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Category: Rural Development

2,700 Miles of Fiber

A man working on broadband systems

The Recovery Act helped bring access to broadband to 6 million rural Americans. Sometimes one connection at a time.

In 2010, Scott County, Tennessee languished at a twenty-one percent unemployment rate, not unusual for rural areas. By early 2015, that rate had halved. Through fiber optic power, Highland Telephone Cooperative’s vision, and funding from USDA Rural Development, these rural counties have become robust community models of technological enfranchisement.

Five years ago in the communities dotting the Upper Cumberland Plateau, lack of broadband access was a barrier to services that residents and businesses in urban areas take for granted. Geographical challenges such as the region’s remote and rocky terrain, combined with the lack of subscribers to provide business income, are common reasons rural areas do not enjoy affordable and reliable high-speed internet service. Read more »

Reducing Energy Use and Costs & Getting #USDAResults for Virginia Businesses and Farmers

Solar panels atop the storage units outside E&S Mart in Altavista

Solar panels atop the storage units outside E&S Mart in Altavista.

This week in Virginia, USDA Rural Development announced eight Rural Energy for America (REAP) grants totaling $107,500.

It’s always an honor to award REAP grants because they help Virginia’s rural businesses by rewarding innovation. The REAP program helps rural businesses and agricultural producers save money, make their operations more energy efficient, and protect the environment. Read more »

A Proactive Approach to Investing in Employee Security

USDA Rural Development staff listening as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter

USDA Rural Development staff listens as Department of Homeland Security Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans and Bangor Police Sergeant Rob Angelo discuss what to do in case of an active shooter at the USDA Rural Development State Office in Bangor, Maine.

Employee safety and security have always been at the top of my list of responsibilities as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine.  Our 58 employees in Maine work directly with the public to deliver essential programs that impact individuals, businesses, lenders, and communities; my staff’s personal security is something that the USDA and I take very seriously.

This past November, our staff welcomed Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans from the Department of Homeland Security to provide training in Bangor and Lewiston, Maine.  Talis is an Active Firearms Instructor, a National Weapons Detection Training Program Inspector, and a Field Training Evaluation Program Instructor. Read more »

One More Tool to Help Bring Broadband to Rural America

A Pine Net worker standing near a broadband tower that is part of the upgrade for the communications and broadband systems throughout the area with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Broken Bow, OK

A Pine Net worker stands near a broadband tower that is part of the upgrade for the communications and broadband systems throughout the area with the assistance of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Broken Bow, OK. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

“What can I do to bring broadband to my rural community?” That’s a question a lot of people from rural communities are asking, and it’s good to know that now there is one more way to help those without a rural broadband plan to bring high-speed internet service to their homes and businesses.

Communities interested in using broadband service to help revitalize small-town main streets and promote economic development are encouraged to apply for Cool & Connected, a pilot program sponsored by USDA’s Rural Utilities Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Sustainable Communities. Through Cool & Connected, a team of experts will help community members develop strategies and an action plan for using planned or existing broadband service to promote smart, sustainable community development. Read more »

A Community for Agricultores in Puerto Rico

Dianilda Rodriguez of GR Management Corp., Arlene Zambrana from USDA Rural Development, and Maria Rodriquez-Collazo of PathStone standing in front of the completed Alturas de Castañer housing complex

Dianilda Rodriguez of GR Management Corp., Arlene Zambrana from USDA Rural Development, and Maria Rodriquez-Collazo of PathStone stand in front of the completed Alturas de Castañer housing complex in Puerto Rico.

In the municipality of Lares, Puerto Rico, lies Alturas de Castañer, a small, mountainous community that is home to 24 agricultores and their families. The agricultores – or farm workers – work hard year-round to produce coffee, bananas, root vegetables and citrus fruits that are then sold in local markets and to area restaurants.

Before coming to the community of Alturas de Castañer, many families lived in cramped conditions, sometimes with two or three other families.  Conditions were unsanitary and children were constantly sick.  Some homes did not even have roofs, and residents suffered dangerous exposure to the natural elements, including torrential rains during hurricane season. Read more »

Una Comunidad Para Agricultores en Puerto Rico

Dianilda Rodriguez de GR Management Corp., Arlene Zambrana de la Oficina de Desarrollo Rural de USDA y Maria Rodriquez-Collazo de PathStone frente al complejo de vivienda de Alturas de Castañer

Dianilda Rodriguez de GR Management Corp., Arlene Zambrana de la Oficina de Desarrollo Rural de USDA y Maria Rodriquez-Collazo de PathStone frente al complejo de vivienda de Alturas de Castañer en Puerto Rico.

En el municipio de Lares, Puerto Rico, se encuentra Alturas de Castañer, una comunidad en las montañas donde viven 24 agricultores y sus familias. Los agricultores trabajan arduamente durante todo el año para producir café, plátanos, viandas y frutas cítricas que luego se venden en los mercados locales y a los restaurantes en la zona.

Antes de llegar a la comunidad de Alturas de Castañer, muchas familias vivían en espacios estrechos, a veces con dos o tres otras familias. Las condiciones eran insalubres y los niños estaban constantemente enfermos. Algunos hogares ni siquiera tenían techo y los residentes estaban peligrosamente expuestos a los elementos de la naturaleza, como las lluvias torrenciales durante la temporada de huracanes. Read more »