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Posts tagged: Minnesota

Nationwide Census on Farm to School Activities Shows Promising Results

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

USDA Census shows healthy habits are taking root across the country.

When students have experiences such as tending a school garden or visiting a farm they’ll be more likely to make healthy choices in the cafeteria. And when schools invest their food dollars in their local communities, all of agriculture benefits, including local farmers, ranchers, fishermen, food processors and manufacturers.

Good news: these healthy habits are taking root all across the country.

USDA released today results from a nationwide Census of farm to school activities. We found that 43 percent of all public school districts have an existing farm to school program in place. Another 13 percent of school districts surveyed are committed to launching a farm to school program in the near future. With purchasing local food as a primary farm to school activity, in school year 2011-2012, schools purchased and served over $350 million in local food. Read more »

FSA Keeps Third Generation in the Dairy Business

Eric and Allison are third generation farmers who used an FSA Operating Loan to take the business to the next level.

Eric and Allison are third generation farmers who used an FSA Operating Loan to take the business to the next level.

When Eric Johnson finished high school, he didn’t see cows in his future.

“I wanted a new adventure and I wanted to try something different after being on the farm my whole life,” said Eric. “I tried carpentry and later worked at a nursery as a landscaper laying paver patios and building rock walls.”

Landscaping didn’t employ year-round so he began work at a large dairy.  This is also how he met his wife Alison. “I enjoyed my work on the dairy farm and that’s when I realized I missed working on the farm where I grew up,” said Eric. Read more »

Funds Promote Development of Rural Wood to Energy Projects

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bioenergy Memorandum of Understanding is signed by wood energy partners (left - right) Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Executive Director Joseph Seymour; Alliance for Green Heat, President John Ackerly; USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden; Pellet Fuels Institute Executive, Director Jennifer Hedrick; Biomass Power Association, President and CEO Bob Cleaves, at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Bioenergy Memorandum of Understanding is signed by wood energy partners (left - right) Biomass Thermal Energy Council, Executive Director Joseph Seymour; Alliance for Green Heat, President John Ackerly; USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden; Pellet Fuels Institute Executive, Director Jennifer Hedrick; Biomass Power Association, President and CEO Bob Cleaves, at the USDA Headquarters in Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2013. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.

Earlier this week, USDA, U.S. Forest Service and partners took a major step to improve forest management, create rural jobs, prevent wildfires, and expand promising renewable energy opportunities.

Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden joined leaders from the Alliance for Green Heat, the Biomass Power Association, the Biomass Thermal Energy Council, and the Pellet Fuels Institute here in Washington for the announcement of a new partnership agreement. Acting as master of ceremonies for the signing event was Acting USDA Rural Development Under Secretary Doug O’Brien.  Through the Rural Energy for America program and other programs, Rural Development has been a leader in promoting deployment of wood-to-energy projects. Read more »

Partnering with Cooperative Extension to Support Farm to School

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Adam McCurry, Agricultural Technician for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Yancey County conducts a lesson about local apple varieties before taking students outside to plant an apple tree at Bald Creek Elementary School in Burnsville, North Carolina. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, Asheville, North Carolina)

Kids are headed back to school and so are county Extension agents.

As schools continue to teach kids where their food comes from and bring local and regional products into the school cafeteria, one group they may want to partner with on their farm to school activities is their local or regional Cooperative Extension office. Cooperative Extension Systems are administered by each state’s Land-Grant University System. Programs are available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. and most states have local or regional Extension offices that are staffed by one or more experts, often referred to as Extension agents or Extension educators.

Nationally, more and more Cooperative Extension Systems are devoting key resources to supporting farm to school activities. Of the 68 fiscal year 2013 USDA Farm to School Grants distributed, 25 percent included partners from Cooperative Extension. State Extension Systems such as Ohio, Minnesota, and Illinois have already dedicated resources and personnel to leading their states farm to school programs. And at the upcoming national Extension conference, farm to school and local foods are sure to be a major themes discussed. Read more »

Cultural Sustainability through Farmers Markets

In agriculture, we talk a lot about sustainability.  As a method of growing crops, caring for ecosystems like forests or wetlands, or even the economic sustainability of businesses—we look at this word from all angles.  But there’s another component to consider: cultural sustainability.

As a nation of immigrants, we have many rich and complex influences woven into the history of our country.  Foods we eat, holidays we celebrate, how we create goods or perform services—these are all things that are shaped by the cultural identities of our families and the communities around us.

For many communities, farmers markets are playing a pivotal role in maintaining and enabling these cultural ties. Read more »

Making California and Minnesota a Magnet for New Jobs

While many manufacturing companies provide well-paying jobs and play a vital role in creating vibrant, healthy rural communities, sometimes rural communities may struggle to attract these companies. To help bridge this gap, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) was created. This Administration-wide effort brings together federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated assistance to communities to become more attractive for manufacturers.

Recently, USDA hosted two IMCP events in Minnesota and California with diverse audiences of about 120 stakeholders representing manufacturing businesses, lenders, economic development organizations, universities and community colleges, small businesses development centers, and local leaders among others. At both meetings, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno led panels of federal partners that discussed the initiative and sought input on the needs of local manufacturers. Read more »