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Keeping our Promise in Kentucky

USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah meets with Keith Gabbard, General Manager of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Ky., on March 3, 2015. Gabbard described the company’s successful “fiber-to-the-premise” broadband project, which was funded in part with loan and grant funds from USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. As a result of the project, PRTC was awarded with a Smart Rural Community designation from the National Telephone Cooperative Association.

USDA Under Secretary Lisa Mensah meets with Keith Gabbard, General Manager of Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative in McKee, Ky., on March 3, 2015. Gabbard described the company’s successful “fiber-to-the-premise” broadband project, which was funded in part with loan and grant funds from USDA’s Broadband Initiatives Program. As a result of the project, PRTC was awarded with a Smart Rural Community designation from the National Telephone Cooperative Association.

During my trip to Kentucky, I was truly gratified to see Rural Development’s footprint throughout small towns spread across all regions of the Commonwealth. From water lines, broadband networks, wastewater treatment plants, single and multi-family housing, electric lines, senior centers, hospitals and small businesses, Rural Development helps build communities from the ground up working in partnership with local groups.

Last year, 73 Kentucky counties enduring some of the state’s toughest economic challenges were designated to receive targeted USDA support through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Soon thereafter, President Obama designated a region of eight counties in the state’s southeast corner as one of the country’s first five Promise Zones.  Under these designations, USDA works with local partners to leverage federal resources to address the area’s chronic poverty challenges and improve the overall quality of life in the region. Read more »

Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? … This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

– President Obama, January 31, 2015

The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy. Read more »

Soils Support Urban Life

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

Community gardens like this one in Louisville, KY, bring neighbors together to produce fresh fruits and vegetables in areas that usually have no access to fresh produce. NRCS photo.

The United Nations General Assembly has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils. This is one of a continuing series of blogs to mark this observance.

Soil is defined as a dynamic natural body that is made up of solids, liquid and gases and occurs on the earth’s surface, contains living matter, and supports or is capable of supporting plants.  But soil is bigger than this.

Civilizations have either flourished or perished partly based on this natural resource and the capability of its people to manage and use it wisely. We all depend on the soil, regardless of where we live – rural or urban. Read more »

Looking for a Great Valentine’s Date? Try U.S. Forests

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

U.S. Forest Service ski ranger Nancy McNab talks about safety before taking a group skiing as part of the Arapahoe National Forest’s Ski with a Ranger program. (U.S. Forest Service)

Finding unique gifts for Valentine’s Day just got a whole lot easier. With 122 ski areas, and thousands of miles of trails, riv­­­ers and streams, the U.S. Forest Service has plenty of ideas for a special outing with your l­­­oved one.

Show some warmth by sweeping your loved one away from colder climates to Ocala National Forest in Florida where temperatures are likely to be in the upper 60s or low 70s. Ocala has more than 27 first-magnitude springs, and forest visitors have long enjoyed Juniper Springs. There are hundreds of tiny bubbling springs, and underground water gushes out of crevices in the earth beneath a dense canopy of palms and oaks. The area is truly an oasis that is bound to warm hearts. It’s a popular place, so book your reservations at Recreation.gov. Read more »

Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Pays Dividends

A veterinarian in field with cattle

The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program helps vets repay qualified student loans for service as food animal veterinarians in selected areas of the country. (iStock image)

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 USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

A solid education is crucial to those seeking careers in animal science. However, many student loans can be burdensome. But a student loan payment the size of a mortgage couldn’t stop someone who has wanted to be a veterinarian since they learned to talk. Dr. Annie Bowes is one of those people.

After acquiring the knowledge to begin her dream career, Dr. Bowes was left with overwhelming debt.  Luckily for this Idaho-based veterinarian, she wasn’t left alone to repay it. In 2011, she received assistance through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) a program funded by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). Read more »

Managing Waste for an Expanding Dairy Herd

Jonathan and Jessica Gaskin and children operate a dairy farm in Adair County, Kentucky. Photo courtesy Kentucky Farm Bureau.

Jonathan and Jessica Gaskin and children operate a dairy farm in Adair County, Kentucky. Photo courtesy Kentucky Farm Bureau.

Jonathan Gaskin grew up on a beef cattle and grain farm in Adair County, Kentucky. And at 12, Gaskin was milking cows for the farm next door. The neighbor sold their farm when he was 18, and at that time, he always knew he wanted to have a dairy farm – he just didn’t realize he would buy that same farm a few years later.

He bought the farm in 2006 and started working with his soon-to-be wife, Jessica, to build a dairy operation together. They married in 2008 and started growing the 110-acre place.

“We started with 30 heifers and calved them one cow at a time,” Gaskin said. Read more »