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New Legislation Brings Projects in Reach for Rural Connecticut

From left: USDA Farm Service Executive Director for Connecticut, Brian Hulburt; Lt. Governor of Connecticut, Nancy Wyman; Town Manager of Coventry, Connecticut and others

From left: USDA Farm Service Executive Director for Connecticut, Brian Hulburt; Lt. Governor of Connecticut, Nancy Wyman; Town Manager of Coventry, Connecticut, John Elesser; Connecticut State Senator Cathy Osten; Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy; USDA Rural Development, Connecticut Area Director, Johan Strandson; USDA Rural Development State Director CT/MA/RI, Scott Soares; Ayanti Grant, District Director for Congressman Joe Courtney.

The first week of August brought an important milestone for communities in Connecticut. I was pleased to be on hand as our Governor, Dannel Malloy, held a ceremonial bill signing for Senate Bill 458. This legislation is significant because it changes the maturity date for municipal bonds issued in conjunction with any water, waste, or community facility loan from USDA Rural Development from an original 20 years to a 40 year bonding term. Of the 169 towns in the state of Connecticut, 69 of those have populations under 10,000. This makes them eligible to receive loans from USDA Rural Development through our community facilities program. This act will make repayment on such loans affordable for small towns that are in need of essential community facility additions and improvements. Read more »

Induction Day at First State Military Academy

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah greeting cadets at First State Military Academy in Clayton, Delaware

USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah greets cadets at First State Military Academy in Clayton, Delaware following the renovation of their campus through USDA Rural Development's Community Facilities Program.

I had the opportunity to travel to Delaware to celebrate the Induction Ceremony of the First State Military Academy, an innovative charter high school bringing new life to an historic educational campus with the help of USDA Rural Development. Since 1896, Clayton, Delaware has been home to the sprawling, 35-acre St. Joseph’s educational campus. The site first hosted the St. Joseph’s Industrial School beginning in 1896 and was used as a school until 1972; it made it onto the historic register in 2002. Most recently, the site was home to Providence Creek Academy, a charter school for grades K-8.  Through a separate collaboration with Rural Development, Providence Creek Academy was able to build a new complex behind the campus to accommodate its growing student population. With the historic educational campus now vacant, the First State Military Academy had a chance to make it their new home. Read more »

What’s Growing On, in This Rural Community?

A teacher working with students on the Sweet Potatoes taste test

Through What's Growing On? taste tests students get to vote on the local produce option.

Rural communities are looking for innovative ways to sustain quality of life and build viable food systems that support the health and economic needs of their people.  Working Landscapes is a Warrenton, N.C. nonprofit that creates sustainable food hubs by bridging the gap between local farmers and area consumers.  As a 2015 USDA Farm to School grantee, Working Landscapes uses its food hub resources to link local farmers and northeastern North Carolina school districts, demonstrating that working together can make a difference in the quality of life for rural communities.

By Tim Williams, Program Manager, Working Landscapes

The lights are on and the machines whirring on a recent June morning in downtown Warrenton, N.C. From the outside, the former cotton gin warehouse doesn’t look like much, but what you find behind the historic facade is an innovative farm to school venture that is bringing locally grown, fresh-cut vegetables to students across the northeastern part of the state. Read more »

Land-Grant Universities Make NFL Natural Turf Grass Better and Safer

A football on a field

Horticultural research at land-grant universities is coming up with better types of grass that stands up to the stresses of NFL football. (iStock image)

Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal.  Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.

All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic.  So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding. Read more »

Celebrating National Co-op Month: Ohio Farmers Join Forces to Grow their Market Reach

Tomatoes inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham

These tomatoes, inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham, will be distributed through the co-op’s weekly community-supported agriculture deliveries.

October is National Cooperative Month, and all this month we will be shining a spotlight on several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. One fine example is Great River Organics in Ohio. Kimberly Rous and Hannah Scott work for our partner, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center in Piketon, Ohio and provided us some insight on a successful cooperative venture that is producing organic produce throughout central and north-central Ohio.

Great River Organics formed as a farmer-owned cooperative in December of 2014. Comprised of seven certified-organic farmers in central Ohio, the cooperative aggregates, markets, and distributes the organic produce grown by the farmer-owners through programs like the Great River Market Bag, a community-supported agriculture program that includes about 300 subscribers across central Ohio. They’re also actively involved in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, which promotes the development of food hubs in the region. Read more »

Harnessing the Power of Global Open Data

At the 70th United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly Meeting, the U.N. Member States agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) to eradicate poverty and hunger, protect the planet, and create sustainable economic growth globally. High-quality statistics and data are critical to achieving these goals by enabling us to better target our actions, develop innovative solutions to these global challenges, and ensure prosperity for all. 

Recognizing the importance of this data, the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data (Global Data Partnership) was launched on September 28.  This partnership envisions a world in which the power of timely, accurate, and high quality data leads to sustainable development — leaving no one behind.  It envisions a world in which data is produced, organized, shared, and used in an environment of trust, inclusion, creativity, efficacy, and efficiency, a world where “the right data is available to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions for the right outcomes.” Read more »