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USDA Partnerships Make Great Things Happen in Rural America: Disabled Woman Walks Across the Threshold of Her Own Home

Collette Brandt and her miniature pinschers enjoy their new home, particularly the large yard and beautiful tree. Collette walks the dogs through her new neighborhood as part of her therapy.

Collette Brandt and her miniature pinschers enjoy their new home, particularly the large yard and beautiful tree. Collette walks the dogs through her new neighborhood as part of her therapy.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories at #RuralPartners.

In recognition of National Homeownership Month, we recently cut the ribbon to Collette Brandt’s home. Collette has seen a lot of struggles over the past three years.  After falling at home and tragically severing her spinal column, the occupational therapist was told she may never walk again. The tragedy coincided with the end of a long term relationship and Collette had to move in with a co-worker.  Determined to walk again and eventually own her own home, Collette’s determination drove her to work her way back on her feet physically and financially.

Not sure of her options as a middle-aged, currently disabled single woman, Collette reached out to Melanie Page at the Union County Housing Authority (UCHA).  Through a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development HOME grant (a federally funded program that provides municipalities with grant and loan assistance as well as technical assistance to expand the supply of decent and affordable housing for low- and very low-income Pennsylvanians), the UCHA builds and refurbishes homes for income eligible residents over the age of 55. As an added bonus, the homes are part of an energy research project with Pennsylvania State University. Read more »

Massachusetts Agriculture Defies National Trends

Farming keeps expanding in Massachusetts. Check back next Thursday to learn more about the 2012 Census of Agriculture results as we highlight another state.

Farming keeps expanding in Massachusetts. Check back next Thursday to learn more about the 2012 Census of Agriculture results as we highlight another state.

The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.

According to the 2012 Census of Agriculture, Massachusetts agriculture defies national trends in more ways than one. For example, while across the country the number of farms decreased four percent since the 2007 Census, Massachusetts was one of only 10 states that saw an increase in both the number of farms and land in farms in the same time period. In addition, while women make up 31 percent of all operators across the country, they make up 41 percent of all operators in the Bay State. Similarly, while the number of female principal operators decreased nationally since the last census, that number increased from 2,226 to 2,507 in our state. In fact, female principal operators compose 32 percent of all of our state’s principal operators, the highest percentage among the New England states and the third highest nationwide.

We also have a growing number of beginning farmers in Massachusetts. Although the proportion of all beginning farmers in our state is down slightly since 2007, it is still higher than in other parts of the country. In Massachusetts, 29 percent of all operators and 25 percent of principal operators began farming in the last decade, while nationwide, 26 percent of all operators and 22 percent of principal operators fall in that category. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: USDA Support Keeps Old Glory Flying High

What began as a small sail-making shop in 19th century New York City has evolved into the modern realization of one family’s American Dream—a family-owned and –operated small business whose product has been a part of some of the most iconic images in our nation’s history.

Alexander Annin’s sail-making shop, established in the 1820s, has evolved into the oldest and largest flag company in the United States and is still in operation today. Commencing with Zachary Taylor’s 1849 presidential inauguration; to the flag-draped coffin of President Abraham Lincoln in 1865; onward to the iconic image of U.S. Marines hoisting the flag on Iwo Jima’s Mount Suribachi in 1945; to the flag planted by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon in 1969—all were Annin-made flags. Read more »

From an Orchard in California to a Table in Canada and Beyond

Seen here are David Anthony and Antonia Praljak of Oro Loma Ranch/Ruby Fresh Pomegranate. They are proudly promoting their new “Salad Jewels“ product line, which was introduced at the 2013 Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) trade show.

Seen here are David Anthony and Antonia Praljak of Oro Loma Ranch/Ruby Fresh Pomegranate. They are proudly promoting their new “Salad Jewels“ product line, which was introduced at the 2013 Canadian Produce Marketing Association (CPMA) trade show.

What does a pomegranate need to do to get from an orchard in California to a dining table in Canada? The pomegranate doesn’t have to do anything, but U.S. growers must prepare the ground for their products in more ways than one. It takes knowledge and resources to bring U.S. food and agricultural products to the global marketplace – a daunting challenge for many farmers and small businesses.

But help is available. USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) supports four non-profit trade organizations, called State Regional Trade Groups (SRTGs), that provide hands-on support and assistance to U.S. small-and medium-size companies seeking to build a global business. SRTGs, working in conjunction with the state departments of agriculture in their respective regions, can help beginning exporters with everything from learning the fundamentals of exporting to identifying overseas opportunities and finding potential distributors. With support from FAS’ Market Access Program, SRTGs also help fund international marketing campaigns and promote U.S. farm and food products overseas. Read more »

Celebrating the Blueberry – A Fruit and an Industry That Really Packs a Punch

In addition to purchasing blueberries for federal food distribution programs, AMS supports the blueberry industry through grant programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program offers funds to states to support research and marketing projects that do things such as increasing crop yields. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

In addition to purchasing blueberries for federal food distribution programs, AMS supports the blueberry industry through grant programs like the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. This program offers funds to states to support research and marketing projects that do things such as increasing crop yields. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council.

Blueberries are often highly sought after because of their long list of health benefits and their sweet taste. Whether purchased fresh, frozen, or pureed, the blueberry has long been a staple in the diets of many people. Every July, the entire nation celebrates Blueberry Month by coming up with creative recipes and other unique ways to get their fill. Here at USDA, every month is Blueberry Month. One of the ways that we show our appreciation for our nation’s blueberry producers and processors is by creating more opportunities for people to enjoy this delicious fruit.

Indigenous to North America, the history of blueberries can be traced all the way back to Native Americans, who added them to soups, stews, and even meats. Highbush or cultivated blueberries are grown on large bushes that are planted in rows. These blueberries are often sent to the fresh market. Lowbush or wild blueberries produce smaller sized berries and are pruned every couple of years. The majority of lowbush blueberries are processed into items like jams, jellies and baked goods. Read more »

Respect the Grill Flames

A family dinner of marinated chicken and grilled vegetables. Photo by Christopher Leonard.

A family dinner of marinated chicken and grilled vegetables. Photo by Christopher Leonard.

With Independence Day just around the corner, families across the nation are making preparations to honor the day as the grill chef, king of Castle Suburbia, lord of the living room, master of the flames, marches forth.

With a meaty feast to honor the day, the Fourth of July has become almost as much a celebration of grilling greatness as it is a celebration of the nation’s independence. However, all that glitters isn’t gold and an infection of Salmonellosis can quickly knock the grill king off his throne and onto another.

Fittingly, the Fourth of July sits in the middle of grilling season. The amber flames roaring up between the grill grates can easily give the false impression of bringing death to all bacteria. However, don’t be misled. Preparing burgers on the grill is a quest that must be tackled safely. Taking the four oaths of food safety (clean, separate, cook and chill) will ensure a feast free from visits to the porcelain throne, or worse, a trip to the emergency room. Read more »