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Category: Rural Development

A Special Invitation from Deputy Secretary to Join a Google+ Hangout on Veteran Farmers

A man holding plant seedlings with the USA flag behind him

Helping our Returning Heroes find Opportunities in Agriculture: Join us for a Google+ Hangout with Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden. Tune in live on Thursday, September 17, 11AM ET at

On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with several inspiring Service members and launch an expanded collaboration between USDA and the Department of Defense at a Transition Assistance Program class hosted at the Pentagon. This collaboration will integrate agriculture into the career training and counseling programs Service members receive as they transition out of the military. Information about USDA resources and programs will now reach 200,000 transitioning Service members every year.

It’s exciting to see veterans — many of whom come from rural communities — drawn back to the land, and USDA is here to provide support for military veterans and their families, from nutrition assistance to rural rental housing and homeownership opportunities. In conjunction with Monday’s announcement, USDA also launched a new website, This site is specifically designed to educate veterans about USDA programs and the support available for all active duty military and veterans. Read more »

USDA Agencies Lead Local Food Discussion in Omaha

USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives

A team of USDA officials and Nebraska congressional and state representatives participated in the first ever Local Foods for Local Tables conference. The group got together with the common goal of promoting local foods. USDA Photo.

I was thrilled to join USDA colleagues at the first-of-its-kind “Local Foods for Local Tables” conference in Omaha, Neb., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.  USDA Rural Development (RD) State Director Maxine Moul and the office of Congressman Brad Ashford led the effort to bring together groups and community members with the common goal of promoting local foods. Along with RD state leadership, the event featured Farm Service Agency (FSA) State Executive Director Dan Steinkruger and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) State Conservationist Craig Derickson, all of whom serve on the Nebraska State Food and Agriculture Council (SFAC).  They brought together a panel of public servants who are experts in their field, as well as community leaders who are on the front lines of bringing fresh, healthy food to the American table. 

With more than 150 people in attendance, there was tremendous energy in the room. The discussions were lively and the ideas inspired! For everyone sitting in the room – whether a volunteer gardener or a state conservationist – it was a great opportunity to learn about programs and initiatives right in their backyard that are supporting local and regional food systems.  I had the privilege of serving as the keynote speaker during the luncheon, which was prepared using delicious, locally-sourced foods. I shared how my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), plays a key role in providing technical assistance, awarding grants, and conducting research that contribute to ongoing efforts in Nebraska and across the country to strengthen local and regional food systems.  Elanor Starmer from the Office of the Secretary also attended and talked about the Department-wide Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative to support local food. Read more »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »

Strengthening Rural America For Our Future Generations

Here at USDA, we know that having strong rural communities is critical to ensuring that rural America remains a viable place for families to call home. That’s why, through smart investments and regional partnerships, we continuously work to expand opportunities by fostering the creation of diverse and productive rural economies through everything from home loans to financing for infrastructure and business ventures.

Infrastructure, like homes, buildings, roads and power, is the first step toward prosperity and growth in any community. For small rural communities, however, large-scale infrastructure development can be challenging. Small towns have more limited resources and a smaller tax base that can make access to credit difficult. Fortunately, USDA Rural Development can help. We are proud to partner with rural communities across America to provide affordable financing for these essentials, including financing to bring high speed broadband, including remote, poor and under-served areas. Additionally, we provide loans, grants and technical assistance for water systems, wastewater systems, essential community facilities like schools and hospitals, small business start-up or expansion. Read more »

Banishing the Honeybucket – Transformation in Lower Kalskag, Alaska

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Vernita Dore (left) touring the wastewater facility under construction in Lower Kalskag, Alaska

Acting Deputy Under Secretary Vernita Dore (left) tours the wastewater facility under construction in Lower Kalskag, Alaska.

Life is challenging in Lower Kalskag, Alaska. An isolated village only accessible by plane or boat, or an ice road in the winter, Lower Kalskag’s 300 residents have no running water or toilets and pay four and five times the price for goods you and I take for granted. A third of the population lives below the poverty level and over half of the population lacks year-round employment. Located past the southwest end of the snow-capped Portage Mountains on an icy bend of the Kuskokwim River, I was fortunate enough to visit Lower Kalskag and see first-hand the critical role USDA Rural Development plays in our most remote communities.

With assistance from our partner, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, USDA Rural Development is providing investment through our Rural Alaska Village Grant program to construct water and wastewater treatment facilities, as well as connect the residents of Lower Kalskag to the system. By 2017, this nearly century-old settlement will have indoor plumbing for the very first time. Read more »

The Spirit of Volunteerism, Alive with Michigan RD Staff

USDA Rural Development volunteers at the end of the day

USDA Rural Development volunteers at the end of the day. From left: Paul Bristol, Katherin Farwell, Diana Perkins, homeowner Susan Cullen’s son Terrance, Susan Cullen, Aileen Waldron, Jane Smith

One of the things that sets USDA Rural Development apart is the dedication of its employees.  This week they provided a great example of how they are willing to go out of their way to assist people in need by helping to repair the home of Susan Cullen in Big Rapids.

Susan is blind and has struggled to keep up her home. She expressed her concerns to Area Specialist Aileen Waldron and wondered what could to be done to make it more accessible and complete needed repairs. Read more »