Joel Olson (left), President of O2 Energies, Inc. of North Carolina speaks with U.S. Department of Agriculture (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.
USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program, or REAP as we call it, is one of the flagship programs found in the energy title of the Farm Bill. Through REAP, USDA helps rural agricultural producers and small businesses improve their financial bottom line through increased energy efficiency and the development of renewable energy sources.
We wanted to share two great examples of this investment and development in North Carolina. In Mt. Airy, NC, local lenders took advantage of REAP’s loan guarantees to finance O2 Energies and build a solar farm that can provide up to 20% of the power needed by the community. Read more »
USDA Works with Families to Realize Their Dreams of Homeownership infographic. Click to enlarge
Five years ago, Christy Carr seemed like a long shot as a future homeowner. She was a newly divorced, unemployed mom of five, and her credit score was in the 300’s. The home she shared with her children had no heat, no electricity and no running water. A neighbor let Christy run an extension cord to his garage outlet just so that the family could keep the lights on. Since they had no car and only a cooler to keep their food cold, they walked to the store three times a day.
In order to rebuild her life, Christy had to find work and clean up her credit score. After many interviews, Christy was offered a good job at a marketing company. She was able to move into an apartment but it was too small to house all of her children, and her older sons had to stay with another family member. At the same time, Christy brought her student loans out of default and paid off old marital debts. After 18 months, her credit score had risen by 300 points, and she was able to open a credit card secured through her bank. Read more »
New recruits in the battle against climate change.
California has a pioneering spirit. Rural folks there have been on the frontier for generations. That frontier may have been gold mines and cattle grasslands in the past, but today that frontier is the very air, soil and water of California itself. Climate change is transforming California like it’s transforming our globe. But Californians are leading the pioneer charge to transform, with pragmatism, ingenuity and a commitment to rural communities.
Just recently, I visited a small dairy farm in Elk Grove, California, the site of an anaerobic digester. Case Van Steyn’s operation of around 700 cows produces manure, and the Maas Energy digester, secluded in an unobtrusive red shipping container, uses the manure to produce methane. That methane creates enough electricity to power 125 homes—and enough to sell electricity back to the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, or SMUD. Read more »
Today, USDA Rural Development is investing in smart grid and broadband to empower rural communities with state-of-the-art infrastructure for a more reliable and efficient electricity grid, like this investment in New Mexico.
May 20, 2016 is the 80th anniversary of the Rural Electrification Act of 1936. The REA was created to bring electricity to farms. In 1936, nearly 90 percent of farms lacked electric power because the costs to get electricity to rural areas were prohibitive.
REA funding and the hard work of Rural Electric Cooperatives transformed agriculture and life in rural America into productivity and prosperity. Thanks to hard work and REA loans, by 1950 close to 80 percent of U.S. farms had electric service. Since then, generations have heard the stories about “the night the lights came on,” a significant date for farm families. Read more »
Farm Fresh's Warehouse Manager Alex Mendonca (middle) and Market Mobile Manager Kimberly Garofolo (right) work on the early morning packline. They work together to perform a final quality inspection before orders are packed onto delivery trucks.
Open any food magazine these days and you’re bound to find a profile of the latest locavore start-up turning cream and cantaloupe into craft popsicles or maple sap into a whole new category of bottled beverages. As consumer demand for local foods continues to climb like pole beans, venture capitalists are scouring this sector in search of the next hot investment.
USDA has long been investing in this space too, for the good of rural economies. And now we’re unveiling a new online interactive training to help other funders understand the work of regional food enterprises that are connecting local producers with local markets, and why they might want to invest in a piece of this pie. Read more »
Executive Chef Jason Johnson explains his preschool menu to Administrator Starmer. Most of the children he cooks for have not had a lot of experience with fruits and veggies, but Chef Jason says that each week their plates come back cleaner. Photo credit: Heather Hartley, USDA
I recently traveled to Columbus, Ohio with Farm Service Agency (FSA) Administrator Val Dolcini and stopped by Southside Roots Café, Market and Kitchen for lunch. The restaurant makes delicious food from locally-sourced seasonal ingredients, but what really sets it apart is how it charges customers for that food.
Southside Roots Café uses a pay-what-you-can approach that allows everyone to eat nutritious, delicious food, regardless of their income. Housed in a former school building owned and operated by the Mid-Ohio Food Bank, the café and an adjacent fresh food market provide fresh, affordable, nutritious food to the local community. Weekly community meals, along with a kids’ meal program for students at a nearby development center and visitors to the Boys and Girls Club of Columbus, round out the food bank’s creative approach to serving families and children in need. Read more »