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What’s Growing On, in This Rural Community?

A teacher working with students on the Sweet Potatoes taste test

Through What's Growing On? taste tests students get to vote on the local produce option.

Rural communities are looking for innovative ways to sustain quality of life and build viable food systems that support the health and economic needs of their people.  Working Landscapes is a Warrenton, N.C. nonprofit that creates sustainable food hubs by bridging the gap between local farmers and area consumers.  As a 2015 USDA Farm to School grantee, Working Landscapes uses its food hub resources to link local farmers and northeastern North Carolina school districts, demonstrating that working together can make a difference in the quality of life for rural communities.

By Tim Williams, Program Manager, Working Landscapes

The lights are on and the machines whirring on a recent June morning in downtown Warrenton, N.C. From the outside, the former cotton gin warehouse doesn’t look like much, but what you find behind the historic facade is an innovative farm to school venture that is bringing locally grown, fresh-cut vegetables to students across the northeastern part of the state. Read more »

Land-Grant Universities Make NFL Natural Turf Grass Better and Safer

A football on a field

Horticultural research at land-grant universities is coming up with better types of grass that stands up to the stresses of NFL football. (iStock image)

Grass is a big deal in football – a really big deal.  Nearly every day of the week, untold millions of people watch players step out onto lush, green fields painted with white.

All aspects of the game are tough. Even growing and maintaining a real turf grass field has its challenges, like freezing temperatures, rain, and damage from tackles and foot traffic.  So what type of grass can hold up to all that? Horticultural specialists and plant breeders throughout the land-grant university cooperative extension system, as well as USDA researchers from Agricultural Research Service, are working to answer that question.  USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture supports their research with Hatch Act funding. Read more »

Celebrating National Co-op Month: Ohio Farmers Join Forces to Grow their Market Reach

Tomatoes inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham

These tomatoes, inspected by Great River Organics board member Michael Jones and General Manager Charlotte Graham, will be distributed through the co-op’s weekly community-supported agriculture deliveries.

October is National Cooperative Month, and all this month we will be shining a spotlight on several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. One fine example is Great River Organics in Ohio. Kimberly Rous and Hannah Scott work for our partner, the Ohio Cooperative Development Center in Piketon, Ohio and provided us some insight on a successful cooperative venture that is producing organic produce throughout central and north-central Ohio.

Great River Organics formed as a farmer-owned cooperative in December of 2014. Comprised of seven certified-organic farmers in central Ohio, the cooperative aggregates, markets, and distributes the organic produce grown by the farmer-owners through programs like the Great River Market Bag, a community-supported agriculture program that includes about 300 subscribers across central Ohio. They’re also actively involved in the Ohio and West Virginia Food Hub Network, which promotes the development of food hubs in the region. Read more »

Harnessing the Power of Global Open Data

At the 70th United Nations (U.N.) General Assembly Meeting, the U.N. Member States agreed to a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (Global Goals) to eradicate poverty and hunger, protect the planet, and create sustainable economic growth globally. High-quality statistics and data are critical to achieving these goals by enabling us to better target our actions, develop innovative solutions to these global challenges, and ensure prosperity for all. 

Recognizing the importance of this data, the Global Partnership on Sustainable Development Data (Global Data Partnership) was launched on September 28.  This partnership envisions a world in which the power of timely, accurate, and high quality data leads to sustainable development — leaving no one behind.  It envisions a world in which data is produced, organized, shared, and used in an environment of trust, inclusion, creativity, efficacy, and efficiency, a world where “the right data is available to the right people at the right time to make the right decisions for the right outcomes.” Read more »

Planting the Seeds for Tomorrow’s STEAM Leaders

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helping a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building.

Agriculture Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden (center), helps a Jefferson Middle School student finish up the planting of “Outredgeous Red Romaine Lettuce” in a garden box, in The People's Garden at USDA's Whitten Building. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Did you know that NASA has a mini veggie farm at the International Space Station that grows lettuce? Every day, ground-breaking scientific research is taking place to improve food production practices in order to feed people on Earth and in space.

Earlier this week in USDA’s People’s Garden, local 4-H and FFA students gathered to plant sister seeds to lettuce grown on the International Space Station, which will be harvested in about a month. By getting their hands dirty, students were able to ask questions about what it takes to grow food under a variety of conditions. This is particularly important as our nation’s farmers and ranchers look to feed a growing world population. Read more »

Economic Development in Montana: Founded on Partnerships

Sen. Jon Tester (MT), Steve Stiles, Mayor of Big Sandy, Mont., and Lisa Mensah, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development touring the new wastewater facility for Big Sandy

Sen. Jon Tester (MT), Steve Stiles, Mayor of Big Sandy, Mont., and Lisa Mensah, USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development tour the new wastewater facility for Big Sandy that was funded by USDA Rural Development.

One of the foundations of our work here in Rural Development is the close partnership we’ve developed with private sector entities like community and economic development organizations. A recent trip to Montana underscored that point as I visited several communities across the north central portion of the state.

Big Sandy, Montana is a salt-of-the-earth ag community, and also happens to be the home town of U.S. Senator Jon Tester. Senator Tester and I visited a newly completed wastewater project, as well as Big Sandy Activities – a center that helps developmentally disabled people build skills to allow them to live and work in the community. Both received funding support from USDA Rural Development, and have an enormous impact in this tiny rural town. Read more »