It may be spring time, but the staff of Northern Girl already has big plans for fall, when their new vegetable processing facility officially opens in Van Buren, Maine. Funded in part through a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), the new 4,000 square foot facility will allow for the potential for year round processing of locally-grown vegetables.
This project is a really valuable asset – not only does it support a growing Maine business and 12 rural northern Maine farms, but it also puts fresh, locally-grown vegetables, “bounty from the county,” on the shelves for consumers in Maine and other parts of New England to enjoy. It reflects USDA Rural Development’s solid commitment to support local and regional food systems.
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Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan addresses a crowd during her keynote address. Standing next to Merrigan is Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Executive Director Russell Libby.
Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan visited the Common Ground Fair on Sunday as a part of her visit to Maine. While at the fair, the Deputy Secretary met with leaders from USDA agencies as well as numerous Maine farmers and gardeners.
During her keynote address at the fair, Merrigan discussed organic farming as well as the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative. Through this initiative, USDA integrates programs and policies that stimulate food- and agriculturally-based community economic development; fosters new opportunities for farmers and ranchers; promotes locally and regionally produced and processed foods; cultivates healthy eating habits and educated, empowered consumers; expands access to affordable fresh and local food; and demonstrates the connection between food, agriculture, community and the environment. Read more »
The far northern Maine towns of St. Agatha and Frenchville recognize the value of partnership. So when the aging St. Agatha wastewater treatment plant began to have issues, the towns began to work on a solution. That solution was a mutually beneficial partnership with Frenchville, located only six miles away.
The towns agreed to combine their wastewater treatment system into a single, state-of-the-art facility located in Frenchville. This decision helped both towns to cut costs, while helping to preserve the Saint John River and Long Lake, which is a valuable Salmon hatchery in the area.
The total project cost was $3.2 million, with USDA Rural Development providing $1.1 million to assist with the conversion of the treatment plant to a pumping facility. Other funding partners include the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development. Read more »
Earlier this month I joined six other USDA staff members in an American Red Cross First Aid/CPR/AED (automated external defibrillator) training session in Bangor, Maine. In addition, 8 other staff was trained at a different facility in Portland, Maine in July. In total 15 staff members were provided with this valuable opportunity to learn how to save a life.
USDA Rural Development is taking a proactive approach to health and wellness and has purchased five AED units, which will be placed in all four area offices and in the state office to ensure the health and safety of its 69 staff members and any members of the public who need emergency assistance.
The training ensured that there was a least one employee educated to use the equipment in the case of an emergency. Read more »
USDA Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager had a unique opportunity to see the many dynamic things happening in rural Maine communities during his visit earlier this month. Each of the projects he visited represented a different way in which USDA Rural Development’s Programs are playing valuable roles, providing a multitude of benefits, including renewable energy, business sustainability, job creation and retention, distance learning, and telemedicine.
USDA Officials tour a new USDA-funded wind project that meets much of the power needs of a Maine island.
For example, I joined the Under Secretary and the Northeast Region State Directors on a ferry to Vinalhaven, a remote island community 12 miles off the coast of Maine. Once there, we were greeted by Town Manager Marjorie Stratton, and led on tours of the Fox Islands Wind site by Fox Islands Wind CEO George Baker, and COO Bill Alcorn. The three immense wind turbines will generate about as much clean renewable wind power as the Fox Islands use, which is between 10 and 10.5 million kilowatt hours per year. USDA Rural Development provided funding support to make possible the total $14 million wind turbine project. Read more »
USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Under Secretary for USDA Rural Development Dallas Tonsager (right) ; and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud at a Rural Roundtable in Maine About two dozen Maine business leaders discussed business development issues with Federal officials.
It was a unique opportunity for Maine leaders to share their thoughts on the challenges and prospects for Maine’s economy at a Rural Roundtable held earlier this month, at the Rural Development State Office in Bangor. The Roundtable, facilitated by USDA Rural Development Maine State Director Virginia Manuel, brought the participants together with Under Secretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager and Maine Congressman Michael Michaud for a candid discussion. Read more »