Become a fan on Facebook Follow us on Twitter USDA Blog Feed Watch USDA videos on YouTube Subscribe to receive e-mail updates View USDA Photos on Flickr Subscribe to RSS Feeds

Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom Residents Receive USDA Support to Increase Economic Development Opportunities, Spur Job Creation

Written by Anita Rios Moore, Vermont USDA Public Information Coordinator

USDA Rural Development State Director, Molly Lambert, joined by representatives from the Vermont Congressional delegation presented seven Northeast Kingdom organizations with Certificates of Partnership recently during a grant awards ceremony at the St. Johnsbury USDA office. The recipients received Rural Business Enterprise Grants (RBEG) to spur Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom businesses.

“Our mission is to increase economic opportunity and improve the quality of life for all rural Americans. These grants will help rural businesses with funding and technical assistance they need to expand and create jobs,” Lambert said. “We are pleased to partner with these organizations in order to spur economic development throughout the Northeast Kingdom.”

Three organizations, the Country Riders Snowmobile Club, Inc., Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association and the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Inc. received grants to promote regional tourism throughout Caledonia, Essex and Orleans counties.  Two other organizations, The Center for an Agricultural Economy and the University Of Vermont & State Agriculture College, will use their grants to provide technical assistance to dairy farmers and agricultural businesses in the area. Both organizations will provide business counseling, plan or product development to their specified clientele.

“Following the announcement, the grantees had time to network,” said Steven Campbell, Director for the St. Johnsbury USDA Rural Development Area Office. “They’ve continued conversations beyond the day’s event that clearly indicate they understand the connections they share.”

Newport City Renaissance Corporation will develop a Newport brand recognition and a marketing strategy. Northern Community Investment Corporation will complete a Growth Readiness Fund to assist selected innovative high-impact business partners with specialized services that point toward preparing and advancing their businesses for job creation.

These seven grants add to 20 previously awarded to Northeast Kingdom, Vermont recipients. Grantees have provided business assistance, including internet marketing, business account training, the creation of a centralized reservation system for Northeast Kingdom tourism businesses, energy efficiencies, revolving loan funds and technical assistance in several forms.

The Northeast Kingdom is a designated Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone.  The counties of Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans have special access to important USDA Rural Development programs.

\

Northeast Kingdom grant recipients signed grant agreement documents for their Rural Business Enterprise Grant awards to spur economic development throughout Caledonia, Essex, and Orleans counties. From left to right: Patricia Sears – Newport Renaissance Corporation; Kate Williams – Northern Forest Canoe Trails; Ron Merrill Country Riders Snowmobile Club; Jon Freeman – Northern Community Investment Corporation; Gloria Bruce, Northeast Kingdom Travel & Tourism Association, and Monty Fisher, The Center for An Agricultural Economy. Steven Campbell from USDA Rural Development discusses document, while Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director (in back) looks on.

Penobscot Nation Family Benefits from a Gold Certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Home

 

Submitted by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel with assistance from Beverly StoneUSDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel congratulated Jason and Jessica Sockbeson on their new home during an open house in Indian Island, Maine to celebrate National Homeownership Month.  Funding was provided by Rural Development through the Direct Home Loan program; The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Penobscot Nation provided subsidies to reduce the cost of the home.

The home is a LEED Gold Certified energy efficient home promoting energy conservation and affordability.  This is the first home financed on the Penobscot Nation reservation through Rural Development’s One Stop Mortgage documents.  “This represents a landmark event for Rural Development and the Penobscot Nation because funding is now available for those within this community to construct new homes,” Manuel said.  “This program provides affordable housing opportunities for families and allows them to remain in their community and close to their family and culture.”

LEED certification is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability.  This certification is the best way to demonstrate that your building is truly “green.”  The rating system has various levels for new construction.  Platinum is the highest and Gold is the next to highest certification offered through this process.

