About 500 people attended the tree-harvesting ceremony to watch the 88-foot, 13,000-pound Minnesota spruce chosen as the 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree. The Chippewa National Forest is donating the tree, often referred to as the People’s Tree. The tree-lighting ceremony is scheduled for Dec. 2. (U.S. Forest Service)
On a cold afternoon in late October, about 500 people, including local area third graders who had made ornaments for it, gathered to witness the cutting of the 88-foot, 13,000-pound 2014 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the Chippewa National Forest in north central Minnesota.
To help stay warm and nourished, attendees were offered hot chocolate or coffee, a wild rice dish, fruit, sandwich wraps and cookies, all courtesy of the Leech Land Band of Ojibwe. The official festivities began with Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Spiritual Advisor Larry Aitken blessing the Tree, distinguished guests sharing their congratulations, and poignant drumming performances by two groups of tribal youth; one group was accompanied by young tribal dancers in full regalia. Read more »
Those of us who call rural America home know that there’s more to the rural economy than just farms and ranches. From biobased products to rural manufacturing, the potential to grow and make innovative products in rural America is limitless.
As part of our commitment to strengthening rural economies, USDA this week released a new series of state-by-state “Made in Rural America” factsheets. Each state factsheet is a snapshot of how USDA investments help to build a better atmosphere for small business in rural America. Read more »
Families sample local foods and learn about healthy options at the Minneapolis Public Schools third annual Farm to School Community BBQ.
What a day! The Minneapolis Public Schools’ (MPS) third annual Farm to School Community BBQ took place under bright blue skies on a crisp early autumn day. Over 750 families and community members gathered with over 50 different organizational partners to celebrate MPS’ great work in getting local food into school cafeterias. I had the pleasure of competing against the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in a corn shucking contest. We were neck and neck – or maybe ear to ear – but I ultimately lost the race. Luckily, children in Minneapolis are winning big!
Minneapolis provides a fantastic example of a school district embracing the changes recently called for in the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. School board members routinely eat lunch at the district’s schools, the food service program is making money, and in just two years, Minneapolis school food has become a source of community pride. To enable as much scratch cooking as possible, MPS will invest $40 million in kitchen upgrades to bring the district’s majority “heat-and-serve” sites up to cooking capacity. Read more »
Children in Baltimore enjoy healthy offerings at one of the city’s summer meals sites.
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service partners serve a vital role in the success of the federal Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). These important relationships are critical to helping operate and expand summer meals and sites so that no child or teen goes hungry when school is out.
Evaluating their best practices and listening to their anecdotes confirms that kids truly depend on these healthy meals over the course of the summer. During the first day of the summer feeding program, the Hopkins County Family YMCA in Kentucky served over 500 meals. But that’s not the only difference they made that day. The director was at the store picking up supplies, when the cashier asked about her purchase. The director explained the details of the program and the woman’s eyes filled with tears, as she relayed that her husband just lost his job and the family had become desperate. She was put at ease knowing that the Summer Food Service Program will be available to feed her children this summer. Read more »
Keith Johnson checks the latest from NRCS Minnesota and the other people and groups he follows on Twitter on his phone.
To Chisago County, Minn. farmer Keith Johnson, triathlons, swimming in clean water and conservation have a lot in common. They’re his passions, and he’s in constant pursuit of information on these topics.
Years ago, when printed publications and brochures were the norm, Johnson would find himself taking any piece of information he could get his hands on. Life-long learning was something he took a great deal of pride in.
Johnson relates his love for “information gathering” to that of a “treasure hunt.” Over the years, since Johnson started farming, he found that he simply couldn’t learn enough. With the advent of the Internet, smartphones and social media, his game of the “treasure hunt” has adapted. Read more »
“Our home is a beautiful white house with a porch and a creek runs through our backyard,” said Joe Donnell. “There is lots of space for our family to grow. This house is an amazing gift from the Lord!”
With their family of eight, Myron Doud and Stephanie Richards were in tight quarters when they were living with Myron’s parents in a four-bedroom house. Like them, Joe and Danielle Donnell and their young one had resided with Danielle’s family.
“Our daughter was very excited about her new bedroom, and she wasn’t even scared to sleep in a room all by herself!” said Stephanie Richards. “The kids now have room to have sleep-overs with their friends and a nice backyard to play.”
These South Dakota families, like many starting out in rural America, just needed a little assistance to begin their lives — and begin building assets for the future — as homeowners. They found the help they needed through USDA Rural Development’s Direct Housing Loan, which offers 100-percent, affordable mortgages to rural homebuyers who cannot access affordable conventional financing. Read more »