Pam Hird, National Agricultural Statistics Service. Photo courtesy of FedTech Magazine
This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
Unlike the math and agricultural statisticians with whom I work daily, I took a completely different career path into the world of agricultural statistics. In college, I started out as an accounting major at Shepherd University, Shepherdstown, WV. Based on the recommendation of friends, I took some courses in computer programming and the love affair began when I was introduced to Fortran and Cobol. After college, I stuck to my IT knowledge and went into sales revolving around IT solutions for government contractors and customers including Dulles Airport, Martin Marietta, and Contel. These experiences taught me to think logically, to put myself in the other person’s shoes, and to communicate effectively. Read more »
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 »
At age 19, Austin Midkiff has already made plans to retire at a young age and farm the rest of his life.
Austin Midkiff thinks, breathes and lives farming. It’s all he has done since he was six years old.
By the time he was 14, he took over his grandparent’s 10-acre farm in Springdale, W.Va.
“When I turned 16 my grandparents sold everything to me in order to teach me how to get things on my own and start from scratch,” said Midkiff. “It’s hard starting off.” Read more »
For more than 45 years, people who lived in West Virginia’s Dunloup Creek Watershed have dealt with floods. That’s because there’s a scarcity of flat land in the area and residents have had to settle mostly along the creek—the very area that floods during storms.
Two major floods in 2001 and 2004 devastated five low-income communities spread out across two counties in the watershed. The floods destroyed houses, ate away at the stream bank, polluted drinking water and washed away utilities. Damages totaled millions of dollars.
Because of the mountainous terrain and far-flung population, traditional flood control measures like dams, channels, floodwalls, dredging and flood proofing were not feasible. Yet many residents were trapped into living in their damaged homes, unable to move out because of perilous financial circumstances. Read more »
Agriculture and food system development were featured agenda topics at the recent New Partners for Smart Growth Conference, an annual conference sponsored by the Local Government Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of Transportation, the Centers for Disease Control and several other public and private organizations.
I went to the Smart Growth conference on behalf of USDA Rural Development to demonstrate USDA’s commitment to investing in the future of rural communities. Smart Growth principles can offer innovative strategies for using scarce federal dollars efficiently to promote sustainable and sound investments on main streets everywhere, and are valuable in helping rural communities consider how to creatively use existing resources and infrastructure to serve and celebrate their unique identities. Read more »
Rural Development is the lead Federal agency that works to ensure that rural families have access to safe, well-built, affordable homes. In February 2012, the agency initiated a two-year, pilot refinancing program in 19 states hardest hit by the Nation’s housing downturn to help eligible USDA borrowers reduce their monthly housing costs.
Today, USDA announced that the program is expanding to include eligible rural residents in Puerto Rico, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Read more »