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Making New Connections During National Farmers Market Week

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce during a July trip to visit the Baltimore farmers market in Maryland.  The mid-Atlantic region saw double-digit growth in its listings in the National Farmers Market Directory.  Maryland added 76 new market listings alone. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan (center, white jacket) buys produce during a July trip to visit the Baltimore farmers market in Maryland. The mid-Atlantic region saw double-digit growth in its listings in the National Farmers Market Directory. Maryland added 76 new market listings alone. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

We’ve known for some time that local food is a vibrant and growing sector in agriculture. Consumers are seeking out food produced in their region, and this local food – whether it’s purchased at a farmers market, in a grocery store, at a restaurant or elsewhere – is now a multi-billion dollar industry. This week, we received further evidence of the strength of consumer demand for local foods. The National Farmers Market Directory, compiled by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), has just been updated and shows a nearly 10 percent increase in listings over last year. Read more »

Alaska’s Mat-Su Valley Celebrates the Grand Opening of a new Native Primary Care Center

For most Americans, advanced health care facilities that can treat almost any kind of ailment are just a short drive away.  But picture you or a loved one in your rural community enduring a life-threatening illness or injury, and having to travel extended distances for medical attention.  Compounding the issue – treacherous travel conditions during the winter months when remote roads are hazardous and sometimes closed due to weather.

Now completed a new Native health center in Wasilla means Alaska Natives living along the Parks and Glenn Highways will no longer have to make long 100 mile, round-trip drives to Anchorage to receive routine medical care.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, through USDA Rural Development, provided $40 million in Direct Community Facilities Loan funding and $10 million in a Guaranteed Loan through Wells Fargo Bank.  Besides providing construction jobs, the facility will employ 200 staff including healthcare professionals.  Available services provided include primary medical care, dental, behavioral health, optometry, health education, wellness and traditional medicine. Read more »

Our Response to the 2012 Drought; SBA Recovery Assistance Available in Rural America

Cross posted from the Small Business Administration Blog:

Today, I attended a meeting of the White House Rural Council, which focused on our coordinated response to historic drought conditions that are affecting communities across Rural America.

Our goal at the SBA and across the Administration is making sure that these hard hit communities have the tools and the resources they need to navigate and recover from these severe drought conditions.

To date, the SBA has issued 71 agency drought declarations in 32 states covering more than 1,630 counties. These declarations allow small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and non-farm small businesses that are economically affected by the drought in their community to apply for SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Read more »

Education Builds Bioenergy Systems

Agricultural Research Service chemist Tsung Min Kuo and technician Karen Ray convert vegetable oil into antifungal agents and other value-added bioproducts.

Agricultural Research Service chemist Tsung Min Kuo and technician Karen Ray convert vegetable oil into antifungal agents and other value-added bioproducts.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research profile.

Emerging bioenergy systems hold the promise of helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, increase economic prosperity, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The National Renewable Fuel Standard mandates the production of 36 billion gallons of biofuels be produced annually by 2022; of which 16 billion gallons must come from fuels that are not corn-based ethanol. These fuels, produced from the conversion of grasses, wood, and oilseeds and other biomass, must be produced in a sustainably and economically efficient manner. To meet this goal, USDA has developed a Bioenergy strategy, focused on research, development, education, and extension. As part of USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist series of white papers on the Department’s research portfolio, this plan aligns USDA’s biofuels research with the goals of President Obama’s Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future. Read more »

Agriculture’s Role in Ecosystem Services

Harvesting sugarcane in south Florida, ARS scientists at the Sugarcane Production Research Unit are identifying research to help sustain both agriculture and natural Everglades ecosystems.

Harvesting sugarcane in south Florida, ARS scientists at the Sugarcane Production Research Unit are identifying research to help sustain both agriculture and natural Everglades ecosystems.

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

Most of us accept that some services—such as waste water treatment and emergency response, for example—have an economic value. As citizens, we decide to support these services for our safety, security and comfort. And yet there are many other functions going on every day, all around the world, that are not directly supported but still enable our planet to maintain favorable living conditions for all living creatures—functions like bees pollinating our crops, forests absorbing excess carbon dioxide, or dung beetles breaking down animal wastes. Read more »

A Staple of the Farmers Market Since 1918

Elmer Moje sells German Stiffneck garlic at his stand in the Tonawanda, New York farmers market.  For decades, Moje has been bringing his crops to the same market.  Photo by Sharif Hamdy

Elmer Moje sells German Stiffneck garlic at his stand in the Tonawanda, New York farmers market. For decades, Moje has been bringing his crops to the same market. Photo by Sharif Hamdy

It was 1918 when Elmer Moje first took crops to market with his father on a horse and wagon in North Tonawanda, New York.  Moje, who turns 99 later this month, still takes his crops to the market once or twice a week.

“I don’t have the wagon or the horse anymore,” he says with a laugh. “Back then it was all done by hand. My father never owned a tractor, he only had horses. Now everything is done by tractor.” Read more »