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Category: Rural Development

Co-op Month: Much to Celebrate, But Much More to Do!

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

Doug O'Brien, Acting Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development addresses attendees at a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Lillian Salerno, Administrator for Rural Business & Cooperatives Programs and Charles Snyder, President of National Cooperative Bank are on the right.

There is so much to celebrate during National Cooperative Month in October, as the U.S. co-op business sector is generating about $650 billion in annual sales and accounts for more than 2 million jobs. But the cooperative business model remains a “best-kept secret” for far too many people who could be benefitting from membership in co-ops.

It is thus imperative that everyone involved with cooperatives make co-op education and outreach a major priority in the year ahead. That was one of the primary messages of a National Co-op Month forum at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Oct. 22, sponsored by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA). Read more »

Made In Rural Vermont – Enjoyed Worldwide

A maple syrup producer in Vermont (Photo courtesy USDA)

A maple syrup producer in Vermont (Photo courtesy USDA)

What has 40 calories per tablespoon, contains potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamins B2, B5 and B6, the same calcium levels as whole milk, and is completely natural and organic?

Chances are maple syrup wasn’t the first food to come to mind, but it’s true! Real maple syrup has less calories per tablespoon than canola oil, contains 9 essential vitamins and nutrients, and when made properly, it is completely natural, organic and additive free. The benefits to maple syrup are greater than the collection of healthy nutrients inside the product. Maple syrup is good not only for a hot stack of pancakes, but also for America’s rural economy. Read more »

Connecting Communities: Broadband for Rural America Benefits Us All

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

A Matanuska Telephone Association Lineman works to bring high-speed broadband to Chickaloon and Glacier View. Photo courtesy MTA.

Today, Secretary Vilsack announced over $190 million of investment in broadband projects through USDA’s Community Connect program, the Public Television Digital Transition Grant, and the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program.

Time and time again, we hear stories about the significant impact USDA’s investments have in the lives of hard working Americans, and we know that an investment in our rural communities is an investment in America. Read more »

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 »