDCARE.
Earth Team Volunteer Amy Plavak is credited with improving the environment and
saving the government money near her Oregon home.
By Jamie Welch, Worcester Prep, Berlin, Maryland
The upgrades currently taking place at the Berlin Wastewater Treatment Plant are comprehensive, and will allow the plant to fully process all the wastewater that goes through the system down to near drinking water quality. The technology that the Town of Berlin, MD is installing was made possible thanks to a grant and some low interest Water and Environmental Program loans from the USDA. These upgrades will help to remove the pathogens, nutrients and other pollutants from the influent.
Technology that is being installed as part of these upgrades is called a SBR or sequencing batch reactor. I recently spoke with Jane Kreiter, Director of Water and Wastewater for the Town of Berlin, about this new technology and got a look at the lab where the Berlin wastewater officials monitor every stage of the treatment for specific criteria.
The new SBRs being installed at Berlin’s wastewater plant will all work in essentially the same way: there will be three different SBR tanks installed as part of the ongoing upgrades, and Kreiter says that these will contain different amounts and kinds of bacteria to break down certain types of “bad” nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous. Giant blowers at the bottom of each tank blow varying amounts of oxygen into the tanks, causing the oxygen to slowly bubble to the top. The oxygen is needed to maintain the biomass inside the tank so that they can be healthy and break down and remove the various constituents in the waste stream. When the bacteria are young in the biomass, they consume and break down a lot of the nitrogen and phosphorous, but as they begin to get older, they become full and less efficient at breaking down nutrients. When this happens, they die and fall to the bottom of the SBR. The dead bacteria are then removed from the bottom of the tank by way of a pump assembly and sent to a digester. The amount of bacteria and oxygen in the SBR must be constantly monitored to ensure that the right amount of contaminants will be removed at each stage of the treatment process inside the SBR.
After the influent has gone through the entire treatment process it is ready to be sent to the spray irrigation site in Libertytown, Maryland. Samples of the treated effluent are collected as they are leaving the plant and are taken to the lab. Kreiter was embarrassed to take me inside the cramped, temporary lab that is located inside the mobile trailer they are currently using while the regular lab is being renovated. She assured me that this was not what the lab normally looks like and asked to “make sure to come back when we get our new lab,” which will be opening when the rest of the upgrades are completed on site. In the lab they test for pathogens, nutrients, total suspended solids, PH levels, and biological oxygen demand.
The upgrades to the Berlin wastewater plant, when completed, will break down nutrients and contaminants in the influent to create near drinking water quality effluent. “It’s a better quality than [the water] a lot people get out of their wells,” Jane Kreiter adds. For a 24-hour time-lapse video of part of the Berlin Wastewater Plant SBR installation, you can visit the following links: http://cosnet.co.cc/berlinwwp1 for Part 1 and http://cosnet.co.cc/berlinwwp2 for Part 2.
Jane Kreiter, Town of Berlin, Maryland, Wastewater Treatment Plant Director, discusses the biology of the treatment operation with Jamie Welch, student blogger, Worcester Prep.
By Paige Buck, Illinois NRCS
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Illinois is working to get the word out on the new Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and encourage signup by landowners who may have heard about the program but are still “on the fence.”
CSP is a voluntary conservation program that encourages producers to address resource concerns in a comprehensive manner by undertaking additional conservation activities and improving, maintaining, and managing existing conservation activities.
Kevin Green, conservation farmer and partner of both NRCS and the local Soil and Water Conservation District, is a strong supporter of CSP and helped spread the word about the program by hosting a “CSP Field Day” on his farm in Vermilion County, Illinois. He values CSP because it rewards him for the conservation work he’s already done on his farm and it helps him do even more.
Devin Brown of the Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA) helped organize the event. ISA is a strong NRCS partner in Illinois that supports conservation and conservation programs.
The group observed some of Kevin’s easy-to-implement conservation practices and asked Kevin and local NRCS District Conservationists many questions.
Kevin Green (center, pointing) points out one of the many conservation practices on his Vermilion County Illinois farm, which is currently enrolled in NRCS’ Conservation Stewardship Program.
