On August 5, USDA Rural Development State Director Patty Clark visited the Lawrence Farmers Market in recognition of National Farmers Market Week.
Lawrence, Kansas has been building a local/regional foods movement since the early 1970’s. In other words – they made local foods “cool” long before the local food movement and Farmer’s Markets gained in popularity across the nation.
The movement started with the creation of a retail food cooperative called the “The Merc” in 1974. The cooperative started with four individuals and currently includes more than 6,800. The Lawrence farmers market has grown from a single Saturday morning market to four markets each week supported by regional producers that grow everything from asparagus to zucchini – from “A” to “Z” in the fruit and vegetable alphabet. Read more »
Last fall, South Dakota USDA Rural Development highlighted a valuable partner; GROW South Dakota, formerly known as the Northeast South Dakota Economic Corporation, for its 18 year partnership in community lending. While giving back to the communities they serve, GROW South Dakota has also contributed to the region as a whole through its fiscal administrative support of regional planning and development through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) and a Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG).
Said South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks, “The total impact that GROW has had is not just measured in loans made or jobs created; they have assisted in the stabilization and creation of thriving, vibrant communities in rural South Dakota.” USDA funds have been used to develop and provide web-based technical assistance for the region’s partnering organizations and for a regional website that provides a central link to local organizations and expertise for the current technology and available social media. Read more »
Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation (NNDC) is located in Chadron, Nebraska and serves the three northwest Nebraska counties of Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux. NNDC approached USDA Rural Development in need of additional revolving loan funds as the previous Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) was unable to keep up with the need for loan funds in this area of the state.
Building on previous discussions between Rural Development and NNDC, it was clear the amount of funds needed to significantly impact local entrepreneurs would best be served through an Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) loan. An IRP application request in the amount of $250,000 was submitted to USDA and, following a national competition, was selected for funding. Read more »
Agriculture and food system development were featured agenda topics at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, an annual conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and several other public and private organizations.
I went to the Smart Growth conference on behalf of USDA Rural Development to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to investing in the future of rural communities. Smart Growth principles can offer innovative strategies for using scarce federal dollars efficiently to promote sustainable and sound investments on main streets everywhere, and are valuable in helping rural communities consider how to creatively use existing resources and infrastructure to serve and celebrate their unique identities. Read more »
USDA Rural Development and partners held a revolving loan fund stakeholder roundtable in Lincoln, Nebraska via videoconferencing at the Nebraska sites of Kearney, Chadron, Norfolk and Scottsbluff. Thirty-six stakeholders attended, learning about the various revolving loan fund programs that USDA Rural Development offers.
Partners who contributed to the roundtable included Executive Director Jen Wolf of Dawson Area Development, Business Loan Officer Craig Eberle of Southeast Nebraska Development District and Business Loan Specialists Jeff Christensen and Holly Quinn of Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District. Read more »
Students of the Cody-Kilgore schools and area residents are working to complete a straw-bale building, an environmentally-friendly design that uses straw as insulation. Start-up funding was provided through USDA Rural Development and matched with cash, material and sweat equity contributions. Photos courtesy of the Village of Cody.
In Nebraska, keeping small rural communities alive and vital is a hard road. Part of the puzzle is keeping the rural youth local and involved. Who would think straw built construction could create the buy in needed to interest the youth?
The Village of Cody, home to 150 residents, is mostly farmers and ranchers. Residents know that entrepreneurship is important in creating more businesses and gain jobs but how do you inspire the youth towards this concept? Read more »