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Category: Rural Development

No Sour Grapes for a Nebraska Vinegar Crafter

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

A sampling of the signature 'Emilia' blend from George Paul Vinegars of Cody, Nebraska. (Photo Credit Alan J. Bartels / NebraskaLife)

Fifteen years ago, George Johnson and his daughter, Emily, began their first foray into winemaking, vinifying local wild grapes and other fruits in their home in rural Cody, Nebraska. At the suggestion of a family friend, they began to experiment with turning their uniquely flavored wines into vinegar, and today, Johnson operates one of the most successful independent vinegar businesses in the nation. With customers in every state and the loyalty of top chefs in Omaha, St. Louis, and Chicago, George Paul Vinegars offers a product ripe with old-world methodology and modern entrepreneurial spirit.

With the help of a $40,000 USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, the Johnsons conducted a feasibility study to gauge the likelihood of success for an independent vinegary in rural Nebraska, and were thrilled when the study indicated enormous potential for their unique product. With continued support from a Nebraska Agricultural Innovation Value-Added Agriculture grant from the Nebraska Rural Development Commission, George Paul Vinegars produces seven handcrafted varieties ranging from standards like apple cider and raspberry vinegars to more specialized flavors, including Johnson’s signature “Emilia” blend. Read more »

Women are the Past, Present and Future of American Agriculture

Cross posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

From historic homesteaders to contemporary cattle ranchers, women have been the cornerstone of America’s agriculture heritage. We’ve produced food to feed our families, feed our neighbors and to feed the world.

The 2012 Census of Agriculture notes that nearly one million women are working America’s lands. That’s nearly a third of our nation’s farmers.  These women are generating $12.9 billion in annual agricultural sales.

Farm work isn’t the only way women are contributing to agriculture.  We are scientists, economists, foresters, veterinarians and conservationists. We are in the boardrooms and the corner offices of international enterprises, and are the owners and operators of small businesses. We are property owners and managers. We are policy makers and standard bearers.  Women are increasingly involved in every aspect of agriculture.

On October 20, I have invited a small group of leaders from almost all corners of the ag sector to join me at the White House and discuss the future of women in agriculture.  Co-hosted by the White House Rural Council, and co-organized by AGree (a collaborative initiative of nine of the world’s leading foundations to tackle long-term food and agriculture issues), this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the impact women have had in American agriculture and the vision we have for the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Women principal farm operators average 60 years old. This means our daughters and granddaughters hold the future of American agriculture in their hands.  As women leaders, it is our responsibility to make sure the next generation of women are educated, trained and prepared to usher agriculture into the future.

When I was a kid growing up on a Georgia peanut farm, I was inspired by my mother’s hard work on and off the farm. She taught me to carry my love of the land into all aspects of my life. As my career has developed, I have continued to be inspired by not only incredibly strong and talented women who are making a difference in agriculture, but also by men who recognize the vital role that women play in this industry. Monday’s dialogue will be just one of many parts of an important conversation on how we can better engage and empower women to continue helping agriculture succeed.

Join the conversation using #womeninag and share with the world the women who inspire you.

From Community Eyesore to Community Asset

Ribbon-cutting at Kalamink Creek Apartments.  From left:  Melissa Horste, staffer for U.S. Sen. Carl Levin; Senior Vice President of the Great Lakes Capital Fund Tom Edmiston, resident Ryan Kainath; USDA Rural Development Mason Area Office Director Kevin Smith; Owner/Contractor Jeff Gates; co-owner Tom Lapka (USDA Photo)

Ribbon-cutting at Kalamink Creek Apartments. From left: Melissa Horste, staffer for U.S. Sen. Carl Levin; Senior Vice President of the Great Lakes Capital Fund Tom Edmiston, resident Ryan Kainath; USDA Rural Development Mason Area Office Director Kevin Smith; Owner/Contractor Jeff Gates; co-owner Tom Lapka (USDA Photo)

Recently, the community of Webberville, Michigan celebrated the ribbon-cutting for what had once been an eyesore on the outskirts of town.

Kalamink Creek Apartments in Webberville was built in 1987 through the USDA Rural Development Section 515 Multi-Family Housing program to provide safe, affordable housing for low-income rural residents.  One of the first things visitors see as they drive in from Lansing is the aging 24-unit facility. Read more »

Co-op Provides Help for Premature Babies, Generates Income for Moms

The creation of this cooperative and its clearly defined values is definitely an encouragement to myself as a mother, OB nurse, and woman. The future of babies, mothers, and families will benefit greatly from the MMC!” says co-op member Anna Marie Nieboer, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

The creation of this cooperative and its clearly defined values is definitely an encouragement to myself as a mother, OB nurse, and woman. The future of babies, mothers, and families will benefit greatly from the MMC!” says co-op member Anna Marie Nieboer, of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Note: This is one in a series of entries USDA is posting to our blog in observance of National Cooperative Month in October.

Mothers Milk Cooperative (MMC) is believed to be the first cooperative in the country that aggregates and markets human milk. The cooperative was incorporated in 2012 to achieve two major objectives: Read more »

Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council:

As part of the Obama administration’s commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year. Read more »

Rural Manufacturer “Legend” Rides into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame with USDA Backing

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

The 74th Annual Sturgis Bike Rally roared through South Dakota the first part of August with a week of activities and events. One noteworthy event was Jesse Jurrens, owner of Legend Suspensions, being inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame at the 14th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast held at the Lodge in Deadwood, SD.

Rural Development Area Director Tim Potts was on-site on my behalf to represent the agency and congratulate Jesse on this major milestone.  The mission of the Hall of Fame is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of motorcycling, honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the sport and lifestyle, and pay tribute to the heritage of the Sturgis Rally.  Jesse definitely has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally and is inspiration for future generations. Read more »