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 »
A maple syrup producer in Vermont (Photo courtesy USDA)
What has 40 calories per tablespoon, contains potassium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, Vitamins B2, B5 and B6, the same calcium levels as whole milk, and is completely natural and organic?
Chances are maple syrup wasn’t the first food to come to mind, but it’s true! Real maple syrup has less calories per tablespoon than canola oil, contains 9 essential vitamins and nutrients, and when made properly, it is completely natural, organic and additive free. The benefits to maple syrup are greater than the collection of healthy nutrients inside the product. Maple syrup is good not only for a hot stack of pancakes, but also for America’s rural economy. Read more »
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 »
National Small Business Week began yesterday with a proclamation from President Obama recognizing the small businesses across the Nation which, especially in our rural and small-town communities, making vital contributions to communities and the American economy.
Individually, the impact of a small business may seem minor in comparison with conglomerates. The Small Business Administration (SBA), however, estimates that more than half of our American workforce either owns or is employed by a small business, and two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year is created by–you guessed it–a small business. It’s clear this portion of economy is significant, but in rural towns and areas where each job and transaction has an effect on the community, small business is essential. In rural America, the entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, agri-businesses, small-scale manufacturers, and other enterprises are the local economy. Read more »
A tractor tills the soil among wind turbines in Oklahoma on August 13, 2009. USDA photo by Alice Welch.
In rural communities across the country, USDA Rural Development is bringing new energy efficiency and cost saving opportunities to Indian Country.
Choggiung Limited, a Native American Corporation in southwest Alaska, received a $20,000 energy assistance grant from USDA Rural Development to install a wind turbine at the courthouse in Dillingham – a Native-owned building and leased to the state – that has reduced its energy costs by 80 percent and is saving Choggiung about $20,000 a year. Choggiung is a for-profit Native corporation serving Tribal residents in Dillingham, Ekuk, and Portage Creek, Alaska. “This wind turbine marks a new approach to sustainable business management and renewable energy in Dillingham,” Choggiung CEO Doug Calaway said.
In the southwest, USDA awarded the Arizona-based Navajo Tribal Utility Authority a $100,000 grant to conduct energy audits that helped farmers, ranchers, and small business owners across the Navajo Nation make their operations more energy efficient and economical. Read more »
A youngster enjoying how maple syrup is made. NRCS photograph.
In New England – or anywhere for that matter – nothing says the weekend like a short stack fresh off the griddle, covered by its inimitable mate, maple syrup. Whether the color is dark amber or golden light, the flavor is unmistakable. But as we pick up our forks and dig in, how many of us really think about where it comes from or how it’s made?
Did you know the most common tree used is the sugar maple? It grows mostly in the Northeast and Canada.
Production of maple syrup continues to climb, and according to data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Connecticut saw an increase in maple sugar production with a record 78,000 taps in 2013. Read more »