Under Secretary for Rural Development Lisa Mensah stands at the head of the historical trail where marchers began their trek across the Edmund Pettus bridge enroute to Montgomery, Alabama seeking voting rights for African-Americans.
On my first trip as the Under Secretary for Rural Development, I visited Alabama and Mississippi. It seemed fitting for me to begin my trip in Selma, Alabama given the historical significance of the location. The march from Selma, led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., embodied our most human desires: to be treated fairly, to be heard, to be treated with decency-to not be denied access and opportunities due to the color of our skin, our gender identity, our gender expression or our political identity.
I was raised in Oregon by my father, an immigrant from Ghana and my mother, an Iowa farm girl. Standing there in Selma, the sacrifices made by those before me came into focus. As an African-American woman, I’m now very honored to be at an agency that plays an important role in bringing new investments to rural America. Read more »
On June 13, 2013, FNS staff participated in a Summer Food Service Program Kick-off event in Sacramento, CA.
It may be the middle of winter, but at USDA, we like to celebrate the success of our Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) all year long. Therefore, the Western Regional Office is thrilled to announce the winners and honorable mentions of the 2014 Summer Sunshine Awards. A total of eight organizations across the region received Sunshine Awards in 4 unique categories in recognition of their standout efforts in operating the SFSP. The programs impact in local communities depends on the hard work of state agencies, partnering organizations, local sites and sponsors. These awards only begin to show our appreciation for the dedication, innovation, and passion behind the respective organizations.
In the category of Strategies to Promote Nutrition and Wellness, California’s Riverside Unified School District was awarded the honor for employing innovative strategies by collaborating with local partners to provide nutrition education and physical activities at summer meal sites. The Boys and Girls Club of Ada County in Idaho was also awarded the distinction for their incorporation of fresh local produce into summer meals and offering opportunities for physical activity to children at their summer meal sites. Read more »
Standing in front of the solar array at Mt. Abram, Maine’s first solar-powered ski area are Solar Market Owner Naoto Inoue; Mt. Abram Owner Matthew Hancock; USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel; Senator Angus King's representative, Ben Tucker; and Senator Susan Collins' representative, Carlene Tremblay.
Recently I had the privilege of joining Matthew Hancock and his team at Mt. Abram, a unique, sustainable ski area located in the mountains of Western Maine. An immense 803 panel solar photovoltaic system greeted gatherers as they drove in, the result of a Renewable Energy for America Program (REAP) Grant awarded by Maine USDA Rural Development. The system in Greenwood is the second largest solar project in the country for a ski area, the first ever in Maine, and as a sign next to the solar panels boasts, it is also the “World’s Largest Snow Making Site.”
This important project was made possible in part by a USDA Rural Development Rural Energy for America Program Grant, which provided $235,000 of the $940,000 total project cost. Matt’s business will benefit significantly, with 70 percent of operations at the ski area operating on solar generated power, while skiers and nature enthusiasts will appreciate its green, carbon emission-reducing features, making Mt. Abram truly “Maine’s Sustainable Mountain Playground.” In addition to its solar features, Mt. Abram heats the lodge with wood pellets and was the second ski area in North America to install electric vehicle chargers. Read more »
Megan Estrada and her children enjoy a swing on the porch of their new home financed by a USDA Rural Development home loan guarantee.
2014 will soon be in our collective rear view mirrors, and USDA Rural Development has had an incredibly productive year. This week we are looking back on stories from the year that illustrate the impact our programs have on rural communities. Here’s a story out of our Kansas State Office from June.
Megan Estrada and her three children are excited to spend time on their new home’s porch – a home they just moved into this summer. Prior to purchasing their own home, Estrada and her children had spent the last nine years in an apartment in Dodge City, Kansas. Read more »
USDA Rural Development and NCTC break ground on a new high speed broadband project serving rural Tennessee and Kentucky.
Access to the world via internet and mobile phone services is at the fingertips of most Americans, but this is not the reality for residents of many rural communities across the Nation.
In October 2014, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced $190.5 million in grants and loans to make broadband and other advanced communications infrastructure improvements in rural areas. Read more »
Kelseigh Weber gets a housewarming gift from Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and USDA Rural Development Specialist Laura Leplow as Michigan State Director James Turner and Rebecca Weber look on.
Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez, Michigan State Director James Turner, and Plainwell, Michigan community members at the new City Hall sculpture.
During this holiday week, I couldn’t help but think of my recent visit with Ms. Rebecca Weber of St. Johns, Michigan – about twenty minutes north of our state capital of Lansing. USDA Rural Housing Service Administrator Tony Hernandez and I were able to meet Ms. Weber and hear her inspiring story.
USDA Rural Development in Michigan has forged a valuable partnership with Habitat for Humanity, where USDA provides the necessary financing for these families to build their homes. Rebecca Weber is one of the shining examples of success coming from that partnership. Rebecca is a hard-working single mother who built her home this year with the help of Habitat for Humanity and USDA Rural Development. Rebecca was so dedicated to getting this home build, that when heavy rains this summer forced a six-month delay due to standing water, she enlister her mother and together they bailed out the property with five gallon buckets to get things back on schedule. Read more »