Penobscot Nation Family Benefits from a Gold Certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Home
Submitted by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel with assistance from Beverly Stone
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel congratulated Jason and Jessica Sockbeson on their new home during an open house in Indian Island, Maine to celebrate National Homeownership Month. Funding was provided by Rural Development through the Direct Home Loan program; The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Penobscot Nation provided subsidies to reduce the cost of the home.
The home is a LEED Gold Certified energy efficient home promoting energy conservation and affordability. This is the first home financed on the Penobscot Nation reservation through Rural Development’s One Stop Mortgage documents. “This represents a landmark event for Rural Development and the Penobscot Nation because funding is now available for those within this community to construct new homes,” Manuel said. “This program provides affordable housing opportunities for families and allows them to remain in their community and close to their family and culture.”
LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability. This certification is the best way to demonstrate that your building is truly “green.” The rating system has various levels for new construction. Platinum is the highest and Gold is the next to highest certification offered through this process.
Rural Development, the Penobscot Nation, other partners, and the homeowners are especially pleased to have been able to achieve this level of construction for better energy savings and to reduce their carbon footprint.
The Sockbesons are thrilled to have a home of this caliber for less than they were previously paying in rent. Manuel said, “We are delighted that Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation, representatives from the entire Maine Congressional Delegation staffs and the local lender were present to help us celebrate this event with the Sockbeson family.”
From left to right: Jaxson, 2; Jaedan, 6; Jason and his wife, Jessica holding Jillian, 3 months
Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Residents Receive USDA Support to Increase Economic Development Opportunities, Spur Job Creation
Written by Anita Rios Moore, Vermont USDA Public Information Coordinator
USDA Rural Development State Director, Molly Lambert, joined by representatives from the Vermont Congressional delegation presented seven Northeast Kingdom organizations with Certificates of Partnership recently during a grant awards ceremony at the St. Johnsbury USDA office. The recipients received Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) to spur Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom businesses.
“Our mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans. These grants will help rural businesses with funding and technical assistance they need to expand and create jobs,” Lambert said. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations in order to spur economic development throughout the Northeast Kingdom.”
Three organizations, the Country Riders Snowmobile Club, Inc., Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc. received grants to promote regional tourism throughout Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties. Two other organizations, The Center for an Agricultural Economy and the University Of Vermont & State Agriculture College, will use their grants to provide technical assistance to dairy farmers and agricultural businesses in the area. Both organizations will provide business counseling, plan or product development to their specified clientele.
“Following the announcement, the grantees had time to network,” said Steven Campbell, Director for the St. Johnsbury USDA Rural Development Area Office. “They’ve continued conversations beyond the day’s event that clearly indicate they understand the connections they share.”
Newport City Renaissance Corporation will develop a Newport brand recognition and a marketing strategy. Northern Community Investment Corporation will complete a Growth Readiness Fund to assist selected innovative high-impact business partners with specialized services that point toward preparing and advancing their businesses for job creation.
These seven grants add to 20 previously awarded to Northeast Kingdom, Vermont recipients. Grantees have provided business assistance, including internet marketing, business account training, the creation of a centralized reservation system for Northeast Kingdom tourism businesses, energy efficiencies, revolving loan funds and technical assistance in several forms.
The Northeast Kingdom is a designated Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone. The counties of Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans have special access to important USDA Rural Development programs.
Northeast Kingdom grant recipients signed grant agreement documents for their Rural Business Enterprise Grant awards to spur economic development throughout Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties. From left to right: Patricia Sears – Newport Renaissance Corporation; Kate Williams – Northern Forest Canoe Trails; Ron Merrill Country Riders Snowmobile Club; Jon Freeman – Northern Community Investment Corporation; Gloria Bruce, Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association, and Monty Fisher, The Center for An Agricultural Economy. Steven Campbell from USDA Rural Development discusses document, while Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director (in back) looks on.
By Dr. David Cleaves, Forest Service Climate Change Advisor
The National Academy of Sciences last week released a set of three new reports on advancing the science, adapting to the impacts, and limiting the magnitude of climate change. These peer-reviewed reports reconfirmed that there is a strong, credible body of evidence documenting climate change, its correlation to greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel use, and its association with impacts. Many of these will affect forests and grasslands including increases in intense rainfall, decreases in snow cover, more intense and frequent heat waves and drought, increases in wildfires, and longer growing seasons. Many impacts of a changing climate are already showing up. Projections anticipate an additional warming of 2 to 11.5 degrees F over the next century, on top of the 1.4 degrees F already observed over the past 100 years.
