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USDA Forest Service Employees Partner with Non-Profits in their Vallejo, CA Community (Blog readers can help us win a grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods!)

By Amanda Cundiff, Forest Service Region 5 Partnership Coordinator and Lara Polansky, Forest Service Presidential Management FellowIn Vallejo, California, on a decommissioned Naval Shipyard called Mare Island, something good has emerged from hard times: a new community coalition to build and sustain a city garden. Home to over 110,000 individuals, Vallejo is known for being diverse, depressed, crime-ridden, and bankrupt. Since the Naval Shipyard closed and the recession hit, Vallejo has struggled with poverty, stretched city services, and troubled schools. Crime and poverty are high, and, perhaps as a result, Vallejo is a quintessential food desert.

Our coalition envisions a People’s Garden for Vallejo. The Garden will provide fresh produce to low-income residents and teach sustainable gardening practices. Coalition members each bring something vital to the project: volunteers to build and maintain the garden, low-income clients to benefit from vegetables and fresh eggs, and students to learn about nutrition and food production through action.

The lead partners in the Vallejo People’s Garden are:

Global Center for Success (www.globalcenterforsuccess.org) is a 501(c)(3) on Mare Island that provides supportive human services and programs to the homeless and needy. GCS is excited to start a garden right in its backyard to serve as an outdoor classroom, a community hub, and a source of free organic produce for its clients.

The Regional Office of the USDA Forest Service, located on Mare Island, employs over 200 people. The Forest Service will contribute volunteers and (eventually) land for a second garden. The convenient location of the Vallejo People’s Garden will provide an opportunity for employees to meet and work alongside our neighbors and have a healthy place to volunteer during lunch breaks and after work.

Betty Frank Senior Lunch Program is a 501(c)(3) feeding program that serves lunch daily in a community center, about 10 minutes from Mare Island in Vallejo. The coalition plans to provide fresh produce to this senior center’s kitchen and to arrange visits for seniors to tour and even volunteer in the garden. The drawn plans for the garden include handicapped-accessible raised beds that will be easy for seniors to reach. Additionally, teachers at Mare Island Elementary School across the street from the future garden site are excited about bringing students over for lessons in food production and nutrition.

Landscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional OfficeLandscape Plan for garden site at the Global Center for Success site in Vallejo, CA, one mile from the USDA Forest Service Regional Office

To jump start these “shovel ready” projects, the Forest Service Region 5 Regional Office is competing for a grant from Nature’s Path Organics.  A Nature’s Path grant would provide funds to purchase the materials, tools, and lumber to build raised beds, compost bins, a chicken house, bee hive, fencing, educational signs, rain barrels, and storage shed.

To VOTE for the “Vallejo People’s Garden”:

1.      1. Go to  http://www.justmeans.com/contestidea?ideaid=NDUz  and click on “VOTE”

2.      2. Create an account by giving your name, personal email address (Forest Service email address won’t work), and making up a password

3.      3. Check your email and click on the link to activate your account.    You are now done voting for us! 

Bonus points:  You can add a message of support in the comment box.

Your votes and comments are the only way for us to demonstrate support for this project and convince Nature’s Path Organic to fund this project.    The deadline for votes is May 31.

The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.The site of a future People’s Garden behind the Global Center for Success in Vallejo, CA.   Volunteers cleared and mulched the site in fall 2009, but now the site is ready for a burst of new volunteer energy and a seed grant from Nature’s Path Organic Foods.   Across the street, students at Mare Island Elementary School are walking from their bus to the school’s entrance.   Students and teachers will be an important partner and beneficiary of the garden project.

SIAL China 2010 Trade Show Opens in Shanghai to Throngs of Visitors, Demonstrating to the World how Trade Works

By Janet Nuzum, Associate Administrator for USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service

Today I am in bustling and busy Shanghai representing USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service at the SIAL China 2010 trade show.  SIAL China is celebrating its 11th year as one of the largest, most comprehensive trade shows for the food, beverage, and hospitality industry in China. Last year, SIAL China had more than 1,000 exhibitors and over 28,000 visitors. As China’s trade and commercial center, this city is an appropriate place to hold a trade show of this magnitude, especially during World Trade Week.

