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Category: Rural Development

A Kansas Community Dedicated to Providing Access to Locally Grown Food

On August 5, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark visited the Lawrence Farmers Market in recognition of National Farmers Market Week.

On August 5, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark visited the Lawrence Farmers Market in recognition of National Farmers Market Week.

Lawrence, Kansas has been building a local/regional foods movement since the early 1970’s.  In other words – they made local foods “cool” long before the local food movement and Farmer’s Markets gained in popularity across the nation.

The movement started with the creation of a retail food cooperative called the “The Merc” in 1974. The cooperative started with four individuals and currently includes more than 6,800.  The Lawrence farmers market has grown from a single Saturday morning market to four markets each week supported by regional producers that grow everything from asparagus to zucchini – from “A” to “Z” in the fruit and vegetable alphabet. Read more »

USDA Partners with Community, Farmers Market in Eastern Kentucky: To Feed Kids and Help Farmers

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

Staff of the Letcher County Farmers Market and Kentucky Department of Education proudly highlight the kitchen that serves meals to children in Whitesburg as part of the USDA Summer Food Service Program.

This week marks the 15th annual National Farmers Market Week and USDA is celebrating the achievements of the more than 8,700 markets across the county. In rural eastern Kentucky, over the summer, a remarkable thing happened in the small community of Whitesburg. Local, state and federal officials all worked together to create the first-ever USDA “Summer Feeding Site” for children to be held at a local farmers market in Kentucky.

The Summer Feeding Site project that was launched in Whitesburg is part of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program that provides free meals to children from low-income households. Over the summer break, many of these kids and teens are in danger of not eating properly or going hungry because they don’t have access to school meals. Read more »

Resuscitated Biorefinery Breathes New Life into Rural Ohio Community

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)

USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)

Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.

“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Making the Business Case for Rural America

These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.

Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schoolsthat improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments. Read more »

Homeowners Struggle in Midst of California Drought

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.

Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry.  On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed.  In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well.  The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.

“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?” Read more »

In Colorado, Partnerships Bloom in Support of Regional Food Systems

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.

This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.

Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need.  One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF).  SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.

Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically.  The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference. Read more »