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Growing Rural Economies and Opportunities through Social Media

KSU Center for Rural Enterprise Engagement Facebook screenshot

Kansas State University used a FSMIP grant to develop social media strategies for rural businesses to expand their customer base.

From Facebook to Snapchat, rural businesses are exploring how to use social media to improve their customer’s experience and expand their customer base. Over the last eight years, USDA and the Obama Administration have partnered with rural communities to build more opportunities that support rural small business owners, farmers and ranchers through applied research.   Today USDA awarded nearly $1 million in Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program (FSMIP) grants to support market research to strengthen markets for U.S. agricultural products domestically and internationally.

Administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), FSMIP projects make a real difference to diverse stakeholders and largely benefit rural communities.  For example, in 2013, FSMIP awarded a 2-year grant to Kansas State University to develop social media strategies for small green businesses, including nurseries, garden centers and lawn care operations, and to explore the potential of social media to expand their markets and profitability.  Social media holds promise as a strategy for these rural businesses which frequently have a small customer base and struggle to be profitable throughout the year, given the seasonal nature of their business.  Through social media, business owners could reach more potential customers for little to no cost but they often do not know how or why they should use these tools. Read more »

Farm to School Goes Year Round in the Northeast

Connecticut service members serving local blueberry smoothies

Connecticut service members serve local blueberry smoothies and continue farm to school efforts at summer meals sites.

Over the past few summers, sponsors of USDA’s Summer Meals Programs have been elevating meal quality and encouraging program participation by serving seasonal menus, utilizing high quality ingredients, and providing nutrition education activities. We’ve heard of such farm to summer activities – the embedding of farm to school principles within summer meals programs – from practitioners all around the country. Here in the Northeast, summer 2016 brought a wave of coordinated programming, and National Farm to School Month is the perfect time to celebrate this trend that is supporting healthy kids and communities all year long! Read more »

5 Ways Landowners Give Shell-ter to the Gopher Tortoise

Gopher tortoise

The gopher tortoise is the keystone species of longleaf pine forests as its burrows provide shelter to 360 other species.

The gopher tortoise earned its name for good reason – because it likes to dig and spends much of its time underground. The gopher tortoise, the Southeast’s only land-dwelling tortoise, burrows in the sandy soils below longleaf pine forests where it can escape heat and danger.

Its burrows are popular. About 360 other species, from rattlesnakes to rabbits, toads, and northern bobwhite take advantage of the underground real estate provided by the tortoise, what biologists call a keystone species because other species depend on it. Read more »

Mississippi Farmers Expanding Opportunities with Up in Farms

Chefs Dan Blumenthal and Nick Wallace

Chefs Dan Blumenthal and Nick Wallace of the Up in Farms Food Hub ownership team standing on the dock of the food hub in Jackson, MS. Photo courtesy, Soul City Hospitality

“Not today,” said Mr. Leonard Keyes as he and Dr. John Stanley surveyed the plot of land on Keyes’ farm in Mize, Mississippi. “Too dry.” Stanley stood beside him holding a tray of squash transplants and nodding his head in agreement.

Earlier that morning, Stanley, sourcing manager for Up in Farms Food Hub, had visited the farm of Mr. James Gregory about 30 miles down the road in Florence. He’d brought Gregory some of the same transplants—some nice-looking seedlings from Standing Pine Nursery in Byram. John had stood beside Gregory, too, and surveyed that plot of land. “Not today,” said Gregory. “Too wet!” Read more »

Think Local and Show Us Your Plate: CNPP’s MyPlate, MyState Campaign

MyPlate, MyState US map

MyPlate, MyState brings communities together to promote healthy eating and increase awareness and appreciation for local farmers, ranchers, and producers.

Do you enjoy snapping photos of your colorful dinners or trying recipes with fresh, local foods from the Farmers Market or garden? If your answer is yes, you’ll love our latest MyPlate, MyState campaign! This October, we’re kicking things into high gear with a call to action for all Americans: Read more »

Back to School with Student-Led Smarter Lunchrooms

Fruits and vegetables in boxes

Colorful displays highlight nutritious choices in school lunchrooms.

Teenagers at several schools across the country are working together with school nutrition staff to make changes to the school cafeteria.  Informed by Smarter Lunchrooms’ research, these students are promoting healthful foods to their peers and having a say in menu offerings.  Team Nutrition Training Grants help fund a number of school activities that engage students in nutrition education and wellness activities.  To learn more about Team Nutrition Training Grant activities, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/tn/team-nutrition-training-grants.

The following guest blog describes how Iowa high school students worked with school nutrition staff to alter the way fruits and vegetables are offered in their school cafeteria. Following the changes, other students have taken notice of the new colorful displays, creative menu names, and signs promoting the salad bars. Reading their story, you’ll learn about innovative ways to engage youth in school wellness efforts.

By Carrie Scheidel, MPH, Team Nutrition Co-Director, Iowa Department of Education

As teachers prepared their classrooms for the new school year, school nutrition professionals and students in Iowa were working to make their lunchrooms smarter.   A partnership between the University of Iowa Public Policy Center – College of Public Health, Iowa Department of Education, and five Iowa high schools worked to apply Smarter Lunchrooms’ techniques to make healthy choices easier at school. Read more »