Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with USDA staff in front of one of O2's solar projects. O2 worked with local North Carolina lender Surrey Bank & Trust and USDA Rural Development to finance the project.
In the last fiscal year, USDA Rural Development invested over $240 million in renewable energy and energy efficiency projects across the nation. Through our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) we have changed the face of clean energy in our rural communities by promoting energy efficiency in rural small businesses and agricultural operations and the development of renewable energy sources in and around these small communities.
The renewable energy component has expanded both small and large-scale clean energy development in a number of sectors including geothermal, solar, wind, hydropower, and biofuels. Utilizing resources already available in our rural areas whether it’s sun and wind, or water and agricultural waste, USDA in partnership with local lenders has been able to provide the financial underpinnings to grow hundreds of renewable energy projects. Read more »
New routing switches are installed to support Country Cablevision's expanded broadband service in rural North Carolina.
At the foot of Mount Mitchell, highest peak east of the Mississippi River, sits the quiet town of Burnsville, North Carolina. People come and go from the textile factory, hikers visit to climb the mountain, and a colorful art scene adds flavor to the community. But in 2009 in the wake of the stock market crash, unemployment in the county rose to 11.9 percent. Burnsville’s problems were compounded by the lack of broadband Internet outside of the town-center, which limited its potential growth.
When USDA announced broadband funding as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, Burnsville-based Country Cablevision saw an opportunity to expand and upgrade their existing Internet service in Mitchell and Yancey Counties. Read more »
Secretary Vilsack meets with construction workers in Berlin, Maryland. The town was able to build a new water treatment plant with funds made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
This blog is cross posted from Secretary Vilsack’s Medium page:
Somedays being a Cabinet member, you have to be flexible. Today is one of those days. While in New Orleans to speak to the Renewable Fuel Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, I traveled to the Port of New Orleans to attend an event with Vice President Biden. The Vice President scheduled an event at the port to highlight the 7th anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The Vice President is the most logical person to celebrate the anniversary of ARRA achievements since he led the historic effort on behalf of the Administration. I was to be one of the warm-up acts for Vice President Biden, but due to a scheduling conflict, I had to leave before the program started. Out of respect for the Vice President’s effort to lead the Administration’s implementation of ARRA, I had planned to highlight for him the enormous investment made in rural America as a result of ARRA. If I had been able to stay, I would have pointed to these 6 big investments by USDA: Read more »
U.S. Christmas tree growers harvested and sold 20 million trees last year, up 55 percent in 5 years.
From the smell of fresh pine, to the vibrant colors of poinsettias, the holiday season is the perfect time of year to spotlight America’s horticulture growers through the just released 2014 Census of Horticultural Specialties report. I’ve experienced firsthand how unique and amazing this industry is by working nationwide with producers and stakeholders as USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics (NASS) nursery and floriculture commodity specialist.
For example, did you know farmers can invest more than 8 years growing a Christmas tree for harvest? While there are not many producers dedicated to this work, according to our latest report industry sales grew. In 2014, there were 3,386 Christmas tree producers in the United States. That year there were a total of 20 million cut Christmas trees sold, valued at $367 million in sales. This was a significant increase from the last report in 2009, when only 13 million trees were cut and sold for a total of $250 million. Read more »
2015 was another banner year for innovative Federal / Tribal partnerships, government-to-government relations with Federally Recognized Tribes and investments that continue to improve the quality of life for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Here are five examples from this past year of ways USDA and this Administration have built on their deep commitment to improving our working relationships with Tribes and helping them meet unique challenges facing tribal communities head-on. Read more »
Cherokee Central Schools students participate in a hands-on lesson in the school’s garden, which is planted with traditional varieties of vegetables grown for generations by the Cherokee people.
In celebration of Native American Heritage Month, guest blog writer Katie Rainwater, also a FoodCorps Service Member, shares her remarkable experience at Cherokee Central Schools, a 2014 USDA Farm to School Grantee.
Guest blog by Katie Rainwater, FoodCorps
Imagine this: A bright, sunny fall day in the Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina. Fresh, organic greens, lovingly raised in Cherokee Central Schools’ garden, and harvested that same day. Now add 22 elementary students proudly waving signs and banners they decorated the day before, boasting the beauty of their garden bounty, and advertising their Fall Greens Sale. If you ever bought into the idea that “kids don’t like vegetables,” our elementary schoolers could have changed your mind that day. Stationed in front of the school during after-school pick-up time, every car and person within reach received a glowing description of the wondrous greens the students helped grow, the most popular being a local native variety called Creasy Greens. Bedecked in fruit and vegetable costumes, these kids were convincing adults that they should eat their veggies! As a genuine testament to their enthusiasm and love for their harvest, they sold almost all of the 321 pounds of greens harvested that day. Read more »