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Category: Rural Development

USDA Helps Small Business Grow Into Something Big

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D at Shenandoah Organic Valley

USDA Rural Development RBS Administrator Sam Rikkers and USDA RD State Director Basil Gooden, Ph.D., visit the Shenandoah Organic Valley, a VAPG grant recipient, on April 18th, 2016.

Corwin Heatwole describes himself as quite the stubborn – though innovative – teenager. Leaving home at 17 years of age, this hardworking young man from Harrisonburg, Va. started several successful businesses in his early 20s before he discovered that there was a growing demand for organic chicken in the U.S. In 2013 he bought 300 chickens with not one buyer yet in sight. Now, with the help of USDA, he has more demand than he can handle.

Since that day, Corwin has grown the business from 35 employees to nearly 350 in just 25 months with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In October of 2014, Corwin received $200,000 in a working capital Value Added Producers Grant from USDA Rural Development and in January of this year, he also received a $600,000 Business and Industry Guaranteed Loan (B&I). He used the guaranteed loan to upgrade a very old plant with state-of-the-art packaging and processing machines. Without the packaging machines in particular, he noted, he would have never been able to fulfill his growing orders from Costco and Whole Foods. And through this growing business, he has been able to increase his farmers’ end-of-the-year net income by 75 percent. Read more »

Agriculture Saved A Veteran’s Life

Eric Grandon and his family selling their local food products at a Farmer's Market

Eric Grandon and his family sell their local food products at a Farmer's Market in Clay County, West Virginia.

Eric Grandon of West Virginia is a war hero in the truest sense. Spending nearly 20 years in the Army, he was a combat veteran in Operation Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom II, and participated in four peace-time missions to the Middle East. Yet, when a horrific flashback overtook him in 2011, he was unable to continue his job as a Physical Therapist Assistant and was deemed unemployable and permanently disabled from PTSD. Unable to work, he found himself wandering around his farm aimlessly for nearly two years until he met James McCormick, the present Director of the Veterans and Warriors Agriculture program under the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.

A veteran himself, McCormick encouraged Grandon to take up farming, which had helped him work through his own PTSD. It was during a USDA Armed to Farm conference hosted by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) that Grandon officially decided to become a farmer.  He even took up beekeeping which he found to be the most therapeutic of them all often bringing tears of joy to his eyes. Read more »

Our Land. Our Water. Our Future. – Earth Day 2016

The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vergennes, VT

The Vergennes-Panton Water District along Lake Champlain in Vergennes, VT was able to upgrade the city's water treatment plant through a Water and Environmental Programs (WEP) loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development (RD) on Sep. 18, 2013. USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.

This Friday marks the forty-sixth observance of Earth Day, and our USDA Rural Development family is celebrating with a week of project dedications and groundbreakings across the nation – projects that have a direct and positive impact on the ecology and environment of our rural communities.

This week, Secretary Vilsack announced sixty projects that will improve water quality and safety in 33 states across the country, and what he said in his announcement deserves special emphasis; building and maintaining water infrastructure creates jobs, boosts the economy, and provides rural families with safe, reliable water and wastewater facilities that improve the environment. Read more »

As Summer Draws Near, We Set Lofty Goals to Feed More Kids than Ever

Bradley, Alex and Chris Lanthier enjoying a Summer Food Program lunch

Bradley, Alex and Chris Lanthier enjoy a Summer Food Program lunch at Mountain View Apartments with USDA Rural Development in Vermont.

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

You can tell by the smiles on the faces of Bradley, Alex, and Chris Lanthier that a well-fed kid is a happy kid! It’s smiling faces like these that make my job as Rural Housing Service Administrator so rewarding – these guys look as if they don’t have a care in the world. USDA Rural Housing Service is making a difference by helping kids, just be kids!

Yet it’s important to remember: unlike kids, hunger doesn’t take a vacation during the summer. Unfortunately, child hunger peaks during the summer months when kids from low-income families no longer have access to school meals. Read more »

Addressing the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic

Walk into any town in rural America, and ask someone if they know someone who is struggling or has struggled with addiction.  Chances are the answer will be yes.

In 2014, 28,648 Americans died of overdoses of opioids, a class of drugs that includes both prescription pain medications and heroin.  Heroin-related overdose deaths nearly doubled between 2011 and 2013.  In 2013, prescription opioid abuse or dependency affected 1.9 million Americans, and 517,000 Americans had abused heroin within the past year. Read more »

Hog Wild Over Broadband

A group of hogs

A group of hogs. Photo courtesy: USDA, Lance Cheung, Photographer

Bringing broadband to rural areas is helping transform business operations, including family-owned hog farms.

Ralls County Electric Cooperative in Missouri received Recovery Act funding to provide fiber-to-the-premises in a very rural area of Missouri. One of the locations in the Ralls County Electric service territory is a local hog farm, Spring Lake Pork, just 20 miles west of the Mississippi River. This family-owned business was well experienced in hog management, but to stay in business, they needed to upgrade to a smarter and much more efficient operation with state-of-the-art equipment. They also needed robust broadband service to manage a wealth of data. Read more »