A Petersburg (West Virginia) Elementary School student proudly displays his first garlic mustard haul. Volunteers are key to the removal of invasive species, such as the garlic mustard. (U.S. Forest Service)
Spring is often associated with ramps, rain, flowers and frogs, but on the Monongahela National Forest, the season of rebirth is focused on protecting our woods from garlic mustard.
Garlic mustard is a non-native invasive plant first brought to America by European settlers in the 1800s. They enjoyed eating it because of its zesty garlic-like flavor. They just had no idea that this plant would become one of the biggest threats to the diversity of plants and animals found in our eastern forests.
In an effort to fight the spread of this invasive species, the Monongahela, along with several partners, hosts an annual Garlic Mustard Challenge to increase public awareness about the threat of non-native invasive species and to achieve boots-on-the-ground results. Last year, elementary school students in Grant County, West Virginia, removed more than 13,000 pounds of garlic mustard from the Monongahela. Read more »
Farming has always been a backbone of West Virginia. Check back next Thursday for another spotlight from the 2012 Census of Agriculture and the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
The Census of Agriculture is the most complete account of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them. Every Thursday USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service will highlight new Census data and the power of the information to shape the future of American agriculture.
West Virginia’s climate and topography earned our state the Mountain State nickname. Our rugged mountains also ensure our agricultural community remains extremely diverse. Since West Virginia was admitted to the Union on June 20, 1863, farms have been the backbone of the state. According to the first agricultural census, conducted in West Virginia in 1870, there were 39,778 farms with 8,528,394 acres in production, with an average farm size of 214 acres. In the 2012 Census of Agriculture there were 21,480 farms in West Virginia with 3,606,674 acres in production, with an average farm size of 209 acres.
Unlike in many other states, West Virginia’s small farms (those farms selling less than $250,000 in agricultural products) account for nearly 29 percent of total farm sales in 2012, contrasting the US average of 11.1 percent. An even more telling statistic is that nearly half of sales of agricultural products were from farms selling less than $1,000,000, compared to the U.S. average of 33.6 percent. West Virginia has one of the highest ratios of small farms to total number of farms based on the 2012 Census of Agriculture. Read more »
Lissa Biehn (left) with FSA and Ramona Mitchell, Rural Development, discuss USDA’s dedication to civil rights in employment and program delivery at the Northwest Pride Festival in Portland, OR, on June 14.
June marks the 2014 celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. USDA is taking this opportunity to recognize the immeasurable positive contributions made by the LGBT community — including our coworkers, partners and clients — to help rural America innovate and thrive, protect our natural resources and promote sustainable agricultural production to help feed the world. In addition, we are demonstrating our commitment to treating our LGBT customers and coworkers fairly and respectfully through educational events, outreach efforts and listening sessions across the country.
June is also National Homeownership Month, and the theme is “Own Your Future. Own Your Home.” With concurrent Pride and Homeownership Month observances, it’s a great time to raise awareness among LGBT communities about USDA home mortgage and home repair programs that can help rural residents own their future. Read more »
After our terrific meeting with city officials in Ranson and Charles Town, I had the opportunity to visit with local FFA students at Hampshire High School in Romney, WV. Rural America truly is a place where cutting edge innovation meets old-fashioned fun on the farm!
I’d been told the neighboring towns of Ranson and Charles Town, West Virginia, are vibrant communities where people want to live, work and raise a family. During a recent visit with local leaders and USDA’s community economic development partners in the area, I saw first-hand how regional approaches and partnerships are attracting public and private investment to the region that make this quality of life possible.
Along with WV Rural Development State Director Bobby Lewis, I recently convened a discussion with the mayors and city planners of the two towns to learn more about their successes and strategies. I learned that Charles Town and Ranson are thinking big, re-imagining their future, and developing a blueprint for their long-term economic viability. You see, by working together to develop comprehensive objectives and plans, the communities have been able to leverage grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency to develop new businesses, transportation links, and affordable housing. And in 2011, USDA contributed an important piece, providing funding through a Community Facilities Direct Loan for a much needed ambulance shelter. Read more »
When President Obama signed the Food Farm and Jobs Act on February 7th he directed his Administration, working through the White House Rural Council, to lead a new “Made in Rural America” export and investment initiative. Specifically, the President has instructed his Rural Council – in coordination with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, the Export-Import Bank, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, and other agencies – to commit to connecting more rural businesses of all types to export information and assistance.
One example of what USDA will do in support of the Made In Rural America export and investment initiative is host training sessions to equip local USDA Rural Development staff in all 50 states plus territories with the tools they need to counsel businesses on export opportunities and resources. The Department of Commerce, through the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee, will cross-train USDA Rural Development staff so they can better deliver support or refer rural businesses to federal services.
The blog below, cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog, highlights the impact that the Made In Rural America Initiative will have with our partners at the Appalachian Regional Commission. Read more »
Rural America faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to combating poverty in our towns and communities. Too often, rural people and places are hard to reach or otherwise underserved—but not forgotten.
I believe that USDA and its partners have the tools and the wherewithal to expand opportunity and better serve those living in poverty, but it is imperative that these resources reach the areas where they are needed most.
That is why USDA has undertaken a broad commitment to rally available tools and technical assistance through our StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity initiative. Read more »