Robert Tapia, a single father of two, is pictured outside the Reedley, Calif. home he proudly helped build with ten other families through USDA's Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan program in partnership with Self-Help Enterprises, which celebrated the completion of its 6,000th home last week. (USDA photo)
The holidays will be extra special this year for 11 families in Reedley, Calif., who received the keys to their homes during a celebration ceremony December 19. The group spent nearly 10 months building each other’s homes through USDA’s Mutual Self-Help Housing Loan program.
The rules of the program are simple, though not necessarily easy. Ten- to 12 families are grouped together to pool their efforts. Each family is required to put in a minimum of 40 hours a week working on all the homes and no one moves in until every home is completed. Together, families pour foundations, frame homes, install electrical wiring, hang doors and windows and even lay tile and paint. Their labor – “sweat equity” – acts as a down payment for the home, and USDA Rural Development provides the families with mortgages through the Single Family Housing Direct Loan Program. Read more »
Misty Allen (right), her daughter Deanna and puppy Odysseus are ready for family and friends to share the holidays in their new home. (USDA photo)
A year ago this week, Misty Allen and her daughter Deanna came home to the American Dream they thought would forever be out of reach.
“It was magical!” said Allen. “This house is more than I could ever have asked for. I never imagined I could have a three-bedroom house for less than I was paying in rent.”
Flooded out of their most recent apartment and facing a significant rent increase to offset repairs, Allen learned about Rural Development’s 502 Direct Home Loan Program through her local Realtor. Just before Christmas, she and Deanna settled into their picturesque Athens, Pa., neighborhood, their new puppy Odysseus joining Loki, the mischievous German Shepherd, in the mix. Read more »
USDA staff members meet with farmers and ranchers to talk about available assistance in South Carolina.
USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers use conservation to help the environment while improving agricultural operations. But not everyone knows about the variety of programs and services offered through USDA agencies.
USDA recently launched an effort to ensure the department is reaching landowners and rural citizens of different backgrounds. Through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA is intensifying outreach efforts in places with persistent poverty. For example, NRCS’ goal is to reach landowners with farms and ranches of all types and sizes.
Sixteen states, including South Carolina, identified StrikeForce counties, where more than 20 percent of the population has been considered persistently impoverished for the past three decades. Read more »
Children from Emerson Elementary School in Albuquerque, N.M., were treated to their own pumpkin, compliments of the New Mexico Farm Service Agency. More than 8,500 pumpkins were donated to schools, children’s hospitals and local food banks.
What started out with just a handful of FSA employees trying to do the right thing has turned into an annual event that spans six New Mexico counties.
Ten years ago John Perea, county executive director for Torrance County, N.M., started a project to glean pumpkins from farmers John and Dianne Aday.
“We started it as an effort to take pumpkins that were left in the field and still in good shape, and try to get them to needy children,” said Perea, who along with other FSA employees coordinates the event each year. “We try to find schools in areas which demographically have families that are lower income and in neighborhoods with a history of drug abuse and various social problems.” Read more »
Ralph Cramer shows Deputy Harden some of the wreaths created with dried flowers from Cramer’s Posie Patch.
After a busy day at University of Delaware filled with a student roundtable and a visit to the UDairy Creamery, Deputy Secretary Harden awoke in Pennsylvania to tour the Conewago Watershed, a local flower farm and the YorKitchen incubator.
On a mild November Friday, Deputy Secretary Harden traveled through the scenic countryside of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her tour began with the Conewago Creek Watershed in Lancaster County, including visits to several trails, fencing, forested riparian buffers and stream crossings. Deputy Harden then stopped in at the Lebanon County Field Office to chat with staff from Natural Resources and Conservation Services and Rural Development. A winding trip through Lancaster County led to Cramer’s Posie Patch in Mount Joy, where she met with owners Ralph and Keith Cramer for a tour of their 47 acre wholesale fresh and dried flower farm. While the fresh cut flower season is over, the dried flowers from this year’s harvest depicted a time of vibrancy during the growing season. The dried and long-stem fresh flowers are sold to wholesale distributors for the creation of home décor arrangements and wreaths. Read more »
USDA Deputy Agriculture Secretary Krysta Harden (seated right) announces USDA funding for the first graduate school dorms at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Seated next to her is University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES) President Dr. Juliette B. Bell. (Standing) left to right, Moses Kairo, dean of UMES’ School of Agriculture and Natural Sciences, UMES executive vice president Kim Dumpson; Danette Howard, the Maryland Secretary of Higher Education; Dale Wesson, UMES’ research and economic development vice president; Jerry Redden, interim director - Maryland Hawk Corp. and Ronald Nykiel, UMES’ chief academic policymaker. Photo courtesy of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Used with permission.
When you think back to your college days, what stands out? For many, college is the first opportunity for a student to move away from a childhood home and take another step toward full adulthood. Finding housing away from home can be expensive, especially for students enrolled in graduate programs.
Recently, USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden visited The University of Maryland Eastern Shore, a vibrant campus with over 700 graduate students. Until now, those students did not have an option to stay in a graduate dorm. They are being housed in Salisbury, Maryland and commuting. This is time-consuming and expensive. Read more »