Climate change and its implications for forests may be the biggest environmental challenge the Forest Service has ever faced. Are we ready?
The projected changes may seem to be out in a distant future, but they are really not that far off. Some of us have been in a land management career for almost half of that. The newest employees in the Forest Service will experience the extreme changes for much, if not all, of their careers. What will we in today’s Forest Service leave them to work with? Can we respond to the changes that are already occurring and set things up to deal with the more rapid pace of change expected in the latter part of this century? Can we build resilience with what we do today and leave options for the next generation of users and forest managers?
I think that we can and we must. We have a lot going for us: land management, science, and landowner services under one roof; a range of legal authorities for a spectrum of interventions in the name of forest ecosystems; intimate knowledge of the land through experience and science-based resource assessments; strong partnerships with other agencies, NGO’s, and communities; and an esprit de corps that, despite rocky periods, has been the envy of many government agencies.
For more Forest Service climate change information please click here.
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 Kathleen Phillips, Texas A&M AgriLife Communications
A fresh, juicy peach makes a good addition to a summer lunch bag or picnic. Warm or chilled, you know you have a good one when you have to chase a stream of peach juice with a napkin.
So my recent visit with food chemist Dr. Luis Cisneros-Zevallos and peach breeder Dr. David Byrne was bound to conjure notions of hand-cranked peach ice cream or fresh slices topped with heavy cream.
Turns out, the Texas AgriLife Research scientists have an even better use: to cure breast cancer, even the most aggressive kind, without hurting healthy cells. That's what they've done in the lab with two phenolic compounds in stone fruits.
What's "phenolic," you ask? The phenols are organic compounds that may affect traits such as aroma, taste or color. The two in this case are chlorogenic and neochlorogenic
Many want to know where to get these compounds, if one can cook the peach or eat it raw, and whether these substances might work on other cancers. None of that is known yet – research like this is often a very long process to make sure it’s safe; so far no human clinical trials have been done...
But what this Texas duo has found is deliciously promising: to kill cancer cells and not healthy cells would make chemotherapy much more tolerable.
Their search began with the discovery that antioxidants and phytonutrients in plums equal or surpass so-called super fruits like blueberries. That called for a check against cancer.
"We chose breast cancer because it's one of the cancers with highest incidence among women. So it is of big concern," Cisneros-Zevallos said.
The National Cancer Institute counted 194,000 new cases and 40,610 deaths from breast cancer in 2009. The World Health Organization reports that breast cancer accounts for 16 percent of the cancer deaths of women globally.
Byrne plans to see how researchers who breed peach and plum varieties can make sure these compounds are bred into new fruit varieties Cisneros-Zevallos will continue testing these compounds in different types of cancer.
The work was supported by the Vegetable and Fruit Improvement Center at Texas A&M University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California Tree Fruit Agreement.
Breast cancer cells -- even the most aggressive type -- died after treatments with
peach and plum extracts in lab tests at Texas AgriLife Research.
Written by Adam Czech, Public Information Coordinator
There’s a unique story behind each home loan and home repair project financed by USDA Rural Development in Minnesota. On June 9, State Director Colleen Landkamer and her staff visited three homeowners to celebrate June Homeownership Month and learn more about their stories.
“I think it is amazing how many people we are able to help become home owners and remain in their homes each year through our programs,” Landkamer said. “Visiting with the people that use our programs really highlights the importance of home ownership in strengthening our rural communities.”
Landkamer and staff were joined at each home by staff from Congressman Collin Peterson’s office. Each home owner received an American flag that flew above the U.S. Capital as a gift from Congressman Peterson.
Below is a brief recap of what makes each person’s story unique.
After almost 10 years of renting, Melissa Miller is finally a home owner. Melissa, along with her two children moved into her first home in Brandon, Minn., in late April using a USDA Rural Development direct home loan.
“I never dreamed I would own a home,” Miller said. “It’s still kind of surreal, but we did it.”
