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Arizona – Stronger Economies Together Thanks to USDA Support

Last summer Arizona rural communities joined together to compete for a USDA Rural Development Technical Assistance grant to train communities of interest on regional economic development. The initiative, Stronger Economies Together or SET, was launched in 2009 by USDA Rural Development in collaboration with the nation’s Regional Rural Development Centers (RRDCs) and their land-grant university partners. The purpose of SET is to strengthen the capacity of communities/counties in rural America to work together in developing and implementing an economic development blueprint that strategically builds on the current and emerging economic strengths of their region.

In Arizona, two regions were selected by the national SET Team and one additional one was selected by the Arizona USDA Rural Development office to receive the training. Read more »

Beetle Eradication Staff Helps Community with Toy and Food Drives

The Asian Longhorned Beetle eradication staff in Worcester looks for pests up in the tree but also leaves presents under the tree.

The Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) eradication program in Worcester, Mass., began when a resident from the Greendale neighborhood found a strange-looking insect in her backyard. After that first ALB discovery, the program grew into the huge effort that it is today. Read more »

Let’s Move! Across Michigan

My colleague Julie Mikkelson and I are back to Chicago after a road trip across Michigan, March 22-24. We were there to recognize a number of schools for their efforts to support the First Lady’s LetsMove! initiative and the HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC). Our trip began in Waterford, north of Detroit, with a HUSSC Gold award celebration.  Three days, five schools, and hundreds of miles later, we ended our trip near Lansing with a HUSSC award presentation. All the schools we visited were HUSSC award winners, and everywhere we went, we saw tremendous enthusiasm and commitment to healthier students. Read more »

Connecticut Farmer Honored for Sustainability, Conservation Efforts

A Windham County, Conn., resident was recognized as an outstanding farmer during Ag Week for utilizing environmentally conscious technology and progressive agriculture sustainability.

Matthew Peckham, who operates a dairy farm with 140 Holstein and Jersey cows, was honored during a ceremony at the Connecticut State Capitol. The Windham County Farm Service Agency nominated him for his work with farm programs and dedication to conservation practices. Read more »

FoodCorps Brings Nutrition to Rural Montana Schools

In an effort to counter rising obesity rates among children, one Montana group is looking to a younger generation to take the lead in bringing locally-grown, nutritious food to schools in the area. The Grow Montana coalition, in conjunction with AmeriCorps, is accepting applications from March 25 to April 22 for a team of 11 FoodCorps members who will develop Farm to School programs in Montana’s food deserts. Because many residents in these areas must drive an hour or more to the nearest grocery store, good nutrition is literally out of reach.

As AmeriCorps VISTA members, the FoodCorps team aims to address this problem by connecting schools with farmers and ranchers to serve healthy, locally-grown meals, building and tending school gardens, and educating students about how and why to eat nutritious foods. Read more »

Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture

A newly released report Solar Energy Use in U.S. Agriculture.  Overview and Policy Issues published by USDA’s Office of Energy Policy and New Uses, serves as an overview of solar energy use by farmers and ranchers in the U.S. that identifies trends and future potential.  According to USDA’s 2009 On-Farm Energy Production Survey, ninety-three percent of farms with on-farm renewable energy production produce solar energy and 8,000 farms have installed a solar energy system on their farm.

On-farm solar energy production has increased significantly in the last decade.  Sixty-three percent of solar panels in agriculture were installed from 2005-2009 and the growth rate was almost five-fold from 2000-2009.  Solar energy projects funded under USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program also experienced a five-fold increase between 2007 and 2009.  The report reviews the regulations and incentives that are available to farmers and ranchers, which has recently boosted installations, and also examines major financial influences.