Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

From REA to RUS-75 Years of Lighting the Way for Rural America

By Jonathan Adelstein, Administrator-USDA Rural Utilities Service

If you lived in a rural area 75 years ago, you probably didn’t have electricity. Water for livestock, cooking, cleaning and bathing had to be hand pumped from a well. Farmers risked milk spoilage in the summer, and people often got sick from lack of refrigeration of their food.

 On May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to create the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) to bring power to rural areas. It was a resounding success.  Nothing before or since has transformed rural America like the REA.  Today’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS), part of the USDA Rural Development mission area, continues the work of REA. Just this week, four former REA and RUS administrators gathered in USDA’s radio studio, reflecting on their roles from 1993 to the present. Their observations will soon be available via podcast.

 Rural Development, through RUS, is aggressively building a program to finance renewable energy, and rural America is rapidly becoming a greater energy producer for the nation. Not only is this part of President Obama’s clean energy economy, but it will also create quality jobs in rural America.  Working with other federal agencies, rural electric cooperatives and other utilities, we are taking steps to modernize the electric grid and improve energy efficiency.

 While working to improve electric transmission services we are also meeting a new challenge: Delivering broadband to rural communities.  Without broadband, rural businesses are placed at a disadvantage and our children face diminished educational opportunities. Our next great achievement will be to build a system that will connect even the most remote places in America to the web. 

 Rural America’s future is bright, thanks to the thousands of men and women who have worked in or with the REA and now the RUS over the past three-quarters of a century.

 Chances are, if you live in rural America, some of those people are your neighbors, as close as your local electric cooperative.  They achieved a modern miracle, lighting rural America. This week, take a minute and think about all the good they’ve done.  They’ve achieved the greatest success in a government technology program of all time.   

75th Anniversary of REA/RUS 
 (Left to right) Christopher McLean, Administrator,  2000-2001; Wally Beyer 1993-1999; James Andrew 2005-2009;  Glenn English (CEO-NRECA);  Hilda Gay Legg 2001-2005; Jonathan Adelstein 2009 – present; Dallas Tonsager (Undersecretary, USDA Rural Development); gathered on May 4 at the U.S. Capitol for an event marking the beginnings of the effort to bring electricity to rural America.

Whippoorwill Hollow Organic Farm and NRCS Conservation Assistance

Mary Ann McQuinn, Georgia NRCS
NRCS Regional Assistant Chief Leonard Jordan, NRCS Georgia State Conservationist James E. Tillman, Sr., and others including Alice Rolls, the Executive Director of Georgia Organics toured Whippoorwill Hollow Farm with certified organic farmer Andy Byrd.  The group discussed the new Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) Organic Initiative successes and opportunities for improvement.

Andy Byrd owns and operates Whippoorwill Hollow Farm in Walton County Georgia, a Certified Organic farm that produces fruits, berries, vegetables, and free-range eggs for sale on-farm and at the Morningside and Decatur Farmers’ Markets. Mr. Byrd is a cooperator with the Walton County Soil and Water District and worked with NRCS for several years to plan and implement various conservation practices. He is also Georgia’s first agri-ability participant.

Through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program Mr. Byrd has received financial assistance to implement management type practices such as Cover Crop, Irrigation Water Management, and Pest Management.

A major natural resource concern of Whippoorwill Hollow Farm is the limited amount of available water for irrigation and livestock watering. The farm is located in a region of the State that does not have an ample amount of ground water for these purposes.

Mr. Byrd worked closely with NRCS to plan and design an irrigation system which included micro-irrigation, irrigation reservoirs, and livestock watering facilities to make his system highly efficient and gives him the ability to use every drop of water as affectively as possible without putting any undue stress on the ground water system. He was also able to obtain funding for these structural practices through Georgia’s EQIP Outreach program which emphasizes the traditionally underserved groups such as Beginning Farmers, Socially Disadvantaged Farmers, Limited Resource Farmers and Small Scale Farmers.

Andy Byrd, Whippoorwhill Hollow Organic Farms, Walton Country, Georgia gives federal and state USDA officials a tour of his farm.
Andy Byrd, Whippoorwhill Hollow Organic Farms, Walton Country, Georgia gives federal and state USDA officials a tour of his farm.

Farmers Market Fever: Needs More Cowbell

By Amanda Eamich, Director of New Media

Crowds drew near as Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan joined FRESHFARM Markets co-directors Ann Yonkers, Bernadine Prince and Chef Jose Andres for the grand re-opening of the 2010 season. At 3 PM, Merrigan and others raised their cowbells high and signaled that the market is open for business.

Behind the procession of local officials, chefs and market owners, Chef Andres’ team prepared the eight-foot copper pan to prepare giant paella for visitors and passersby.

After the opening march, market co-director Ann Yonkers introduced Merrigan to this season’s farmers and purveyors offering seasonal fruits and vegetables, meats, artisan cheeses, seafood, baked goods, flowers and more. Award winning cheeses, refreshing gelato and sausage samples filled the air with rich aroma.

At each vendor, Merrigan wished vendors a happy season and personal thanks for their support of the local market.

The FRESHFARM Market provides double dollars for food assistance recipients through a public-private partnership.  This is a great example of building upon federal programs with private assistance. USDA provides grant opportunities and resources to farmer’s markets nationwide.

Today’s opening is a reminder of the Department’s efforts to update the Farmers Market Directory. If you participate or know of a market that isn’t listed, help us by completing the survey by May 14!

 

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan opens the Freshfarm Market on Vermont Avenue in Washington, D.C., near the White House on Thursday, May 6, 2010.  (L to R  Chef at Potenza Jason Mayle, Farmfresh volunteer, Chef at Ici Urban Bistro Olivier Perret, Superstar Chef Jose Andres, Vice President of Operations Partner with Stir Food Group Ralph Rosenberg, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Farmfresh Director Ann Yonkers, Vice President of Operations Partner with Stir Food Group Ralph Rosenberg, Farmfresh volunteer, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Rayne Pegg, Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, Farmfresh volunteer, Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 2B Mike Silverstein, and Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Richard Bradley). USDA photo 10di1348-56.
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan opens the Freshfarm Market on Vermont Avenue in Washington, D.C., near the White House on Thursday, May 6, 2010.  (L to R  Chef at Potenza Jason Mayle, Farmfresh volunteer, Chef at Ici Urban Bistro Olivier Perret, Superstar Chef Jose Andres, Vice President of Operations Partner with Stir Food Group Ralph Rosenberg, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, Farmfresh Director Ann Yonkers, Vice President of Operations Partner with Stir Food Group Ralph Rosenberg, Farmfresh volunteer, Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Administrator Rayne Pegg, Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans, Farmfresh volunteer, Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner 2B Mike Silverstein, and Downtown DC Business Improvement District (BID) Executive Director Richard Bradley).

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan wishes a vendor at the  Freshfarm Market on Vermont in Washington, D. C.,  Avenue by the White House good luck on his sales
Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan wishes a vendor at the Freshfarm Market on Vermont Avenue in Washington, D. C.,  by the White House good luck on his sales.