Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Category: Rural Development

USDA and Habitat for Humanity to Build Homes and Ladders of Opportunity

USDA Rural Development Pennsylvania State Director Thomas Williams helped future homeowner Judy Aguero put the first nails into the doorway of her new home.

USDA Rural Development Pennsylvania State Director Thomas Williams helped future homeowner Judy Aguero put the first nails into the doorway of her new home.

On a blustery cold November morning, it was heartwarming to help Judy Aguero put the first nails into the doorway of her new home. Ms. Aguero, a single mom, was born in New York City and moved to Pennsylvania when she was 15 years old. When her mother was deported back to Santo Domingo, Judy lived with members of her church. By 19, she was expecting a child and living at a homeless shelter. Overcoming all odds, Judy was determined to make a better life for herself and her child. She is currently employed as a Certified Nursing Assistant and is working on an associate’s degree in social work. Through York Habitat for Humanity, she will be moving into a new three bedroom, one bath two-story duplex in the spring of 2015 with her daughter, Yudelka.

USDA Rural Development’s Pennsylvania housing staff recently met with York Habitat for Humanity (York Habitat) to partner our resources to help bring homeownership to reality for rural Pennsylvanians. York Habitat will be working as a packager to help hardworking potential homeowners like Judy complete applications for the USDA 502 Direct Home Loan Program.  Through the program, direct homeownership loans are available to lower income individuals and families. Payments are based on income, with no down payment required. It’s just another way Rural Development is creating ladders of opportunity to help people have the tools they need to climb into the middle class. Read more »

Local Food, Local Places: Bringing Expertise and Creative Thinking to Community Economic Development

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

Around the country, communities are seeking creative approaches to integrating entrepreneurship, environmental management, public health, and other place-based considerations into successful economic planning. Local food development can be one strategy.

The White House Rural Council and six federal agencies have selected 26 communities to participate in Local Foods, Local Places, a federal initiative providing direct technical support and expertise to community partners integrating local food systems into regional economic action plans. Under this effort, a team of federal agricultural, transportation, environmental, public health, and regional economic experts will work directly with communities to develop specific local food projects. These efforts will make a significant impact in the communities participating in the Local Foods, Local Places initiative. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Getting Covered is Good for Rural America

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America.

Infographic: Getting covered is good for rural America. (click to enlarge image)

Cross posted from the Huffington Post:

Living in a rural community shouldn’t have to come with a hefty price tag for healthcare. On this National Rural Health Day, we celebrate the fact that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it no longer has to.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already making a difference in the lives of millions of rural Americans. Prior to the ACA, many rural families had a hard time finding affordable insurance coverage, paying an average of nearly half of their costs out of their own pockets. Many didn’t have access to affordable health insurance through an employer because they were self-employed as farmers, ranchers or rural business owners and entrepreneurs. While those folks take calculated business risks every day, their health should not be one of them. Read more »

Native American Civil Rights Legend Urges Action

(Left to right) Educator and former government official Ada Deer, Rural Development’s Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (Oneida) and the Forest Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer (Mescalero Apache) at the USDA Native American Heritage Month observance at the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA. Photo by Bob Nichols.

(Left to right) Educator and former government official Ada Deer, Rural Development’s Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh (Standing Rock Lakota), Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (Oneida) and the Forest Service’s Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer (Mescalero Apache) at the USDA Native American Heritage Month observance at the Jefferson Auditorium at USDA. Photo by Bob Nichols.

Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa, National Native American Museum shared Native cultures through music and song during the Native American Heritage Month Observance Cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The Cultural Exchange featured Tribal College exhibit booths and cultural food sampling. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Dennis Zotigh, Kiowa, National Native American Museum shared Native cultures through music and song during the Native American Heritage Month Observance Cultural exchange at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. The Cultural Exchange featured Tribal College exhibit booths and cultural food sampling. USDA photo by Bob Nichols.

Legendary Native American Indian activist, educator and former government official Ada Deer (Menominee) delivered a charge to those attending USDA’s Native American Heritage Month observance here in Washington last week. “Be activists to achieve change,” she said. “We all pay our rent on the planet.  How are you paying your rent?”

A former head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, she recently retired as director of the American Indian Studies Department and Director of the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  In my introduction, I noted that Ms. Deer’s life is a tribute to tribal sovereignty and self-determination. She is a role model to all Native Americans, but especially to Native American women.  Not surprisingly, Ms. Deer spoke passionately about the role of Tribal colleges and universities.  This year marks the 20th anniversary of their recognition by Congress as land grant institutions.  These colleges and universities are central to the Tribes. They mark a firm move away from the old boarding school model and provide life-long learning opportunities in Tribal communities.  “Education,” said Ms. Deer, “empowers people to enact positive change.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: In Rural America, Promise and Opportunity Abound for Veterans

Veterans have sacrificed dearly to keep this country safe. Every day, they confront and triumph over those that threaten our national security. We owe it to our military men and women to ensure a different kind of security is waiting when they return home—the security that comes from the promise of a good job, affordable housing, a quality education and dependable health care.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture stands proudly alongside those who have served. Our staff across America includes more than 11,000 veterans – and our team works hard every day to strengthen services and programs in rural areas that support veterans and their families as they achieve their dreams. This includes everything from health clinics and telemedicine services, to distance learning and training opportunities for those who want to start a farm or ranch to grants and loans to help veterans start or expand a rural business. Read more »

Armed to Farm: Bridging Veterans to Agriculture

Ivory Smith, founder of SmithPonics, shows off a tray of his microgreens while his son tags along for the ride. (Photo provided by SmithPonics)

Ivory Smith, founder of SmithPonics, shows off a tray of his microgreens while his son tags along for the ride. (Photo provided by SmithPonics)

“I’m used to hard work; I served in the Infantry – but agriculture is a different kind of hard work.” That’s what Ivory Smith, founder of SmithPonics in Poplarville, Miss, had to say about opening his own business selling microgreens.

Ivory was one of many veterans who participated in a recent ‘Armed to Farm’ workshop in Jackson, Mississippi. Sponsored by the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (also known as ATTRA), and funded in part through USDA Rural Development, the workshop gave veterans a chance to learn about sustainable small-scale farming practices and visit working agribusinesses to learn from them first-hand. Read more »