In addition to the opening of SIAL China today, Shanghai is hosting the World Expo 2010 from May 1 through October 31. This Expo may be the largest World’s Fair ever, with 70 million visitors from all over the world expected to attend. With that many people anticipated in this city of 20 million over the next six months, you can only imagine how crowded the streets already are and will be. 

I had the opportunity to visit the World Expo yesterday, along with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, who is leading a clean energy business development and trade mission to China and Indonesia. I was truly amazed by the size and scope of this unforgettable Expo that is spread over two square miles along both sides of the Huangpu River that divides Shanghai.

In preparation for the World Expo, Shanghai has transformed itself in less than a decade from an industrial town to a cosmopolitan metropolis. Its growth is indicative of the rapid changes happening in this country of 1.3 billion people. Since China joined the World Trade Organization in December 2001, it has lowered tariffs and liberalized its economy, resulting in rapid growth in gross domestic product, direct foreign investment, imports and exports. 

This growth means Chinese consumers have more disposable income to spend on food and clothing, which creates real opportunities for U.S. exporters of food and fiber. That is why I am here at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show to see and learn about the changes happening in this dynamic market and what it means for U.S. agricultural exporters. As I walked through the U.S. Pavilion, I saw Chinese buyers from both the retail and food service sectors looking eagerly at the vast range of U.S. food and beverage products on display. U.S. exporters are here from all over the United States from Alaska to Alabama.  Their products include everything from seafood to pork and wild blueberries to walnuts.  What an exciting array of sights, smells, and tastes!

Last year, 42 U.S. Pavilion exhibitors made $2.5 million in on-site sales with another $17 million expected over the ensuing 12 months.  With 58 U.S. exhibitors this year—the largest we have ever had at this show—sales will undoubtedly be even higher.  The growing number of U.S. exhibitors is a testament to the broader awareness in the United States of the tremendous market potential here in China.

Earlier today, I participated in a press conference with Chinese and foreign dignitaries to open the show, which runs from May 19-21. At the press conference, I emphasized how much we value our trade and economic relationship with China. Currently, China is the United States’ second largest market for U.S. agricultural exports. Last year, two-way trade in agricultural, fish, and forest products exceeded $21 billion, more than quadrupling in value since 2001. Clearly, both of our countries benefit immensely from our vibrant bilateral relationship and exchange of goods and services. And the U.S. exhibitors here at SIAL China 2010 assured me that the prospects for increased U.S. exports look even brighter!

FAS Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum speaks with U.S. exporters at the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association booth in the USA Pavilion at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show in Shanghai, China. Photo Credit: Bill Shen, U.S. Agricultural Trade Office, Shanghai, China

FAS Associate Administrator Janet Nuzum speaks with U.S. exporters at the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association booth in the USA Pavilion at the SIAL China 2010 Trade Show in Shanghai, China. Photo Credit: Bill Shen, U.S. Agricultural Trade Office, Shanghai, China 

Vilsack Addresses Food Security During Global Affairs Symposium

Today marks the release of the Feed the Future Initiative Guide during the Chicago Council of Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security. This guide lays out the implementation strategy for the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative. USDA has been actively engaged in the development of the Feed the Future strategy from its inception and created an inter-departmental food security council that has contributed to the Feed the Future strategy and provided reviews of country investment plans.

In Washington, DC today, Secretary Vilsack gave a speech on the importance of global food security during the symposium. During the symposium, Secretary Vilsack joined leaders of various U.S. Government agencies and world development groups to discuss U.S. food security and agricultural development policy in conjunction with this initiative. Secretary Vilsack touched on how many of USDA’s strengths would contribute immensely to this initiative, specifically the Department’s capacity to conduct and promote research, as well as contribute in the area of institutional capacity building.