Rural Development, the Penobscot Nation, other partners, and the homeowners are especially pleased to have been able to achieve this level of construction for better energy savings and to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Sockbesons are thrilled to have a home of this caliber for less than they were previously paying in rent.  Manuel said, “We are delighted that Chief Kirk Francis of the Penobscot Nation, representatives from the entire Maine Congressional Delegation staffs and the local lender were present to help us celebrate this event with the Sockbeson family.” 

From left to right:  Jaxson, 2; Jaedan, 6; Jason and his wife, Jessica holding Jillian, 3 months.
From left to right:  Jaxson, 2; Jaedan, 6; Jason and his wife, Jessica holding Jillian, 3 months

Conservation Science Training Center in Ohio Constructed with Support from USDA

By Michael Jones, Rural Development Public Affairs Director

On June 8, 2010, Ohio State Rural Development Director Tony Logan joined other funding partners and representatives from The Wilds for a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the official opening of the Conservation Science Training Center (CSTC). Rural Development awarded $30,000 from its Community Facilities Grant Program to help fund the facility’s construction. The CSTC is a 3,600 square foot facility built to further the Wilds’ conservation and educational mission.

The CSTC will provide meeting, classroom, laboratory space and cabins to be used for extended stays by national and international visiting research teams. Constructed directly into a natural hillside, the facility incorporates geothermal heating and cooling, natural lighting, and other green-identified technologies. Nestled on nearly 10,000 acres dedicated to conservation research and education, the Wilds’ current research activities include: prairie biomass and carbon sequestration initiatives, grassland bird research and biodiversity surveys, prairie restoration and more.

Bringing the CSTC on line will expand the ability of The Wilds to provide additional support and opportunities for professors, teachers, students and visitors to investigate the ecological systems and wildlife health in Ohio’s Appalachian region. Funding partners included: the USDA Rural Development, American Electric Power Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Hocking College.

Rural Development State Director Tony Logan (second from left), participates

From left to right: Dr. Roy Palmer, Senior Vice President, Hocking College; Tony Logan, State Director, USDA Rural Development; Dr. Evan Blumer, Executive Director, The Wilds; Robert Powers, President, AEP Utilities; Fred Deel, Director, Governor’s Office of Appalachia.


Pests and Their Natural Enemies: Learn to Protect Your Garden!

Written by Kayla Harless, People’s Garden Intern

The People’s Garden workshops have yet to be anything less than an informative and fun time! Today, Don Weber, a research entomologist with USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Invasive Insect Biocontrol and Behavior Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, taught us about pests and their natural enemies.

Our instructor pointed out that most bugs are not harmful. In fact, even some viruses and fungi can be beneficial. Whether or not something is a pest is simply a matter of whether you want that item where it is.

Gardens in urban environments are subject to a lot of chance pest problems. A random outbreak or colonization of a pest can happen, and sometimes, because it happened in an urban location, there are no resources there to have this pest’s natural enemy. However, spotting these problems early on can significantly help. Build a healthy garden environment, by having flowering plants around your vegetables, rotate your crops, and use cover crops. It also was recommended to keep a close observation of your garden. You can even go out at night with a red light to observe bugs at work, the red light is out of a bug’s vision range and you will see lots of surprising action! This allows you to get to know bug life cycles, and spot early on any unwanted bugs. Hand picking out the first ones to arrive will discourage others from coming to your garden.

The instructor brought several examples of natural enemies that eat aphids, Colorado potato beetles, and other pesky garden annoyances. The common pink lady beetle eats many aphids, and spined soldier bugs are general predators as well. Stinkbugs are also good predators.

Most everyone has heard of Chia pets, but not all of us know that Chia is actually a great cover crop and attracts many pollinators. It makes a great weed suppressant, and is even high in omega-3 fatty acids. Don Weber, our instructor, is doing research on Chia, how it grows, and what it does. If you are interested in learning about or participating in growing your own Chia, follow this link.

Be sure to come out next week and join us for “Why Not Keep Honeybees?” taught by Dr. Jeff Pettis, right here in the People’s Garden!

Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles, while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids
Don Weber passed around some common pink lady beetles
while explaining to us their role in eating pesky aphids.

