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Category: Rural Development

Co-op Month Celebrates Member-Owned Business Model

Amanda Barnett and David DiLorenzo pull out spinach plants in a greenhouse at Stone Soup Farm Co-Op in Hadley, Mass. (Photo by Jerry Roberts)

Amanda Barnett and David DiLorenzo pull out spinach plants in a greenhouse at Stone Soup Farm Co-Op in Hadley, Mass. (Photo by Jerry Roberts)

October is Cooperative Month, and this year’s theme is “The Co-op Connection,” an apt reference to the virtually unlimited number of ways in which co-ops connect their members to marketplaces and services they might otherwise be unable to access.

America is home to more than 30,000 cooperatives, including farmer, rural utility, credit/financial services, food stores, housing and many other types of cooperatives. To get an idea of just how flexible the co-op business model is in meeting virtually any need, see the Co-op Month special section of the Sept.-Oct. issue of USDA’s “Rural Cooperatives” magazine at: www.rurdev.usda.gov (under the “Spotlights” section of the home page). Read more »

Tribal Youth Celebrate New, Safe Place to Learn

Students help break ground on their future Head Start building.

Students help break ground on their future Head Start building.

“In the Dakota language, there is no word for ‘child’ or ‘children.’ Instead, there is ‘wakanyeja,’ which means ‘sacred little ones,’” reported a local newspaper. The importance of that future generation was evident on the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation in North Dakota as we broke ground for a new Head Start facility. This was a special project to me as it embodies so well what we do at USDA Rural Development.

President Obama’s recent visit to North Dakota highlighted our tribal areas and opportunities for native youth. This project aligns with the President’s vision as well as being a strong validation of Secretary Vilsack’s StrikeForce initiative. The Secretary’s leadership has allowed us to further identify issues in areas of persistently high poverty, which cultivated the ensuing meetings that helped make this project a reality. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Investing in Conservation Innovation

Earlier this week, USDA announced $15.7 million in Conservation Innovation Grants to 47 organizations that will help develop and demonstrate cutting-edge ideas to help farmers and ranchers continue to improve conservation practices on their operations.

More than half of this year’s awardees focus on preserving and improving soil health, which leads to improved water quality, increased soil water availability, enhanced resilience and nutrient cycling, captured carbon, among many other vital natural resource needs. Read more »

New State-of-the-Art School Complex on the Warm Springs Reservation Celebrates Traditions, Nurtures Young Learners

Students perform a traditional dance at the school’s dedication.

Students perform a traditional dance at the school’s dedication.

As young learners of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon walk through the doors of their new school this month, they will become part of a new history of education ideals and community collaboration that will ensure their future success and well-being.

The new Warm Springs Academy, funded in part with a Community Facilities loan from USDA Rural Development and part by Jefferson County, replaces a cramped and neglected 1930s school building with a state-of-the-art complex featuring modern science and computer labs, art and music rooms, a gymnasium, a large gathering place for the cafeteria and kitchen, and many cultural features that celebrate the tribal community’s heritage and traditions. Read more »

Troubled Teens Climb to New Heights in Rural America

A climbing wall at Rimrock Trails Adolescent Treatment Services is one of many tools available to help troubled teens build their self-esteem. Pictured are State Director Vicki Walker (left) and Rimrock Trails’ Residential Mental Health Counselor Courtney Parchmon.  Rimrock Trails employs 30 professionals dedicated to helping some of our most vulnerable adolescents.

A climbing wall at Rimrock Trails Adolescent Treatment Services is one of many tools available to help troubled teens build their self-esteem. Pictured are State Director Vicki Walker (left) and Rimrock Trails’ Residential Mental Health Counselor Courtney Parchmon. Rimrock Trails employs 30 professionals dedicated to helping some of our most vulnerable adolescents.

Teens across the country are looking forward to the school year and many new experiences that will enrich their lives and start them on their way to future success. Those who struggle with mental health and addiction issues during this critical time of life, however, face tremendous challenges that not only threaten their present well-being, but can also limit their options well into adulthood.

USDA and the Obama Administration are committed to ensuring these youth, and all of our young people, have the support they need to grow and thrive – whether they live in large metropolitan areas or the most rural areas. An example of this support is a recently awarded USDA Business and Industry loan guarantee to finance the renovation and expansion of Rimrock Trails Adolescent Treatment Services in remote Prineville, Oregon. Last week, I joined professionals working in youth recovery and their many community partners to break ground on the project. Read more »

Just Like a Peach, Without the Fuzz

Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex.  In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods.  As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.

Bellies full from lunch, children at Old Plank Estates in Butler, joined USDA Rural Development State Director Thomas Williams and other partners in the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) to celebrate National Farmers Market Week. Old Plank Estates, a USDA and HUD funded Multi-Family Housing Complex, is a distribution site for the SFSP, administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education, with food service provided by the Paul Lawrence Dunbar Community Center. Lunch is served daily to 20-30 children from the complex. In honor of National Farmers Market Week, Freedom Farms brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines to the children and talked with them about fresh foods. As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring.

They looked like apples to the twenty-seven children who were waiting patiently in line for lunch as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) at Old Plank Estates in Butler, PA. But in fact, Freedom Farms, a local farmers market, brought a bushel of fresh picked nectarines for the children in honor of National Farmers Market Week. Lisa King from Freedom Farms explained to the children that, while nectarines may look like apples, they’re more like peaches without the “fuzz”. Giggling, with juice running off their chins, the children enjoyed the foreign fruit.

The USDA program is administered in Pennsylvania by the Department of Education. Old Plank Estates, a USDA Rural Development and Housing and Urban Development funded multi-family housing complex, is partnering with the Paul Laurence Dunbar Community Center to provide the meals to the children.  As an added bonus, Freedom Farms is a new partner in the program, offering to donate fruit each day and to help the children plant a garden at the complex next spring. Read more »