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Kentucky

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.

Seizing the TechHire Opportunity in Rural America

Cross-posted from the WhiteHouse.gov blog:

There’s an exciting trend underway across the country. More and more, major companies are leaving offshore hubs and turning to rural communities in America for high-quality IT talent. In addition to a narrowing wage gap and higher quality of work in these rural areas, the employee attrition rate in rural areas of the U.S. is less than half the rate typically seen in offshore locations.

The Obama Administration has supported the growth of IT jobs in rural America with unprecedented investments in rural broadband and other key infrastructure, and through innovative efforts like the White House TechHire Initiative, a multi-sector initiative and call to action to rapidly train Americans with the skills they need for well-paying, open tech jobs.

Rural Means Business: Bringing Tech Jobs to rural America

A group of coders in hooded sweatshirts and big headphones stare intently at their computer screens.

In the corner, staff take a break at the foosball table, while a young woman in an oversized beanbag chair types away on her laptop.

You might be picturing the headquarters of a Silicon Valley startup, but the scene described above is over 2,000 miles away from San Francisco—in Jonesboro, Arkansas.

Kentucky "Landowner of the Year" Makes Conservation a Way of Life

When Burchel Blevins drives visitors around his rural Kentucky farm, he points out the numerous conservation practices he has implemented to protect and preserve his land. Blevins owns more than 650 forested acres and 70 acres of open forest and grass land in different parts of Knox County, and he’s worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) for about 15 years.

“You learn a lot working with them,” said Blevins, referring to NRCS staff.

Using NRCS programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program, Wetland Reserve Easement (WRE) and the former Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program (now part of EQIP), Blevins has made many conservation improvements to his land.

Fighting Crime with Fiber Optics

Near Stearns, Kentucky, a state trooper monitored traffic, watching for a car described in a just-issued bulletin. A car passed. No match.

Stearns is situated on the Upper Cumberland Plateau, McCreary County which is home to just 18,000 people.

Another car flashed by.

Designated Promise Zones Keep Rural America Strong

As a law student, I spent a summer working and living with the Sokoagon Band of the Chippewa, a Native American tribe located in rural Northern Wisconsin.  Tribal leaders and members extended to me their kindness, friendship, passion and laughter.  They are some of our country’s finest.

But, make no mistake, the Sokoagon face challenges shared by many persistently poor rural communities across our country.

That summer, I saw with new eyes the importance of dependable and consistent employment, housing, health care systems and education.  That summer I also saw that for many rural Americans these things, taken for granted by many, are luxuries.

Simple Measures Pave Way to Recovery for Rare Kentucky Plant

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.

A hike through Kentucky’s Red River Gorge is a trip that outdoor enthusiasts never forget. The adventure begins amid rugged terrain with towering sandstone cliffs that contour steep, forested slopes. Visitors discover hundreds of natural stone arches and other unique rock features that create some of the most splendid geological formations east of the Rocky Mountains. Within the beauty and solitude of the gorge resides a rare plant found nowhere else in the world.

The white-haired goldenrod occurs predominantly in the Daniel Boone National Forest, typically found growing along the base of cliffs or on ledges. In areas where the ground is undisturbed, this plant thrives in moist, sandy soil underneath rock shelters. During the fall, the plant blooms with bright yellow flowers along its upper stem. Alternating white-haired leaves line the stem from its base.

Change Beyond the Plate

The following guest blog from a school and community nutrition services director in Louisville, Kentucky highlights how non-profit School Food FOCUS relies on USDA’s Process Verified Program (PVP) to help increase transparency and choice for school food purchases.  USDA’s objective, third-party auditing services focus on increasing transparency from farm to market by offering verification based on clearly defined, implemented, and transparent process points.

By Julia Bauscher, Director of School and Community Nutrition Services, Jefferson County Public Schools, Louisville, Kentucky

The first time School Food FOCUS brought together a group of school food directors like myself to talk about how we could improve the quality of chicken—the number one protein we serve to students—I was thrilled and a little daunted.

Schools across the country spend nearly $1 billion on chicken every year. That’s a lot of buying power. School Food FOCUS challenged us to think about the changes we can make to our food system if districts leveraged this buying power to create a demand for chicken that is better on the plate and for the environment.

A Commitment We Must Keep

When Ivory Smith of Poplarville, Mississippi separated from the Army after ten years of service – including tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – he attended a USDA-sponsored workshop held through our partner, the National Center for Appropriate Technology. At this 'Armed to Farm' workshop for returning Veterans, he learned about small-scale sustainable agricultural practices, and from there developed his microgreens company, SmithPonics, that now supplies fresh salad microgreens to restaurants in his area.

Many of our Veterans, old and young alike, are dealing with the physical and mental scars of combat. USDA Rural Development has been able to provide real support to those Veterans who need care when they return from service – Veterans like Leon Kauzlarich from rural Appanoose County, Iowa. Leon got help to repair his home, and make it accessible to help with his mobility issues.

University of Kentucky Collaboration Empowers Louisville's Homeless Youth

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that every year more than 1.7 million teens experience homelessness in the United States.  According to the Coalition for the Homeless, Louisville, Kentucky, had 555 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 stay in homeless shelters over the past year. When those young adults were surveyed about who they turned to for help in reaching their goals or fulfilling their basic needs, an alarming number replied:

“No one.”

Researchers from the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment (UKag) are helping this underserved population with the help of a five-year, $660,000 Children, Youth, and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Sustainable Community Projects grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).