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Category: Rural Development

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 »

Smooth Sailing to Grand Canyon West with the Hualapai Tribe

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

Hualapai Bird Dancers perform at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Diamond Bar Road. (USDA Photo)

There were many things to celebrate about the newly paved nine-mile stretch of the Diamond Bar Road in Western Arizona, a road that links state and county roads to Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Reservation. At the ribbon cutting celebration for the completed road, Tribal, state and federal officials all noted the obvious benefit of the paving: The trip for the thousands of visitors every year to Grand Canyon West would be smoother and faster. Hualapai Tribal member Rory Majenty, who emceed the road celebration, pointed out another benefit for tribal members, “We probably won’t have to buy a new truck every few years like we used to have to do because of the rough road!” Tribal members weren’t the only ones dogged by the undulating washboard road. Visitors and tour buses were plagued by flat tires, bent oil pans and hubcaps that flew off into the desert.

The Hualapai Tribe operates the popular Grand Canyon Skywalk over Grand Canyon West. The glass platform juts out in a horseshoe 70 feet over the canyon and is an attraction that draws over 700,000 visitors from around the world annually. Read more »

Always Home Grown or Homemade In South Dakota

Ernie and Terry Lehmkuhl of Springerridge Barnyard Products, organizers of the Country Farmer's Market in Pierre, SD, show off their products at a recent market.

Ernie and Terry Lehmkuhl of Springerridge Barnyard Products, organizers of the Country Farmer's Market in Pierre, SD, show off their products at a recent market.

Here in South Dakota, we’re proud of the agricultural products we produce, and local farmer’s markets are a great venue to get these products directly in the hands of consumers. One market I wanted to single out is the Country Farmer’s Market held in our capital of Pierre, South Dakota. Terry Lehmkuhl of Springerridge Barnyard Products and her husband Ernie are the organizers of the market. Terry said “We are just a few hard working people that love bringing country to town. Our Farmer’s Market customers love what we do with our hands. Picking eggs, milking goats, working in our kitchens or just playing in the dirt, we bring our customers the best, freshest products and produce.” Read more »

For Rural Communities, It’s More than Just a Library

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner joined the Village of Lake Odessa at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new community library.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture Rural Development State Director for Michigan James J. Turner joined the Village of Lake Odessa at a groundbreaking ceremony for the new community library.

In a knowledge-based economy, libraries have a central role in helping rural residents learn and communicate. I stressed this point at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the Lake Odessa Community Library.

Libraries are increasingly important for rural communities. They have expanded their role from lending books to offering meeting spaces and providing high-speed internet connections, the latter often being difficult to obtain away from urban centers. The expansion of the Lake Odessa Community Library is an investment in new economic opportunities for the area. Read more »

A Paiute Pumpkin Patch in Utah

The Paiute Tribe headquarters in Cedar City, Utah.

The Paiute Tribe headquarters in Cedar City, Utah.

As we prepare for annual Halloween celebrations across the nation, I was reminded of a trip I made to Cedar City, Utah earlier this month. StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity is an effort Secretary Vilsack launched in 2010 to address the distinct set of challenges America’s most rural areas face. This added effort also helps to fulfill USDA’s commitment to Native American tribes. Since StrikeForce began, I’ve had the honor of meeting with many Native American tribal members to identify where USDA Rural Development may serve their communities best.

The Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah welcomed the USDA family around a great wooden table at their headquarters in Cedar City. Representatives from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), Farm Service Agency (FSA), and Rural Development (RD) came together with the Utah Governor’s Office to show our combined support to the Paiute Tribe. More importantly, we were there to listen to what the Tribe and its five constituent bands could tell us about their plans for the future, as well as their needs. Read more »

Building Local Food Systems, Cooperatively

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

John and Trudi Kretsinger of KW Farms promoting their grass-fed beef products at one of La Montanita’s stores.

As part of USDA’s ongoing celebration of National Cooperatives Month, please join us for an upcoming webinar exploring the intersection of two important economic trends: a new wave of cooperative development and the rapid growth in demand for local foods.

This webinar – The Role of Cooperatives in Local Food Systems Development, on Thursday, Oct. 30, 1 pm Eastern Time – will feature national cooperative leaders and development specialists and USDA experts discussing the critical role co-ops play in developing local and regional food systems. Among the USDA staff on the panel will be Ag Economist Jim Barham; Elanor Starmer, our national coordinator for local and regional food systems; and Margaret Bau, a co-op development specialist who has helped launch over 30 co-ops nationwide. Also joining the panel will be Jan Tusick, director of the Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Montana; Karl Sutton, a farmer/member of the Western Montana Growers Cooperative; and Robin Seydel, Community Development for La Montanita, a retail and consumer co-op in New Mexico. Read more »