Recovery Act at Work in the New York City Watershed

Ivy Allen, New York NRCSThe Watershed Agriculture Council (WAC) hosted a tour of three farms in the New York City watershed that received American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) funding. Putting conservation on the ground in this watershed will result in more than 1 billion gallons of clean drinking water for 9 million New York residents every day. Projects featured on the tour included waste storage facilities, compost structures and stream fencing. Along with whole farm plans, these practices will result in reduced waterborne pathogens, nutrients, and sediments.

Through ARRA and an agreement with WAC, the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is providing technical and financial assistance to 327 landowners in the New York City watershed who are voluntarily implementing conservation practices and improving water quality. NRCS helps landowners voluntarily participate in conservation programs that protect water and many other natural resources.

USDA-NRCS administered $1 million dollars through ARRA funding to improve water quality within the New York City watershed. The watershed extends 125 miles, contains 19 reservoirs, and 3 lakes. This surface water supply system is one of the largest in the world and the conservation practices being implemented support clean water and a healthy environment.

Stream fencing protects against animal waste and streambank plantings create a “buffer strip” that filters pollutants from the water.
Stream fencing protects against animal waste and streambank plantings
create a “buffer strip” that filters pollutants from the water.

Small Farm Composter.
Small Farm Composter.

USDA Marks Homeownership Month in Minnesota

Written by Adam Czech, Public Information CoordinatorThere’s a unique story behind each home loan and home repair project financed by USDA Rural Development in Minnesota. On June 9, State Director Colleen Landkamer and her staff visited three homeowners to celebrate June Homeownership Month and learn more about their stories.

“I think it is amazing how many people we are able to help become home owners and remain in their homes each year through our programs,” Landkamer said. “Visiting with the people that use our programs really highlights the importance of home ownership in strengthening our rural communities.”

Landkamer and staff were joined at each home by staff from Congressman Collin Peterson’s office. Each home owner received an American flag that flew above the U.S. Capital as a gift from Congressman Peterson.

Below is a brief recap of what makes each person’s story unique.

Melissa Miller
After almost 10 years of renting, Melissa Miller is finally a home owner. Melissa, along with her two children moved into her first home in Brandon, Minn., in late April using a USDA Rural Development direct home loan.

“I never dreamed I would own a home,” Miller said. “It’s still kind of surreal, but we did it.”

Melissa put herself through school and works two jobs to support her family. Rural Development partnered with the West Central Minnesota Community Action agency to build Miller’s home.  “Right now I am loving life,” Melissa said. “Being a home owner means a lot to me and I couldn’t be happier.”

Jessica Botten
Jessica Botten’s daughter McKenna, 5, had just one request after moving into her new home: She wanted a pink room.

Jessica closed on her home in Alexandria, Minn., on Dec. 10. A phlebotomist at a nearby clinic, Jessica previously rented an apartment next to a motor racing track, not exactly the most peaceful location to live.

“The home is ideal for McKenna and I,” she said. “She can play in our yard, there’s more room for her toys. I really feel like I’m home now.”

And, yes, she was able to paint McKenna’s room pink.

Dorcella Hagen
Dorcella Hagen keeps a guest book in her home in Cyrus, Minn., so she will always remember who came to visit her. One night after a dinner party, one of her guests noticed a moisture spot on her ceiling. It turned out that Dorcella’s roof needed to be replaced.

On a fixed income after a car accident left her disabled, Dorcella used Rural Development’s home repair program to fix her roof, remove the moisture from her ceiling and stay in the home she’s owned since 1994.

“When I told people that some folks from the USDA were going to come visit me today, they wondered why I was having meat inspectors to my house,” Dorcella said. “I told them the USDA works with housing, too. And I couldn’t be more grateful for the program.”

For more information about USDA’s home loan programs click here.

New homeowner Melissa Miller (Left) and Colleen Landkamer, State Director, USDA Rural Development, celebrate Miller’s accomplishment.
New homeowner Melissa Miller (Left) and Colleen Landkamer, State Director, USDA Rural Development, celebrate Miller’s accomplishment.