USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno listens as Erik Chaffer, environmental health, safety and logistics manager for Three Rivers Energy, recounts the long-hoped for reopening of the ethanol plant he helped mothball in 2008 during the Great Recession. Located in rural Coshocton County, Ohio, the plant employs nearly 40 area residents and purchases corn from local farmers. (USDA photo: Heather Hartley)
Erik Chaffer considers himself an optimist. Still, he found himself feeling pretty low as he watched the Great Recession knock the legs out from under the rural Ohio ethanol plant he helped manage.
“Everything was pretty good until July 2008. It was just a ‘perfect storm’ type of situation,” said Chaffer. “The unknown is the worst part of it. You can’t make plans for the future. It’s a very stressful, unnerving way of life.” Read more »
These days, it seems like it’s easier than ever to turn a good idea into reality. This is the era of Kickstarter, where entrepreneurs can connect with potential investors at the click of a button.
Of course, it takes more than money to grow an idea. It takes an atmosphere that fosters creativity and rewards innovation. And at a deeper, less obvious level, it requires strong, secure infrastructure—roads and bridges, but also internet access and community facilities like hospitals and schools—that improves connectivity and access to information, moves products to market, and makes communities competitive and attractive to new businesses and investments. Read more »
Carlen Overby (left), with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Rural Development State Director Glenda Humiston, shares some of the struggles she and her neighbors in Cameron Creek Colony face since their wells have gone dry.
Carlen Overby’s days are filled with worry. On July 4th, her well went dry and has since collapsed. In order to flush toilets or wash dishes, she and her husband haul water in five-gallon jugs. And a hose from a neighbor’s house connects to her water tank so that she and her husband can take showers. When they started having trouble with their well, her husband got a second job so they could save enough money to drill a new well. The average well costs around $20,000, and even then there’s a waiting list almost a year long.
“You wake up and you just expect that there will be water when you turn on the faucet,” she said. “Who knows how long it will be until our neighbor runs out of water, and then what will we do?” Read more »
Evan Premer, an Army veteran, inspects aeroponically grown greens at his family-owned Aero Farm in Denver, Colorado. Photo Credit: M. Kunz.
This summer, USDA is highlighting partnerships to invest in the future of rural America. Our partners work with us year after year to leverage resources and grow economic opportunities. They are the key to ensuring our rural communities thrive. Follow more of our stories on Twitter at @USDA or using the hashtag #RuralPartners.
Strong local and regional food systems are anchored in durable relationships. The USDA is proud to work closely with organizations and individuals and other entities across the country who are dedicated to building the networks and infrastructure local food systems need. One partnership in the making is with the Sustainable Agriculture and Food System Funders (SAFSF). SAFSF is a network of over 85 grantmakers supporting sustainable agriculture and food systems. Established in 1991, SAFSF has been a philanthropic leader in local and regional food system development.
Recently, SAFSF held their 12th annual meeting in Denver, Colorado. The meeting allowed USDA Know Your Farmer Know Your Food team members to interact with foundation leaders as part of our ongoing effort to explore ways USDA programs can leverage non-government funds more strategically. The agenda included site visits to local food projects where public-private partnerships can make a difference. Read more »
This week, I visited the small town of Cameron Creek Colony in Tulare County, California and saw firsthand the challenges drought poses, particularly for those living in rural communities.
About 10 percent of Cameron Creek Colony residents have no access to water because their wells have run dry. Still others have only intermittent access to water. Many are in danger of losing access to water permanently in the near future. One long-time resident told me that until this drought, she’d never worried about water. Now, worrying about having enough water is constantly on her mind. Read more »
Rowe with kids and the Power Panther at the PowerHouse Ministries site in Marshall, MO.
This spring I had the opportunity to visit several summer feeding sites to witness the efforts of local organizations and states agencies so instrumental in the success of USDA’s Summer Food Service Program. I had the chance to join our essential partners during summer meals kick-off events throughout the state of Missouri. It was especially gratifying to meet so many members of highly-engaged communities and the children and teens that benefit from their support.
During my May visit, I was honored to participate in a roundtable discussion at the St. Louis Area Food Bank while a new partnership was being forged. The lively conversation about successes and challenges of feeding kids nutritious summer meals included representatives from local, state and federal organizations. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and some of his staff attended to voice the city’s support of the summer feeding programs and offer ideas for feeding site activities, including creating butterfly gardens. Read more »