Last Wednesday, I participated in a regional forum of the White House Working Families Summit that was held at Virginia State University in Petersburg, Virginia. Coming from a small town in Southwest Georgia myself, I can relate to the unique challenges that rural Americans face. Growing up, my father worked seven days a week on our peanut and cattle farm with help from my mother. To make sure our family had a constant source of income and health insurance, my mother also worked off the farm at the local independent bank. I am fortunate to be the product of hard working parents who provided my sister and me with the best opportunities possible.
All families have a right to have access to a good education system, affordable healthcare and jobs. Our rural families are concerned about creating strong prospects for their children, whether it is on or off the farm. But it is also essential that there are opportunities that will attract young people back to rural areas and help us secure the future of agriculture. Read more »
The 8th Annual Governor’s Native American Summit was held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah’s Rural Development State Director Wilson “David” Conine wanted to share with attendees the importance a community development financial institution (CDFI) can play in tribal development. He turned to his counterpart, South Dakota Rural Development State Director Elsie M. Meeks who has over 20 years of experience working for Native community economic development.
Meeks recognized CDFI as an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people. They combine multiple sources of public and private capital in order to make loans and investments available in ways tailored to the particular underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers. Developing capacity among these types of organizations can increase utilization of USDA programs in a region, many of which provide long-term below-market capital for permanent improvements in rural areas. Read more »
While many manufacturing companies provide well-paying jobs and play a vital role in creating vibrant, healthy rural communities, sometimes rural communities may struggle to attract these companies. To help bridge this gap, the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) was created. This Administration-wide effort brings together federal departments and agencies to provide coordinated assistance to communities to become more attractive for manufacturers.
Recently, USDA hosted two IMCP events in Minnesota and California with diverse audiences of about 120 stakeholders representing manufacturing businesses, lenders, economic development organizations, universities and community colleges, small businesses development centers, and local leaders among others. At both meetings, USDA Rural Business-Cooperative Service Administrator Lillian Salerno led panels of federal partners that discussed the initiative and sought input on the needs of local manufacturers. 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 »
South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks presents funds to South Dakota State University Extension for an online Local Foods Center while attending the 2012 South Dakota Local Foods Conference. Pictured left to right, Dr. Rhoda Burrows and Chris Zdorovtsov, SDSU Extension; and State Director Meeks.
The second annual South Dakota Local Foods Conference was held recently to continue the dialogue on local foods among producers, consumers, farmer’s markets, retailers, schools and others. The conference provided attendees from across the state two days of breakout sessions, networking, and instruction.
USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie Meeks attended the conference, taking the opportunity to award South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension a Rural Business Opportunity Grant of $50,000. The Rural Development funds will be used to build capacity in South Dakota’s local food system through the establishment of an online Local Foods Center which will create structured connections between local growers and resource providers. Read more »
Crow Creek Fresh Food Initiative employee Wyatt Fleury at the Farmer’s Market with Kevin Yellow Bird Steele. With USDA support, a Farmers market is thriving in Ft. Thompson.
Hunkpati Investments, Inc., serving the Crow Creek Reservation in Fort Thompson, South Dakota offered the visiting South Dakota USDA Rural Development State Director, Elsie M. Meeks and others, a tour of their new facility and an opportunity to buy fresh local produce at their farmer’s market. Read more »