As a native Georgian, it is always a treat to go back home and see what’s happening on my family farm as well as the farms of my neighbors. Today I had the pleasure of meeting Jean Oliver, a dedicated mother, daughter and cattle farmer. She recently received a microloan from the Farm Service Agency to help build her operation. Within the next 10 years, Jean plans to make the leap from working 9-to-5 as a counselor with the Cook County school system to living off of her family’s 200-year-old farm, raising and selling cattle.
Here is her story: Read more »
Lakota Roberson (left) stands with representatives from Flying Diamond Ranch, who have sponsored the teen for various events. Roberson has won multiple championships and has been hired by other businesses for her fitting and showing abilities.
At 16, Lakota Roberson has a lot of responsibility. The high school sophomore works two jobs, runs her own business, handles a full course load of classes and cares for 54 animals that she considers to be her children. By senior year she hopes to grow her animal family to 100.
Lakota, who starts her days off at 5:30 a.m. on weekends and 6 a.m. on weekdays admits, “I don’t have much down time, but when I do, I sleep.” Her first chore of the day, of course, is to take care of her animals. They consist of 40 ewes, 10 goats and four rams.
“It started out as a hobby, now it’s my job,” said Lakota. “But I love it.” Read more »
Earlier this week, I hosted a White House Rural Council discussion with farmers, business owners, board members, commodity groups, youth leaders and academics to discuss opportunities for women in agriculture. The group included women and men, conventional farmers and organic producers and organizations like Food Corps, the Future Farmers of America Foundation and the American Farm Bureau. There were major corporations including Coca Cola and Land O’ Lakes as well as smaller operations like Sandy Oaks Olive Orchards from Texas.
In preparation for the meeting, I asked the participants to use #womeninag to identify inspiring women in agriculture. The overwhelming response on Twitter stimulated our discussion and motivated the group to identify what we can do to continue supporting women in agriculture. Read more »
Mary Louise Reynnells (right) and Shellie Wallace-Polin in their FFA jackets, 1977.
Earlier this year, in preparation for the 2015 opening of a new business history exhibition, American Enterprise, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History put out a call for current and past members of the National FFA Organization to submit their FFA jackets accompanied with their own personal agricultural history. The jackets and stories, to be featured in the agricultural portion of the exhibition, will examine the significance that agricultural education continues to play to our national identity.
At a ceremony last week, five jackets and their stories were selected; among them, a jacket from President Jimmy Carter and a jacket from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service employee Mary “Louise” Reynnells. USDA employees work every day to ensure that American farmers have access to the opportunities they need, and many of their ties to agriculture extend well beyond their time at USDA. Here is Mary “Louise” Reynnells’s story, and with it, her contribution to our agricultural heritage. Read more »
Growing up on a farm in Camilla, Ga., I developed a passion for agriculture early. Being a farmer’s daughter helped me understand the challenges farmers and ranchers face over time and the need for common-sense policies and programs to create and expand opportunities for the farmers of the future. Now, as the Deputy Secretary of the USDA, my highest priority is to ensure that beginning farmers and ranchers – women, young people, immigrants, socially disadvantaged producers, returning veterans and retirees – have access to the programs and support they need to succeed.
Today, we’re announcing a new resource: USDA.gov/newfarmers. This new website is a one-stop shop to connect new farmers and ranchers with USDA resources, programs and support. On www.usda.gov/newfarmers, new farmers can find information about accessing land and capital, managing risk, finding education, outreach and technical assistance, growing businesses and markets, and investing in the land and environment. Read more »
National FFA officers meet with Secretary Vilsack at the Agriculture Department on January 15. USDA photo by Tom Witham.
“We are excited by the challenges you presented to us,” said FFA National Secretary Mitch Bayer at the conclusion of a half-hour meeting of National FFA officers with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack at the USDA Whitten Building earlier this week.
In his meeting with the officers, the Secretary covered a wide range of issues, including the immediate need for a new Food, Farm and Jobs Bill. When it passes, he said, the National FFA should study provisions that will help young, beginning farmers become established. He said there will be, he hopes, an easier path to credit and also support for the USDA microloan program, which helps beginning farmers and others buy equipment, rent ground, and buy livestock or supplies at affordable interest rates. The Secretary noted that 70 percent of the world’s farmers are women, and USDA is working to provide greater opportunities to women, Native Americans, Hispanics, African Americans and others who want to farm. Read more »