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Posts tagged: StrikeForce

Puerto Rico Works with USDA to Strengthen Local Food Systems

The Santurce Marketplace in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary wants to encourage more farmers markets like the Santurce Marketplace. This market is located in a twenty-minute bus ride away from Old San Juan. One of the oldest markets, it is known for its farmers who bring in fresh produce every day, which is the first choice of residents. Photo credit: cogito ergo Imago

The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is only 100 miles long by 35 miles wide. The small island is full of natural wonders, rich culture and bountiful agriculture. Yet few realize that much of the food eaten by residents and visitors alike comes from other places. Earlier this month, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Dr. Myrna Comas Pagan made a visit to the USDA. She came to explore ways that my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and other agencies in the department can help improve the island’s local food system.  

Although the value of Puerto Rico’s agricultural production has reached $919 million, a 14 percent increase over the last two years, there is a lack of a distribution system for local produce on the island. The local agriculture sector is growing, supporting 6,500 jobs, but more still needs to happen.   Puerto Rico imports food from 52 different countries which can leave the food system vulnerable. A recent event highlighted this point when a Puerto-Rico bound cargo ship was lost in a hurricane, costing the lives of the crew, but also resulting in the loss of 70 containers of food. Read more »

Gardens Bring Learning to Life in North Dakota Tribal Community

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota

The Cannon Ball Elementary School Garden on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

What we teach our children about food can shape how they eat, learn, grow and live. While I was on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, I saw firsthand how a community garden can bring learning to life.

Planting a garden near their school, elementary students in Cannon Ball created a hands-on, outdoor classroom where they are taught how to grow their own food, a skill that will last a lifetime. The garden not only promotes a healthy lifestyle, it improved the students’ behavior and performance at school and developed their appreciation for the environment. Read more »

Investing in the Basics – Quality Education at the Red Cloud Indian School

Students working with plants at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota

Students at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, South Dakota.

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska.

As State Director of USDA Rural Development in South Dakota, I want to ensure small South Dakotan communities have just as much opportunity to have successful business ventures, to build their community infrastructure, and to improve the quality of life in their hometowns as their urban counterparts. Yet, before anyone can come up with a business plan, design a new top-notch wastewater treatment facility, or plan a downtown revitalization project, one has to be taught the basics of how.

The roots of all opportunity within any community are in access to quality education. Read more »

Partners Make Access to Meals for Children Possible Year Round in Kentucky

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, preparing up to 1,800 sack lunches each day

KCEOC staff, Latisha Smith (left) and Daphne Karr, prepare up to 1,800 sack lunches each day for children in the mountains of rural southeast Kentucky.

Kids in bright summer play clothes come running with smiles and laughter as the white cargo van rolls to a stop near a playground and the rear doors swing open. No, it’s not the ice cream truck. It is something better – the lunch ladies from Kentucky Communities Economic Opportunity Council (KCEOC) Community Action Center delivering bagged lunches filled with fruit, sandwiches, juice and milk.

Volunteers and staff at KCEOC work hard to feed as many Eastern Kentucky kids as possible during the summer in three USDA StrikeForce counties: Knox, Whitley and Laurel. Read more »

Tackling Rural Child Poverty In Southwest Georgia

In late July, I was thrilled to visit with leaders from across southwest Georgia, including my hometown of Camilla, to discuss how USDA can support their work on the ground tackling issues relating to rural child poverty.

In Georgia, the poverty rate is 19 percent, and for children, it’s a staggering 27 percent. In Dougherty County, nearly one in three residents live in poverty.

This is why people like Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, Secretary of Interior Jewell, and I are hitting the road—to hear first-hand what’s working in rural America and how we, the federal government, can help. Read more »

Potato Grower Improves Operations From Soil to Store

Sheldon Rockey, co-owner of White Rock Specialties of Mosca, Colorado

Sheldon Rockey, co-owner of White Rock Specialties of Mosca, Colorado.

What do you get when you combine an abandoned rural high school, two Colorado farm families and potatoes? White Rock Specialties.

The innovative potato packing facility in Mosca, Colorado, is an economic driver for valley potato growers and employment in this small, unincorporated community in the San Luis Valley.

For generations, the Rockey and New families have been farming in the valley. Each family business had their own potato packing facilities, however, time and an increase in demand for their products proved the old equipment too inefficient. Discussions started between the families and it was decided a couple years ago to merge their packing businesses and White Rock Specialties was formed. Read more »