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Category: Rural Development

Announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition to Innovate Building Construction

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and other emerging wood technologies are being used in new construction projects around the world, like these apartment buildings in Vaxjo, Sweden. (Photo credit: Midroc Property Development)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council:

As part of the Obama administration’s commitment to mitigate climate change, USDA, in partnership with the Softwood Lumber Board and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council, is announcing the U.S. Tall Wood Building Prize Competition. This competitive prize, open to teams of architects, engineers, and developers, will showcase the architectural and commercial viability of advanced wood products like Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) in tall buildings.

Advanced wood products are becoming the latest innovation in tall building construction. Products like CLT are flexible, strong, and fire resistant. In construction, wood products can be used as a successful and sustainable alternative to concrete, masonry, and steel. Using wood also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by storing carbon and simultaneously offsetting emissions from conventional building materials. By some estimates, the near term use of CLT and other emerging wood technologies in buildings 7-15 stories could have the same emissions control affect as taking more than 2 million cars off the road for one year. Read more »

Rural Manufacturer “Legend” Rides into the Sturgis Motorcycle Hall of Fame with USDA Backing

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

Legend Air Suspension Owner Jesse Jurrens speaks at his induction into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame.

The 74th Annual Sturgis Bike Rally roared through South Dakota the first part of August with a week of activities and events. One noteworthy event was Jesse Jurrens, owner of Legend Suspensions, being inducted into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame at the 14th Annual Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast held at the Lodge in Deadwood, SD.

Rural Development Area Director Tim Potts was on-site on my behalf to represent the agency and congratulate Jesse on this major milestone.  The mission of the Hall of Fame is to collect, preserve, and interpret the history of motorcycling, honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the sport and lifestyle, and pay tribute to the heritage of the Sturgis Rally.  Jesse definitely has shaped and changed the sport and lifestyle of motorcyclists globally and is inspiration for future generations. Read more »

Michigan Hispanic Growers’ Co-op Helps Improve Viability of Small Farmers

Board President Filiberto Villa Gomez, setting out produce at a farmers market, has been the driving force behind Farmers on the Move cooperative.

Board President Filiberto Villa Gomez, setting out produce at a farmers market, has been the driving force behind Farmers on the Move cooperative.

Editor’s note: Thomas is Extension educator and innovation counselor at the Michigan State University Product Center, Michigan Cooperative Development Program. This is one in a series of blogs USDA is posting to help celebrate Cooperative Month in October.

Farmers on the Move (FOTM) is a cooperative of Hispanic farmers, incorporated in June 2009, which is working to create a quality retail brand of fresh blueberries and vegetables for the Michigan and Midwest markets. Guiding this effort is Filiberto Villa Gomez, co-op board president, who has consistently striven to enhance member knowledge of both growing and marketing practices.

Together, the farmers process, package, deliver and share marketing expenses. The co-op sells to retail and wholesale markets, as well as through farmers markets. Read more »

A Tour of Development in Downeast Maine

Visiting Hand in Hand Apartments: Administrator Hernandez visits the home of Maria (China) Santos. Santos and her son Juan moved to Maine from Honduras. Left to Right are: USDA Rural Development Administrator for Housing and Community Programs Tony Hernandez; Mano En Mano Outreach Worker Edith Flores; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Hand in Hand Apartments Resident Maria (China) Santos and Son, Juan Santos; and Mano En Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe.

Visiting Hand in Hand Apartments: Administrator Hernandez visits the home of Maria (China) Santos. Santos and her son Juan moved to Maine from Honduras. Left to Right are: USDA Rural Development Administrator for Housing and Community Programs Tony Hernandez; Mano En Mano Outreach Worker Edith Flores; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Hand in Hand Apartments Resident Maria (China) Santos and Son, Juan Santos; and Mano En Mano Executive Director Ian Yaffe.

Recently, Tony Hernandez, USDA Rural Development’s Housing and Community Facilities Administrator visited Maine to see firsthand how Rural Development can support the growing seafood processing industry in Downeast Maine. Tony also met with leaders from the Penobscot Indian Nation to discuss USDA Rural Development’s ongoing support of housing and community development on the Tribal lands.

We had a very valuable trip, starting with a visit to Prospect Harbor to see the Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. Formerly the Stinson Seafood Cannery, the largest sardine cannery in the nation, the building and equipment were purchased by what became Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company. The purchase preserved much-needed jobs in the area, and the facility now employs approximately 170 workers and processes over 50,000 pounds of lobster every day. We’re working with community leaders in Prospect Harbor to ensure USDA Rural Development supports community capacity building and infrastructure development as businesses like Maine Fair Trade Lobster Company expand and increase employment. Read more »

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

Partnering for a Strong Rural Economy is a USDA Specialty

A strong rural economy benefits the whole nation. Sales of specialty crops – which include everything from fruits and vegetables to tree nuts, cut flowers and nursery crops – total nearly $65 billion per year.  The success of specialty crop farmers and businesses creates opportunities for new jobs and is critical to the rural economy. That’s why my agency, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), is partnering with states to support the hardworking American farmers who grow these products.

 This week Secretary Tom Vilsack announced millions of dollars in grant funding authorized through the 2014 Farm Bill, including $66 million in Specialty Crop Block Grants (SCBG) awarded by AMS.  The goal of the SCBG program is to promote and increase opportunities for specialty crop producers by supporting projects that create new business opportunities, boost productivity and improve food safety.  Every state department of agriculture receives a block grant that it can use to fund projects that support its specific priorities. This year’s specialty crop block grants fund 838 projects across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories. 

Read more »

Fermentation Fest – Innovation and Creativity in Rural Wisconsin

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

Ruminant, The Grand Masticator, a transformed John Deere combine by Minnesota artist Karl Unnasch, a temporary art installation along the Farm/Art DTour 2013. Photo by Aaron Dysert

As we enter the autumn season, the harvest is on most Wisconsinites’ minds.   I’m particularly excited to be participating in an upcoming gathering in Reedsburg where the Wormfarm Institute’s annual Fermentation Fest will be taking place from October 4th through the 13th.   In addition to workshops on cooking and fermenting food, and even homebrewing, this “live culture convergence” will feature the nationally acclaimed Farm/Art DTour, a 50-mile self-guided drive through the rolling hills and farmlands in the “Driftless Area” of Sauk County.

On that Sunday the 12th, from 4 to 6 pm I will be participating on a panel called “The Art of the Rural – Creating Thriving Places Beyond the City” at the Woolen Mill Gallery, 28 E Main St. in Reedburg. We’ll explore how local food systems and arts and culture can combine to be integral strategies for fostering economic development in rural areas. I will be joined by a distinguished panel which includes: Jamie Bennett, the President of ArtPlace America, a national philanthropy consortium; Matthew Fluharty of Washington University who leads Art of the Rural; Sarah Lloyd, a Wisconsin Dells dairy farmer, rural sociologist and member of the Wisconsin Food Hub Cooperative, a 2014 recipient of a USDA Value-Added Producer Grant, and Curt Meine, conservation biologist and Aldo Leopold biographer. Read more »