West Virginia State Director Bobby Lewis and others visited Tucker County High School near Hambleton West Virginia as part of ARC’s tour through Appalachia. The group met with local educators and students to discuss the farm to school program; school, community and industry relationships; local farmers markets and greenhouse and high tunnel operation. While there, the group toured a high tunnel currently under construction. Photo Credit: Savanna Lyons of the WV Food & Farm Coalition
West Virginia and Appalachian Ohio have a lot in common beyond their shared state border. With a strong agricultural heritage, these vast rural areas are known for their forest and timber industries, and they are integrating food systems into local economic development.
Earlier this month, I joined Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Co-Chair Earl Gohl and Ohio’s State Rural Development Director Tony Logan to take a look at local food in the Buckeye state. My colleague, Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Joani Walsh, recently made a similar trip to West Virginia. Organized by ARC, the visits were an opportunity to discuss how local food is diversifying the economy, developing a more competitive workforce and generating opportunities within regions like Appalachia. “Through our work on the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative, we know that there are lots of ways that local foods are providing economic opportunities in rural communities,” said Walsh. “These visits with ARC gave us a clearer picture of how that is happening in Appalachia.” Read more »
Earlier this week, USDA Rural Development Deputy Under Secretary Doug O’Brien met with local and regional officials in Mississippi to discuss ways USDA can help businesses create jobs and stimulate local economies. Mississippi was one of the first states in the nation to be designated a StrikeForce state by USDA and last Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its “StrikeForce” initiative in ten additional states.
The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas. Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation. Read more »
South Dakota has been awarded two regional training opportunities through the Stronger Economies Together (SET) initiative. USDA Rural Development (USDA RD), the nation’s four Regional Rural Development Centers and South Dakota State University Extension are collaborating for this initiative.
“While USDA RD staff directly impact communities with housing services and integral community infrastructure, the SET process is going to be one more way for communities to strive for economic vitality, improved quality of life, and sustainability,” said USDA RD South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks, “In the end, everyone works together so that rural communities can address a broad range of other needs such as regional based planning and leadership development.” Read more »