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Alabama

Gulf of Mexico Communities Depend on a Healthy Gulf

The Gulf Coast ecosystem is vital to our nation and our economy, providing valuable energy resources, abundant seafood, extraordinary recreational activities and a rich cultural heritage.  This ecosystem was significantly injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—and has also suffered from harm caused by hurricanes, subsidence and other human actions and naturally-occurring events.

With the historic settlement of the litigation with BP, there will be up to $16 billion available for ecosystem restoration in watersheds across Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas through the RESTORE Act, the Natural Resource Damages Assessment process and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

State Agencies are Bringing the Farm to School!

From organizing statewide conferences, to training farmers and child nutrition professionals, to developing farm to school curricula and resources, state agencies are playing a big role in bringing the farm to school. This fact sheet describes effective strategies state agencies are using to help community food systems take root. Here’s a sampling of three ways state agencies are making an impact.

RCPP Benefits Longleaf Ecosystem in Alabama

It takes time, patience and a committed partnership, but seeing thriving forests of longleaf pine trees return to Alabama’s Gulf Coast is well-worth the wait.

Longleaf pine forests once dominated the American Southeast, stretching across 90 million acres. A stronghold of the region’s environment and economy, longleaf was an essential building material used during the American Industrial Revolution. Today, only four percent of the original forests remain standing.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) in Alabama is working with groups to revive this strong and resilient wood, while also providing environmental benefits for the Gulf Coastal Plain’s wildlife and water.

New SNAP Pilot Provides Grocery Delivery for Homebound Disabled, Elderly

Cross-posted from the Disability.gov blog:

Your neighborhood grocer may be conveniently located just a few short blocks away. But for many persons with disabilities and the elderly participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the store might as well be on the other side of the world.

It’s a difficult problem that USDA’s new homebound food delivery pilot aims to alleviate, not just for the more than 4 million nonelderly adults with disabilities participating in SNAP, but also for the nearly 5 million seniors, who often face similar challenges and who may face disabilities, as well.

Digital Connection Helps Kodiak Students

Cross-posted from the Alaska Dispatch News:

For students heading back to school this month in Kodiak, it's anything but "class as usual." Because at Kodiak Island Borough School District, 400 miles from Anchorage and accessible only by airplane and ferry, ConnectED investments in high-speed internet and new technology have transformed the student experience — with remarkable results.

Walking through Kodiak High School offers a glimpse at the transformative role education technology is playing in rural America. In one classroom, students use videoconferencing technology to connect with teachers and students from across the island — expanding their horizons through virtual field trips and never-before-available courses like music and civics. Math offerings, once limited to algebra, now include online and distance-learning courses all the way up through calculus. And before and after school, high-speed connectivity allows teachers to tap into interactive professional development and training to customize student learning based on individual needs.

RMA Engages Farmers at Annual Meeting of Southern Grassroots Cooperatives

Recently, I had the honor of representing USDA at the annual Federation of Southern Cooperatives and Land Assistance Fund (FSCLA) annual meeting in Epes, Ala. It gave me a chance to speak with a phenomenal group of hardworking farmers and ranchers, to hear their stories and share some of the improvements that USDA, under the Obama Administration, has put in place to help uproot inequality. Over the past eight years, we’ve taken steps to change the culture of USDA to ensure all Americans who come to us for help are treated fairly, with dignity and respect.

As I stepped to the podium and looked out at a crowd of faces that resembled mine, I thought back to my early childhood growing up on my parent’s farm.  I remembered the hardships they endured trying to sustain a life for me and my siblings, and I wished that I could have offered the same information and opportunities to them as I was about to provide to the room full of individuals at the meeting.

Pavilions, Food Hubs and Community Kitchens - Designing for Local Food Systems

Today, we celebrated National Farmers Market Week at Uptown Market in Greenwood, South Carolina, highlighting USDA support for the local food sector in South Carolina and across the country. Uptown Market Manager, Stephanie Turner, and Greenwood Mayor Welborn Adams joined us in thanking the farmers and vendors, and recognizing the great benefits their market has brought to the local community.  The Uptown Market is a special place for USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), with a special connection to my program and work we do.

In 2013, AMS Architect, Fidel Delgado, got involved in providing technical assistance for the design and development of the new Uptown Market pavilion.  We worked with city officials, businesses leaders and local farmers to understand the community needs for the farmers market. The planned site was originally a railroad station and inspired the design that mimics a train station to fit the historic character of the town.  From our visit today, it is clear this market is creating business opportunity and serving as a community resource.

Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by Supporting Local Producers

It’s a simple sign that has a pretty easy request, “Buy Fresh. Buy Local.”

It’s one that Gene Thornton hangs at his market stand each week at The Market at Ag Heritage Park on the Auburn University campus in Alabama. During market season, the sixth-generation farmer travels more than 40 miles from his small, organic farm in Roanoke to Auburn each week of market season. But he says the drive from Sneaky Crow Farm is worth it.

Mapping Appalachia's Local Food System: 900 Entrepreneurs At A Time

The following guest blog by Earl Gohl, Federal Co-Chair, Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) highlights some of the innovative work of one of USDA's frequent partners supporting locally-led economic and community development in the 13 state Appalachian region. ARC is a leader in place-based development strategies.

An analysis of the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture determined that direct market farm sales grew three times as fast in Appalachia as compared to the rest of the country and that Appalachian consumers spend more per capita on direct farms sales than the rest of the country.

Farmers are not the only entrepreneurs fueling Appalachia's growing local food economy. From Northern Mississippi to southern New York, a bounty of entrepreneurs, including bakers, brewers and butchers as well as chefs, retailers and farmers, are contributing to the Region's local food system.

USDA Helps Military Veterans Explore Agriculture as a Career

Before serving in my current role at USDA, I served eight years in the U.S. Army and the Iowa National Guard, including a 15-month mobilization and deployment as a combat engineer in Kandahar, Afghanistan. During my tour, I saw firsthand the tremendous scope of unique skills, experiences and perspectives held by those who serve in our armed forces.

Those exact same skills can be an excellent fit for farming and ranching, which is why USDA is increasing its efforts to introduce agriculture as a career possibility to the 1,300 new veterans and their families who return to civilian life each day.