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Georgia On My Mind

Cross-posted from the White House blog

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan

Last fall, the President asked that senior Obama administration officials travel the country to hold a series of roundtables on behalf of the White House Rural Council.  On November 2nd, I joined a roundtable with local farmers, ranchers, and area business leaders at the Athens Technical College in Athens, Ga. If you aren’t familiar with Athens, Ga. the locals are glad to inform you that it is a hotbed of rock n roll and the launching grounds for acts such as the B52s, R.E.M., and Widespread Panic.

Forest Service Waives Fees in Honoring Veterans

Hiker on Santa Lucia Trail Ventana Wilderness, in California.  U.S. Forest Service Photo by Lynn Olson.

Hiker on Santa Lucia Trail Ventana Wilderness, in California. U.S. Forest Service Photo by Lynn Olson.

The U. S. Forest Service will waive fees honoring those brave men and women who have protected our country and nation’s lands during the long Veterans Day weekend November 11-13 at some recreation sites.  This is the third time this year that fees have been waived to encourage visitors to come to a national forest. Read more »

Location, Location, Location: Identifying Crucial Business Factors for Farmers Markets

A sample of the DOT survey taken at the USDA Farmers Market in 2010.  Here, shoppers were able to indicate what products they purchased at the market.

A sample of the DOT survey taken at the USDA Farmers Market in 2010. Here, shoppers were able to indicate what products they purchased at the market.

In business, location means everything. Not only do businesses need to understand where their customer base exists, but they also need to know where their competitors are.  The same applies to farmers markets: they must understand their customers and competition to determine the potential for profit. The location of a farmers market can influence a vendor or customer’s decision to support a particular market. Read more »

First Forest Service Volunteer Receives Recognition

Gloria Owen being honored by Regional Forester Leslie Weldon at the Lolo National Forest’s new pollinator garden at Fort Missoula.  (Photo Credit: Joni Packard, US Forest Service)

Gloria Owen being honored by Regional Forester Leslie Weldon at the Lolo National Forest’s new pollinator garden at Fort Missoula. (Photo Credit: Joni Packard, US Forest Service)

It is quite a phenomenon to be the first of anything and to be recognized for it.  It is especially noteworthy when you have a passion for the land, and are willing to work and care for it as a volunteer.  That’s what Gloria Owen did as the first official volunteer in the U.S. Forest Service’s history.  Owen was recently honored for providing her time and talent in the Northern Region working as a volunteer camp cook, camp tender and crew member on the “Mary Mary” trail on the Moose Creek Ranger District, Nez Perce National Forest in Idaho.  She was presented with an embroidered Pendleton blanket and certificate recognizing her role and service by Regional Forester Leslie Weldon. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Honoring our Veterans

We are approaching Veterans Day, a time to honor the men and women who have served this nation in uniform.  Whether they are soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen or coastguardsmen – our veterans were part of the finest military the world has ever known.  Their selfless and courageous contributions over generations have helped Americans enjoy the freedom and liberty our founders imagined.

And USDA – through our work in rural America and on a host of other issues – has a strong connection with those who have served.  Today, about 6.1 million veterans live in rural communities, a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country. Read more »

The Future of Farming in America: An FFA Perspective

National FFA President Riley Pagett (left) and National FFA Vice President Shannon Norris (right)  present Secretary Vilsack with the Honorary American FFA Degree. This is the highest honor that the National FFA can bestow to supporters of Agricultural Education and FFA.  Photo courtesy FFA.

National FFA President Riley Pagett (left) and National FFA Vice President Shannon Norris (right) present Secretary Vilsack with the Honorary American FFA Degree. This is the highest honor that the National FFA can bestow to supporters of Agricultural Education and FFA. Photo courtesy FFA.

On Oct. 22, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack spoke to the 84th National FFA Convention about the critical need to recruit and support the nation’s next generation of farmers and ranchers. In June, I had a chance to sit down with Landan Schaffert, National FFA Secretary, to talk about what the future holds for him in farming. Read more »