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Fields Green, Utility Costs Drop at an Arizona Ranch Thanks to Support from USDA

Photovoltaic array at Harvey Allen’s Well Service in Elfrida, Arizona.

Photovoltaic array at Harvey Allen’s Well Service in Elfrida, Arizona.

Harvey Allen isn’t the kind of man who wastes time. His ranch and well service in the tiny community of Elfrida, Arizona, means early mornings, long days and little leisure. But it’s not unusual lately to find him spending time staring at the meter of his ranch’s new photovoltaic (PV) electric system. He just can’t seem to get enough of watching that gauge! Read more »

A USDA Community Facilities Direct Loan Helps Build a New YMCA Building in New Hampshire

The Keene, New Hampshire YMCA has been operating for 125 years in this town of 22,563 residents. A few years ago, Jack Duggan of Monadnock Economic Development Corporation mentioned to me that the Y was looking toward its future and a new facility. And so the links in the chain started to build toward bringing a new Y to Keene and surrounding rural communities.

Scott Johnson, our Community Facilities and Business Programs Specialist and I met with key people from the Y, as well as Keene’s Mayor and City Manager. The Y’s board membership is made up of local leaders and business owners including the area’s largest employers. The board launched an awareness campaign, and organized a 45-member volunteer committee that eventually raised the largest not for profit fundraising campaign in the region’s history. Read more »

USDA Helps Americans Every Day, Every Way—and at Christmastime, Too.

Milwaukee Hunger Task Force is Wisconsin’s largest food bank and a valued USDA partner.

Milwaukee Hunger Task Force is Wisconsin’s largest food bank and a valued USDA partner.

Secretary Vilsack likes to say that because of the scope of its programs, USDA serves Americans every day, every way.

A recent experience from a Midwest feeding partner, Milwaukee Hunger Task Force, demonstrates the immense—and also incredibly personal—reach of USDA programs, the importance of our partners, and the positive effect our programs have on so many Americans, including the elderly. Read more »

Announcing This Year’s Distinguished Plenary Panel

USDA’s annual Agricultural Outlook Forum, Today’s Strategies & Tomorrow’s Opportunities, will be held February 24-25, 2011, at the Crystal Gateway Marriott Hotel in Arlington, Virginia.

Secretary Tom Vilsack will deliver the Keynote Address.  The Distinguished Plenary Panel will be moderated by Christine Cochran, President of the Commodity Markets Council, and focus on the economy, managing risk, and broadband in rural communities.  The four panelists and their topics include:  Nariman Behravesh, the Chief Economist, IHS Global Insight, speaking on “The Global Economy;” Charles Whitman, the Founder and CEO of Infinium Capital Management, speaking on “Managing Risk and Electronic Trading;” Pete Nessler, President of FCStone LLC, speaking on “Managing Risk in a Complex World;” and Michael Copps, Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, speaking on “Broadband in Rural Communities.”

For more insight on the breadth and depth of their experience, please visit their biographies and register for the Forum.

Harvest Time Leads to Delicious Meal at Dallas Elementary School

Chef John Tesar demonstrates how to make a salad with greens grown at Stonewall Garden.

Chef John Tesar demonstrates how to make a salad with greens grown at Stonewall Garden.

On a cool mid November morning in Dallas, first graders at Stonewall Jackson Elementary rushed through their 20,000 square foot garden to harvest the vegetables they’ve been monitoring with anticipation.  On this day, they were getting a chance to taste their bounty, along with prominent local Chef John Tesar and USDA Food and Nutrition Service staff. Read more »

Regional Collaboration Uses Local Food Systems to Expand Rural-Urban Partnership

A regional initiative in Southwest Iowa originally intended to train farmers on local-food production has evolved into a rural-urban partnership that touches a poverty-stricken community.  I joined USDA Rural Development Acting Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien in Oakland, Iowa, recently to meet with officials from the Golden Hills Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) council.

Golden Hills was one of seven “Great Regions” designed by Rural Development earlier this year for its plan to, among other things, provide business and management skills training for up to 15 farm-based businesses. Read more »