Melissa put herself through school and works two jobs to support her family. Rural Development partnered with the West Central Minnesota Community Action agency to build Miller’s home. “Right now I am loving life,” Melissa said. “Being a home owner means a lot to me and I couldn’t be happier.”
Jessica Botten’s daughter McKenna, 5, had just one request after moving into her new home: She wanted a pink room.
Jessica closed on her home in Alexandria, Minn., on Dec. 10. A phlebotomist at a nearby clinic, Jessica previously rented an apartment next to a motor racing track, not exactly the most peaceful location to live.
“The home is ideal for McKenna and I,” she said. “She can play in our yard, there’s more room for her toys. I really feel like I’m home now.”
And, yes, she was able to paint McKenna’s room pink.
Dorcella Hagen keeps a guest book in her home in Cyrus, Minn., so she will always remember who came to visit her. One night after a dinner party, one of her guests noticed a moisture spot on her ceiling. It turned out that Dorcella’s roof needed to be replaced.
On a fixed income after a car accident left her disabled, Dorcella used Rural Development’s home repair program to fix her roof, remove the moisture from her ceiling and stay in the home she’s owned since 1994.
“When I told people that some folks from the USDA were going to come visit me today, they wondered why I was having meat inspectors to my house,” Dorcella said. “I told them the USDA works with housing, too. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the program.”
For more information about USDA’s home loan programs click here.
New homeowner Melissa Miller (Left) and Colleen Landkamer, State Director, USDA Rural Development, celebrate Miller’s accomplishment.
Ivy Allen, New York NRCS
The Watershed Agriculture Council (WAC) hosted a tour of three farms in the New York City watershed that received American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding. Putting conservation on the ground in this watershed will result in more than 1 billion gallons of clean drinking water for 9 million New York residents every day. Projects featured on the tour included waste storage facilities, compost structures and stream fencing. Along with whole farm plans, these practices will result in reduced waterborne pathogens, nutrients, and sediments.
Through ARRA and an agreement with WAC, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing technical and financial assistance to 327 landowners in the New York City watershed who are voluntarily implementing conservation practices and improving water quality. NRCS helps landowners voluntarily participate in conservation programs that protect water and many other natural resources.
USDA-NRCS administered $1 million dollars through ARRA funding to improve water quality within the New York City watershed. The watershed extends 125 miles, contains 19 reservoirs, and 3 lakes. This surface water supply system is one of the largest in the world and the conservation practices being implemented support clean water and a healthy environment.
Stream fencing protects against animal waste and streambank plantings
create a “buffer strip” that filters pollutants from the water.
Small Farm Composter.
Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern
The People’s Garden workshops have yet to be anything less than an informative and fun time! Today, Don Weber, a research entomologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, taught us about pests and their natural enemies.
Our instructor pointed out that most bugs are not harmful. In fact, even some viruses and fungi can be beneficial. Whether or not something is a pest is simply a matter of whether you want that item where it is.
Gardens in urban environments are subject to a lot of chance pest problems. A random outbreak or colonization of a pest can happen, and sometimes, because it happened in an urban location, there are no resources there to have this pest’s natural enemy. However, spotting these problems early on can significantly help. Build a healthy garden environment, by having flowering plants around your vegetables, rotate your crops, and use cover crops. It also was recommended to keep a close observation of your garden. You can even go out at night with a red light to observe bugs at work, the red light is out of a bug’s vision range and you will see lots of surprising action! This allows you to get to know bug life cycles, and spot early on any unwanted bugs. Hand picking out the first ones to arrive will discourage others from coming to your garden.
The instructor brought several examples of natural enemies that eat aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and other pesky garden annoyances. The common pink lady beetle eats many aphids, and spined soldier bugs are general predators as well. Stinkbugs are also good predators.
Most everyone has heard of Chia pets, but not all of us know that Chia is actually a great cover crop and attracts many pollinators. It makes a great weed suppressant, and is even high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don Weber, our instructor, is doing research on Chia, how it grows, and what it does. If you are interested in learning about or participating in growing your own Chia, follow this link.
Be sure to come out next week and join us for “Why Not Keep Honeybees?” taught by Dr. Jeff Pettis, right here in the People’s Garden!
Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles
while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids.