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Traveling Across the Great Plains of South Dakota

By Tammi Schone, USDA Rural Development Public Affairs Specialist, South Dakota State Office

South Dakota State Director Elsie M. Meeks and Don Harris, Outreach Initiative Team Leader, National Office (Washington, DC) logged over 1,400 miles traveling across the state in mid June, reaching out to local residents to talk about how our programs help repair homes, make homes more energy efficient, and locate an affordable housing residence or safe and sanitary housing apartment building we helped fund.  In addition, they participated in the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Housing Fair held in Sisseton, SD. While promoting the vital importance of homeownership in a community, they were able to witness firsthand the integrity, dedication, hard work and perseverance homeowners possess in vying for their first home, making repairs, or acquiring an apartment. Read more »

A School Nutrition Tour of California’s Central Coast

By Dr. Janey Thornton, USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services

Recently I spent a wonderful day touring California’s Salinas and Pajaro Valleys.  My gracious host, Congressman Sam Farr, and I started with the most important meal of the day: breakfast.  We visited Rancho Cielo Youth Campus, which has a culinary academy for at-risk youth, where Chef Adrienne Saldivar-Meier—who visited the White House last month as part of the First Lady’s Let’s Move! Campaign—served us egg and sweet potato scrambler on lettuce, a fruit/vegetable muffin, and milk.  Chef Adrienne also gave us an engaging nutrition lesson: for example, instead of wrapping our filling with a tortilla, which may have about 110 calories, we can use a lettuce leaf, a food with close to no calories.  We all enjoyed a nutritious breakfast that met the USDA standards for the School Breakfast Program while discussing ways to bring more fresh produce into school nutrition programs. Read more »

Rural New York Resident Sees Dream of Home Ownership Become Reality

By Shelly C. Harlander, USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator, Syracuse, NY

USDA Rural Development agency celebrated National Home Ownership month in June by presenting a ceremonial key to new home-owner Valerie Hunsdon. Ms. Hunsdon, a single parent of one child, accepted the key on the grounds of her new home in Crown Point, NY. Read more »

The Maryland Challenge

Last week I joined Governor O’Malley and Maryland Secretary of Agriculture Buddy Hance for a cook-out at the Governor’s House in Annapolis, Maryland.  What a blast!  Along with 300 other guests, I sampled wonderful local foods prepared by 19 farmer-chef teams who were the winners in a state-wide recipe contest that showcased their creativity and locally grown and raised foods.  It was great to visit with the winning farmers and dozens of others who were on hand to support local and regional agriculture.

Kathleen Merrigan with a local chef and Anthony Geraci, Food Service Director for Baltimore City Public Schools

Kathleen Merrigan with a local chef and Anthony Geraci, Food Service Director for Baltimore City Public Schools

I know that Governor O’Malley is a strong supporter of Maryland’s farmers and ranchers.  But it was downright inspiring to listen to him as he took the stage to issue a challenge: during this week, buy local challenge week (July 17-July 25), he asked that every Maryland citizen eat at least one locally grown food item each day.  Having stopped earlier at Councell Farms roadside stand in Cordova, Maryland, I am well on my way to meeting his challenge.  And with over 100 farmers markets in Maryland and an increasing number of retailers selling local produce, it is difficult during sweet corn and tomato season to miss all the opportunities to buy local. Read more »

Tomato Plant Diseases and How to Stop Them

Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern

Almost everyone who gardens grows tomato plants. We are passionate about our tomatoes and savor that ripe, fresh fruit. However, several diseases love our tomato plants just as much as we do. The People’s Garden Workshop topic this week was tomato blights and spots, and Dr. Martin Draper, a plant pathologist through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, taught us how to identify them and what we can do to treat and prevent them. Read more »

Christie Vilsack Makes Unexpected Visit to Iowa FSA Offices

Written by Beth Grabau, Public Affairs Specialist, Iowa State FSA

The Woodbury and Monona Count Farm Service Agency Service Centers in Iowa welcomed an unexpected guest on Tuesday as Christie Vilsack — wife of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack — stopped by for a visit.

“It was a real privilege to meet with her,” said Woodbury County Executive Director Bryan Stocking. Read more »