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School Gardens on Wheels

USDA partnered with The Washington Capitals to bring a People’s Garden to Powell Elementary School in Washington, DC almost 2 years ago. The process began with a garden design session so parents, teachers and students from every grade could put their ideas on paper. Hundreds of ideas were collected – from dinosaurs to avocado trees – for USDA landscape architects to sort through. The People’s Garden team and the Caps returned about a month later to reveal a concept plan that included a habitat garden and food garden. With the help of hundreds of volunteers from USDA’s People’s Garden, The Washington Capitals and the local community, both of these gardens have been brought to life.

The Habitat Garden was built first in the only area of the playground not covered in asphalt. The ground was very compact making the project a challenge for anyone trying to do this, but more so, on a very hot summer day. We got it done and the students now have an outdoor classroom to stomp through and explore. (This video shows a time-lapse of the amazing transformation.) Read more »

Creative Financing Roundtable Hosted by Vermont USDA Staff

Last week, Molly Lambert, State Director of the Vermont Rural Development State Office, (RD) joined me in hosting the state’s first “Intermediary Relending Program and Creative Financing Roundtable.”  Meeting participants, including leaders from Vermont’s economic and community development centers, met at the Vermont Economic Development Authority office located in Montpelier, Vermont.

The purpose of the meeting was to explore ways to promote the distribution of more than $5 million in funds to Vermont’s rural small business entrepreneurs using the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Intermediary Relending Program (IRP).  These enthusiastic participants, who have keen insight into the state’s industries and barriers to capital, learned that working collaboratively will benefit all Vermont communities.

During the opening part of the meeting, staff from the Vermont USDA State Office gave the state’s Intermediary Relending providers updates on the administration of IRP loans.  The session then moved to a discussion of trends, observations, and economic opportunities for the small businesses in their respective areas. Read more »

North Carolina Faith Communities Eat Smart and Move More

Promoting fun physical activity, First Baptist Church in Sanford hosts an exercise class open to the entire community.

Promoting fun physical activity, First Baptist Church in Sanford hosts an exercise class open to the entire community.

 

Let’s Move Faith and Communities challenges congregations and communities to make health a priority through wellness leadership implemented in three steps: lead, organize, and take action. Fifty North Carolina faith communities are doing just that through their partnership with Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More. Read more »

President’s Council of Advisors Releases First Study on the Value of Agricultural Research, Declares U.S. ‘Undisputed World Leader’

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) today presented a report on the importance of USDA’s leadership in agricultural research. The Council is a diverse group of individuals appointed by the President from across the basic and applied scientific community to advise the President and the Executive Office of the President on key scientific issues.

Report to the President on Agricultural Preparedness & the Agriculture Research Enterprise, by the Council, concludes that the United States is the undisputed world leader in agricultural production today, but also cautions that U.S. agriculture also faces a number of challenges that are poised to become much more serious in the years ahead.

There is no question that the report recognizes American agriculture and USDA’s leadership in agricultural science and research as critical to the efforts to ensure greater food security and a better future for everyone. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Ensuring a Safe Food Supply for Americans

Often during the holiday season, we take time to reconnect with family and friends over a meal. We’re able to do so because hardworking folks in rural America deliver the most abundant and affordable food supply on earth.

It’s also the safest food supply – an achievement made possible by a wide range of skilled, dedicated people.

It all starts with our growers and processors, who are always asking how they can produce a safer product. They have the support of USDA staff at more than 6,000 plants around the country and at U.S. ports of entry. These experts inspect a wide range of food products before they’re sent to the grocery store. Read more »

South Dakota Local Foods Conference Supports South Dakota Producers and Resource Providers

South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks presents funds to South Dakota State University Extension for an online Local Foods Center while attending the 2012 South Dakota Local Foods Conference.  Pictured left to right, Dr. Rhoda Burrows and Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension; and State Director Meeks.

South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks presents funds to South Dakota State University Extension for an online Local Foods Center while attending the 2012 South Dakota Local Foods Conference. Pictured left to right, Dr. Rhoda Burrows and Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension; and State Director Meeks.

The second annual South Dakota Local Foods Conference was held recently to continue the dialogue on local foods among producers, consumers, farmer’s markets, retailers, schools and others.  The conference provided attendees from across the state two days of breakout sessions, networking, and instruction.

USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie Meeks attended the conference, taking the opportunity to award South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension a Rural Business Opportunity Grant of $50,000.  The Rural Development funds will be used to build capacity in South Dakota’s local food system through the establishment of an online Local Foods Center which will create structured connections between local growers and resource providers. Read more »