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Posts tagged: VAPG

Keeping it Close to Home: How USDA and Small Business Saturday Help Rural Businesses Thrive

Business Program Specialist Deborah Rausch, Ohio Rural Development State Director Tony Logan, Toia Rivera-Strohm and Brad Strohm show off local textiles from the VonStrohm Woolen Mill & Fiber Arts Studio in Pickaway County. The small business was awarded VAPGs in 2010 and 2012. (USDA photo)

Business Program Specialist Deborah Rausch, Ohio Rural Development State Director Tony Logan, Toia Rivera-Strohm and Brad Strohm show off local textiles from the VonStrohm Woolen Mill & Fiber Arts Studio in Pickaway County. The small business was awarded VAPGs in 2010 and 2012. (USDA photo)

By now, we’re all familiar with the uniquely American shopping frenzy known as “Black Friday.” Almost before the Thanksgiving leftovers are even in the fridge, Big Box stores throw open their doors, offering sales geared toward holiday shoppers wrangling for the best deals. Black Friday has become as much of a November tradition as pumpkin pie, but for the past few years, small businesses around the country have been offering an enticing alternative to the long lines and early wake-up calls that come with the craze. USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service (RBCS) is pleased to join the White House, the Small Business Administration and 1,400 American communities in celebrating Small Business Saturday on November 30.

Small Business Saturday is all about buying local and shopping small. Shopping small for both holiday gifts and everyday items not only can save you money, it also offers you access to one-of-a-kind, locally-made products as an alternative to “cookie-cutter” gifts. Small Business Saturday is designed to support the businesses that drive commerce in small communities; businesses that account for 44 percent of the private sector payroll and create two out of every three new jobs in America. Read more »

Made in Rural America: Value-added Agriculture Takes Oregon Wool from Ranch to Runway and, Now, to the Olympics

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

Dan and Jeanne Carver, owners of Imperial Stock Ranch, have implemented a number of value-added strategies in order to keep the history and culture of Western ranching alive and thriving. Photo used with permission from Imperial Yarn.

I am thrilled to share with you some very good news from Oregon’s high desert. Ralph Lauren, the iconic American brand and U.S. Olympic team sponsor, recently announced they will be using wool produced by one of our Value Added Producer Grant Program (VAPG) participants, Imperial Stock Ranch, to make sweaters for Team USA to wear at the 2014 Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

The news would be big for any small rural business. For one working tirelessly to find new ways to profitably preserve Central Oregon’s nearly extinct–yet very American–tradition of raising sheep for fiber, this is especially gratifying.

Imperial Yarn is the value-added business offshoot of Jeanne and Dan Carver’s family owned and operated Imperial Stock Ranch, which produces sheep, cattle, grains, hay and grasses on more than 30,000 acres of stunning Central Oregon rangeland. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: Celebrating America’s Farmers Markets

Over the first week of August, local markets across the country celebrated National Farmers Market Week.

Farmers markets are an important part of America’s diverse agriculture sector, providing unique benefits to communities across our nation. They give Americans a chance to learn about agriculture by meeting some of the people who grow and raise our food. They provide valuable marketing opportunities for small and beginning farmers – many of whom scale up to larger regional markets and other institutions.  And they help expand access to locally-grown foods that are in greater demand than ever before. Read more »

USDA Grant Recipient Featured as “America’s Best Ice Cream” on ABC’s Good Morning America

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

Twins Katrina and Will Edwards, both age 5, and their father Tim dig into ice cream at the Kelley's Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The creamery started operations with assistance from two USDA Value Added Producer grants. USDA photo.

What is your favorite thing about summer? Is it the longer days, trips to the lake, outings to a local amusement park, or family trips to get ice cream?

For my family, one of our favorite things is taking a family outing to a local farm and creamery, Kelley’s, for some homemade ice cream and making it a point to try a different flavor each time.

The national early morning show, Good Morning America (GMA) wanted to know what America’s favorite thing about summer is, so they asked viewers and the overwhelming response was – getting ice cream with family and friends.

Since July is National Ice Cream Month, GMA decided to find and showcase America’s Best Ice Cream. Read more »

Secretary’s Column: A Food Farm and Jobs Bill to Grow Local and Regional Markets

This week, the U.S. Senate acted in bipartisan spirit to approve the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act – a balanced, comprehensive bill that will drive continued growth in rural America.  The House of Representatives now has another important opportunity to stand with rural America and pass their version of a bill.

People often call this the Farm Bill – but it’s much more than that. This is a conservation bill. It’s a trade promotion bill. It’s an innovation bill. It’s a jobs bill.

And it’s a bill that will help continue a tremendous increase in markets for locally-grown foods. This includes creating more farmers markets, building additional regional food hubs and strengthening farm-to-institution programs. Read more »

Colorado StrikeForce Meeting Draws a Crowd

May 2nd dawned a majestic spring day in the Rocky Mountains of southwestern Colorado as rural and tribal stakeholders from the Four Corners region descended upon the San Juan National Forest Headquarters to learn more about USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity Initiative. Participants traveled from New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and the east coast to discuss strategies to help USDA deliver its programs more successfully in persistently poor rural areas. Read more »