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Posts tagged: Arkansas

Tapping into the Economic Potential of Local Food Through Local Foods, Local Places

Federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market

In Jefferson City, Missouri, federal local food experts met with community leaders to determine a successful site for a new farmers market. This partnership was made possible by Local Foods, Local Places which helps communities integrate local food enterprises into their economic plans.

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

At USDA, we understand the enormous market potential of local food. Industry estimates suggest that local food sales in America have nearly doubled in recent years, jumping from $5 billion in 2008 to $11.7 billion in 2014. We’ve invested more than $800 million in 29,100 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects over the past six years to help farmers, ranchers and rural businesses tap into that market.

Indeed, local food is a national phenomenon that has significant impact on every state’s economy. But local food is not only a business opportunity for agriculture, it can also be a development tool that allows communities to maximize the impact of what is grown and made locally. Local food projects can help grow local food economies and drive downtown and neighborhood revitalization, which is what the Administration’s Local Foods, Local Places initiative is all about. And this year, the initiative is particularly focused on ensuring that kids and families in need have an opportunity to benefit from the development of local food systems. This initiative is part of the White House Rural Council’s “Rural Impact” effort to improve quality of life and upward mobility for kids and families in rural and tribal communities. Read more »

Arkansas Woman Graduates from Youth Loan to Become FSA’s 13,000th Microloan Recipient

Dakota Williams with cattle

Dakota Williams said raising cattle is her career. At age 18, she already has plenty of experience and within the next 10 years she hopes to own her own farm. Photo by Kim Whitten Photography.

At age 18, Dakota Williams knows exactly what she wants to do with her life — own a farm and raise cattle.

“[Farming] is all I’ve ever known. I’m a third generation farmer, working the same land as my grandparents and I don’t want to see it end,” said Dakota. A member of the Cherokee tribe, Dakota said her ancestors lived off the land and she wants to honor them in her work. “Not many people can say they live in an area where their ancestors came from and they are still trying to make that land better.”

Under the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to improve housing, better educational opportunities, improve infrastructure and create employment and business opportunities for Native American families, including veterans and youth. Read more »

The Mississippi River: Mending the Mighty from North to the Gulf

Brian Parkinson working with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land

Brian Parkinson grows cereal rye and other varieties of cover crops near Milan, Ill. Parkinson works with NRCS District Conservationist Joe Gates to make conservation improvements to his land. Photo courtesy of NRCS.

The mighty Mississippi – it’s a river with a history of romance and enchantment. Native Americans depended on the Mississippi River for food and water, and world explorers came in search of its riches.

Over time, farmsteads dotted the land, and small towns grew to large cities. Today, we see the fruits of our labor as industry, commerce and agriculture continue to thrive in the basin. But those successes come with environmental challenges. Many of the basin’s waterways suffer from poor water quality. Read more »

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their Habitats

A monarch butterfly on flowers

Monarch butterflies rely on milkweed species. Photo credit: Bugwood.org

With more than 80 percent of the world’s flowering plants relying on pollinators, their importance to natural ecosystems and agriculture cannot be overstated. However, populations of pollinators, including bird, bat, butterfly, beetle and bee species, have been declining around the world. Recognizing the importance of pollinators, Secretary Tom Vilsack of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has proclaimed June 15 to 21, 2015 as National Pollinator Week.

To celebrate Pollinator Week, we are sharing some of the Forest Service’s work to conserve one iconic pollinator species and its habitat – the Monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies complete incredible migrations of hundreds to thousands of miles each year across North America. Along their migratory paths, Monarchs rely on habitats that contain milkweed species, which is the only plant that they lay their eggs on. Monarch caterpillars feed exclusively on milkweed, which contains chemical compounds that make them poisonous to potential predators. Read more »

From Tomatoes to Yarn: Value Added Producer Grants Help Agriculture Entrepreneurs Get Ahead

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admiring an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon.

Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Patrice Kunesh admires an official USA Winter Olympic Team sweater made with wool from the Imperial Stock Ranch in Shiniko, Oregon. The Ranch used a USDA Value Added Producer Grant to develop the yarn.

“When you are a small farm, you don’t have a lot of capital.” says Julie Donnelly of Deepwoods Farm, a small tomato farm she runs with her husband in Bradley County, Arkansas. Despite being in an area known for its tomatoes, Deepwoods Farms was having a hard time getting ahead.  “We couldn’t get past the commercial tomatoes.” Julie remembers.  “We were almost bankrupt. I thought ‘I’ve got to do something!’ ”

What Julie decided to do was diversify her tomato crop to produce more varietals, including heirlooms and different colored tomatoes. She believed this would give her farm a competitive edge and open up new market opportunities. The tomatoes were growing well and tasted good.  However, no one knew the Donnelleys were doing something different than before. Deepwoods Farms needed marketing and branding support to tell customers why their tomatoes were different.   “When I heard about the Value Added Producer Grant, I thought this might be the answer,” said Julie. Read more »

Rural Electrification Celebrates 80 Years of Rural Productivity

REA 80th Anniversary - North Plains Electric Cooperative. The first home furnished with cooperative power in the North Plains EC service area was that of George Robbins (below) located in the southwest part of Lipscomb County, Texas. W.M. Good (above), first president of the Boards of Directors at North Plains Electric Cooperative threw the switch to energize the first 80 miles of line on February 5, 1946. Power was purchased from the City of Canadian, Texas. A very small 300 KVA substation located in Canadian served the first few miles of line for the cooperative members.

North Plains Electric Cooperative, located in Perryton, Texas, and serving the Northeast corner of the Texas panhandle, the co-op has “been lighting the Texas Plains since 1944.”

In the depths of the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 7037 on May 11, 1935 establishing the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), a temporary agency tasked with deciding how to fund rural electric systems. The following year, Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, giving statutory power to the new agency.

It didn’t take them long to get to work. In 1937, the REA noted the most spectacular increase of rural electrification in the history of the United States had been achieved. Thanks to this national commitment, more than 1.2 million farms had electric service and the gap between urban and rural standards of living was closing. Read more »