Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribal Administrator Della John, and USDA Office of Tribal Relations Director Leslie Wheelock (right) at a hoop house operated by the Tribe. USDA photo.
Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to participate in the National Congress of American Indian’s (NCAI) mid-year meeting in Reno, Nevada. The NCAI meeting was a warm and familiar place for me, as I recently left a position as NCAI’s Director of Economic Development to assume my current position as Director of USDA’s Office of Tribal Relations.
While I was in Nevada, I wanted to be certain to see Secretary Vilsack’s StrikeForce Initiative in action, as I was aware that Nevada’s USDA leaders had selected Nevada’s Indian reservations for their StrikeForce focus. What a day I had on June 26! It was tremendous to experience the mutual vigor among tribal leaders, USDA leaders, and their respective teams. Read more »
Cross posted from the White House Blog:
This week is National Small Business Week. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), along with agencies across the Obama Administration, are hosting events in five cities. These events provide expert advice, mentoring and explore topics ranging from access to capital to exporting. Small businesses across the country can tune into these events via livestream at sba.gov.
America’s small businesses create two out of three net new private sector jobs in our economy. And today more than half of all working Americans either own or work for a small business. Our goal is to ensure that the positive economic benefits of entrepreneurship can reach every corner of the country. Read more »
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visits Blue Ridge Produce in Elkwood, VA on Thursday, May 30, 2013. Blue Ridge Produce is a local food hub aggregating Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables for sale to wholesale customers in the Capitol region. (L to R Blue Ridge Produce Jim Epstein, Blue Ridge Produce Mark Seale, and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack). USDA Photo by Bob Nichols.
Mark Seale got out of agriculture early. A Virginia native raised on the family farm, he didn’t see a future in the business once he finished high school – and his family didn’t argue with him.
But over the years, Mark found himself drawn back to agriculture in Virginia. Working with produce was something he’d grown up around, and a desire to do something in the industry was tugging at him. He returned to Virginia and opened Simply Fresh Produce, a retail outlet in Charlottesville. That’s where he met Jim Epstein, a real estate developer concerned about the disappearance of Virginia farmland. Jim knew that economically viable farms were the best buffer against development pressure and that smart development could in turn strengthen the local food system. So in 2010, Jim and Mark joined forces to build Blue Ridge Produce, a food hub in the rural community of Elkwood. Read more »
At age 19, Austin Midkiff has already made plans to retire at a young age and farm the rest of his life.
Austin Midkiff thinks, breathes and lives farming. It’s all he has done since he was six years old.
By the time he was 14, he took over his grandparent’s 10-acre farm in Springdale, W.Va.
“When I turned 16 my grandparents sold everything to me in order to teach me how to get things on my own and start from scratch,” said Midkiff. “It’s hard starting off.” Read more »
When Kathy Patterson and Stacey Schuett decided to write President Obama a letter, it wasn’t about the economy or climate change. They didn’t give their views on gun control and they didn’t express their feelings about the gridlock in Congress.
They simply said thank you.
“We are writing to express our heartfelt appreciation for the microloan program that was put into place in January,” the letter stated. “While $35,000 is tiny compared to other programs, for a two-family farm like ours, it is a game changer.”
Kathy and Stacey, owners of Sebastopol Microgreens, were the first in Northern California to receive the new microloans developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to help beginning, small and niche farmers. The loans ease certain requirements, streamline the application process and provide a faster turnaround time for approvals, when compared to regular operating loans.
“This program is like having a partner give you a boost when you need it most,” said Kathy. Read more »
A passion for agriculture is what brought 50 young farmers to the Washington, D.C., area this week, as part of a national networking forum for the next generation of producers.
“We want to let young producers know that their voice is important and they shouldn’t be hesitant or bashful about communicating with policymakers,” said Gordon Stone, executive vice president of the National Young Farmer Educational Association, or NYFEA, which sponsored Agriculture’s Promise: The Washington Forum.
Undersecretary for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services Michael Scuse joined several speakers on day two of the three-day event — held Monday, Feb. 4 at National Harbor — to provide an overview of the Farm Service Agency, Risk Management and Foreign Agricultural Service and encourage discussion about USDA’s programs and policies. Scuse mentioned a new microloan program designed to help small and family operations, beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers secure loans under $35,000. Microloans will help producers through their start-up years by providing needed resources and helping to increase equity so that farmers may eventually graduate to commercial credit and expand their operations. Scuse also spoke about the importance of communicating effectively with rural America. Read more »