Vilsack emphasized that USDA’s global food security strategy focuses on a number of interventions needed to increase global food production and increase the incomes of the poor. His speech focused on two of these areas: 1) research and extension, and 2) building capacity through assistance, sound public policies and institutions. 

USDA have been working with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop a global agricultural research agenda that addresses some of the fundamental constraints that contribute to food insecurity, such as pests, disease and weather in major food crops and livestock products. The strategy will also focus on increasing agricultural productivity and improving soil and water use efficiency.

Ensuring food security goes beyond just producing food—it also involves providing access to food, through trade, private investment in the agri-food sector, improving food safety and nutrition, and developing and deploying new technologies. USDA also offers fellowships to train scientists and faculty exchange programs to train agricultural faculty and develop adult education programs.

Creating a vibrant global food system, where all people have enough to eat, where farmers, wherever they are located, are profitable and are sustainable, is an important goal for USDA. USDA sees our engagement in Feed the Future as central to achieving that goal, and we believe that our unique capacities in research, extension, and institutional capacity building can make an important contribution to this initiative. 

Learn more about the Feed the Future Initiative at FeedtheFuture.gov.

Deputy Secretary Visits Romulus, Michigan Auto Parts Facility to Highlight Recovery Act Jobs Impact

Today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited Aztec Manufacturing Corporation, a Romulus, Mich., auto supply manufacturer that intends to purchase new equipment as a result of loan funds guaranteed through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Read more »

USDA Officials Break Ground for a ‘People’s Garden’ in Dover, Delaware

Submitted by Kathy Beisner, Delaware USDA Rural Development Public Information Coordinator

Under bright, sunny Delaware skies, USDA Officials including Dave White, Chief of the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook,  and Michael Scuse, Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services joined in a groundbreaking ceremony for America’s latest ‘People’s Garden.’ 

The new garden, in Dover, is located near the USDA State Office and is modeled after similar gardens established around the nation, including one on the grounds of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Jamie L. Whitten Building in Washington, D.C.  

In addition to federal officials, representatives of the State, Cooperative Extension, the Ruth N. Dorsey Relief Shelter, Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, and North Dover Elementary School participated in the event this morning.  Among those assisting in planting the garden was teacher Susan Plucenik’s Second Grade Class from North Dover Elementary School.  The garden is the 300th planted across the Nation so far.  To learn more about the People’s Garden click here.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook assists Celebrity Harmon.  Dylan Caldwell gets assistance from USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton.

USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook assists Celebrity Harmon.  Dylan Caldwell gets assistance from USDA Rural Development State Director Jack Tarburton.

At the New Dover, Delaware People's Garden: (Left to Right)  Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl L. Cook; Chief Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

At the New Dover, Delaware People’s Garden: (Left to Right)  Deputy Under Secretary for Rural Development Cheryl L. Cook; Chief Dave White, Natural Resources Conservation Service; and Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse.

USDA Rural Development Participates in the Vermont Small Business Lending Conference

By Anita Rios Moore, USDA Rural Development, Vermont

Molly Lambert, USDA Rural Development State Director for Vermont and key Vermont Business and Cooperative Program staff participated recently in the Vermont Small Business Lending Conference presented by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy.

The conference purpose was to bring as many small business lending opportunities and business development resources such as, lender, Government procurement counselors and Small Business Development Centers, directly to small businesses interested in learning about the available business lending opportunities that will help them to invest in job creation and business growth.

USDA Rural Development staff along with representatives from 35 other traditional and non-traditional lenders, and resource organizations met face-to-face with small business owners. Business Programs Loan Specialist, Kevin Morehouse engaged with an assortment of business owners ranging from winery & vineyard, organic food and baked goods operations, to award & gift product line distributors. He and the business owners  discussed next steps which might include a recommendation to meet with a financial advisor to review business plan and organize the business’ loan proposal.

“This conference brings the lenders and the resources to the business,” said State Director Lambert.“After one year of Recovery Act efforts, we are seeing people back to work, and economic growth, yet many small businesses still need the type of assistance and resources offered to them at conferences and workshops like this.”