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Homeownership Becomes a Reality For a North Carolina Family Thanks to USDA

By Randall Gore, North Carolina USDA Rural Development State Director

North Carolina’s Howard Lewis Family is excited to have their very own home!  Not only did their dream of homeownership come true but the home construction provided jobs for many workers in the area.   Kelley Woodley, Area Specialist for USDA Rural Development in Asheboro began the application process with the Lewis Family in January and six months later they were moving into their brand new home.  To view a news report about the family and the program click here:

The USDA Rural Development Direct Home Ownership Loan program assists with the purchase, construction, repair or rehabilitation of single family homes in rural areas.  For more information about how to apply click here.

USDA Rural Energy for America Program Funds Cut Energy Costs at a Maine Hotel

Written by C. Jeffrey Bergeron, Acting USDA Public Information OfficerUSDA Rural Development Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Maine Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel visited a Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) project in Ogunquit, Maine while attending the 2010 National Association of Credit Specialists Annual Convention earlier this week.

The project was at the Meadowmere Hotel in Ogunquit, which with the aid of a USDA Rural Development REAP Grant of $49,625 was able to install a state-of-the-art commercial solar thermal hot water system to preheat a significant portion of the domestic hot water for the building.

The approximate 30 percent savings the Meadowmere Hotel will recoup in energy costs will allow the hotel to continue to sustain its business and 53 jobs.  “This project is a perfect example of how Rural Development is working to help keep the Maine economy on track” said Manuel, as she and Under Secretary Tonsager visited the hotel and viewed the solar thermal system.  Manuel said, “The solar thermal hot water system is a great source of clean renewable energy, and USDA Rural Development is dedicated to supporting the rural Maine economy by funding green projects like this one.”

Standing in front of the solar panels on the hotels roof are (Left to Right)  Allyson Cavaretta, Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, Owner Phillip Cavaretta, and Maine State Director Virginia Manuel. The energy saving panels were funding in part with funds from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program. Standing in front of the solar panels on the hotels roof are (Left to Right)  Allyson Cavaretta, Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager, Owner Phillip Cavaretta, and Maine State Director Virginia Manuel. The energy saving panels were funded in part with funds from USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program.

USDA Under Secretary, Housing Administrator and Staff Pitch In to Help Delaware Families Build Their Own Homes

Abraham Lincoln was known for being self-reliant, so it is fitting that, with support from USDA, prospective homeowners in Lincoln, Delaware are building their own homes.  USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager, Housing Administrator Tammye Trevino, RD Delaware State Director Jack Tarburton and staff from USDA’s national and local offices joined together yesterday to swing hammers, pound nails and assist in the effort. It’s all part of National Homeownership Month. Read more »

USDA Housing Administrator Trevino Observes National Homeownership Month In Holton, Kansas

Rural Housing Administrator Tammye Trevino kicked off Homeownership Month celebrations in Kansas during a recent Midwest homeownership tour. Her visit to our state was highlighted by a stop at the Danny and Season Brown home in Holton, followed by an award presentation to Tom Bishop, Executive Director of Homestead Affordable Housing. Read more »

Senior Advisor Inspects Agricultural Progress in Helmand’s Marjah District

By Edward Messmer (State Department) and Matt Herrick (USDA)

As a foreign service officer with USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service, Quintin Gray has assessed challenging situations in some harsh places. But nothing like in Afghanistan.

“The soil is like a fine dust,” said Gray,  who recently returned from a visit to Afghanistan’s Marjah district in Helmand province. “But they have water. It’s just a matter of delivering it effectively.”

Gray is on loan from USDA to the State Department as a Senior Agricultural Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke. He went to Marjah last week to inspect the progress being made in irrigation, alternative crops, and market development, as well as to gather information in advance of this fall’s important planting season. Gray met with the District Governor, who escorted him through an open-air market. Walking side by side in the new marketplace, Gray and the governor discussed market conditions with local farmers and produce merchants.  In January, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made a similar trip to Marjah to assess the efforts of Americans and Afghans to revitalize Afghanistan’s agricultural sector.

Since Secretary Vilsack’s visit, Gray learned how civilian-military coalition units in the region are planning to bring the badly deteriorated canal system – which is critical to the economic life of the district – back to its former efficiency.  One of the USDA agricultural experts working in Helmand, Wes Harris, explained that the civ-mil units plan to replace more than 400 sluice gates and flow control points that regulate the flow of Helmand River water through the extensive irrigation system, which will ensure that downstream communities have sufficient water for their cultivated areas.  The visit and various meetings with U.S. and Afghan officials on the ground provided Gray with a better understanding of the challenges facing the agricultural community as well as the potential that exists to build a prosperous economic base.

Since 2003, more than 100 USDA employees have deployed for service as agricultural experts in Afghanistan. Currently, 54 USDA employees like Wes Harris are fanned out across the country working as part of civilian-military units. These individuals come from backgrounds as soil and plant scientists, marketing specialists, veterinarians, water and rangeland specialists, foresters, and other specialties. As part of a unified U.S. government team which includes team members from the Department of Defense, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other agencies, USDA is delivering high-impact assistance and bolstering Afghanistan’s agricultural sector, the traditional core of the Afghan economy. The Afghan-led agricultural assistance strategy focuses on increasing agriculture jobs and incomes by increasing agricultural productivity, regenerating agribusiness, and rehabilitating watersheds and improving irrigation infrastructure. It also aims to increase Afghans’ confidence in their government, particularly the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, by building their capacity to deliver services to farmers and herders.

District Governor Haji Zahir and Senior Agricultural Advisor Quintin Gray discuss issues as they walk through Loy Cherah bazaar.
District Governor Haji Zahir and Senior Agricultural Advisor Quintin Gray
discuss issues as they walk through Loy Cherah bazaar. 

Senior advisor Gray and State Department rep Ed Messmer listen to Marjah merchants describe market conditions.
Senior advisor Gray and State Department rep Ed Messmer listen to Marjah
merchants describe market conditions. 

Blog Week 1, (June 21-23) – Fire Adapted Communities

The term ‘restoration’ usually conjures up pictures of fine antiques, autos, or other rarities and collectibles, restored to original condition but not necessarily used in their original roles: you won’t find many restored autos in rush hour traffic. Read more »