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Maine

Local Foods in Schools Bring Rural Communities Together

From the west coast to New England, rural communities across the country are implementing community food systems’ strategies. The projects are bringing more local food into school meals, promoting healthy eating habits and expanding markets for American farmers and producers.

The USDA Farm to School Grant Program is proud to support these efforts. Over the past four years, approximately four out of ten schools impacted by the program are in rural communities. We look forward to supporting similar projects in the future and are currently accepting applications for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 funding. Visit our grant opportunities page for more information.

To celebrate the release of the FY 2017 RFA, we are highlighting two projects that are having a big impact in their communities.

Celebrating American Agriculture: All USDA Foods are Local to Someone

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

Fish and fowl, sowing and reaping, nutrition and agriculture… certain words and concepts naturally go hand in hand, and March is a month to celebrate both the foundation and purpose of the American food system. With March designated as National Nutrition Month and March 15 as National Agriculture Day, the time is ripe to reflect on healthy eating goals and to express gratitude for the farmers, fishers, and ranchers who provide the foods to fuel our nation.

USDA’s Food Distribution Programs work at the intersection of nutrition and agriculture. Each year, USDA purchases more than 2 billion pounds of food worth nearly $2 billion from American farmers and distributes the food to schools, food banks, Indian Tribal Organizations, disaster feeding organizations, and other charitable institutions and feeding organizations. The programs benefit both ends of the food chain by supporting local agriculture and the economy while also providing a nutrition safety net for vulnerable Americans.

A Proactive Approach to Investing in Employee Security

Employee safety and security have always been at the top of my list of responsibilities as State Director of USDA Rural Development in Maine.  Our 58 employees in Maine work directly with the public to deliver essential programs that impact individuals, businesses, lenders, and communities; my staff’s personal security is something that the USDA and I take very seriously.

This past November, our staff welcomed Federal Protective Service Inspector Talis Jordans from the Department of Homeland Security to provide training in Bangor and Lewiston, Maine.  Talis is an Active Firearms Instructor, a National Weapons Detection Training Program Inspector, and a Field Training Evaluation Program Instructor.

Farmer, Conservationists Partner to Build a Bridge for Salmon in Southern Maine

A just-completed project that restored a fish passage in southern Maine may have another benefit – preventing an environmental disaster on important salmon-spawning streams.

A new bridge that now crosses the Swan Pond Creek at the Al Dube Quarterhorse Farm in York County was the culmination of a year-long quest by the Saco River Salmon Club and Hatchery and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to rehabilitate a section of the creek for fish passage and rearing of juvenile salmon.

Private Lands Conservation Helps Put New England Cottontail on Road to Recovery

Wildlife and working lands go hand in hand. Today, thanks to the hard work of private landowners and land managers, the New England cottontail will not need protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Widespread habitat loss since the 1960s impacted New England cottontail numbers. But people like Rick Ambrose have restored habitat on private lands, putting the cottontail on the road to recovery. I had a chance to visit Rick’s place today in New Hampshire, seeing how he worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to voluntarily restore the young shrubby forests the rabbit needs.

Connecticut's Efforts to Protect a True New England Native is No Illusion!

Pull a rabbit out of a hat. If only it were that simple!

For thousands of years, New England has been home to its own unique rabbit – the New England cottontail. The at-risk bunny once lived in a territory that extended from southeastern New York and northward into Vermont and southern Maine. Over the past decades, the cottontail’s territory has gotten significantly smaller, losing about 86 percent of its range since the 1960s.

On the Map: The Land, Water and Conservation Fund

There is a Federal program that you may not have heard of, but it is responsible for conserving millions of acres of recreational and conservation lands for Americans to enjoy, and it helps fund local parks, provide access to rivers and trails, and preserve wildlife habitat in every state in the Union.  This program is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and each year, the Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture request funding from Congress to support grants to states and high priority federal recreational and conservation investments. Locating and learning about these special places is now easier than ever through a new interactive map. The map enables everyone to explore the 173 public projects proposed for investment in 43 states, including important waterfowl nesting habitat in the Prairie Potholes, battlefields and historic sites from Pennsylvania to Washington, scenic vistas in iconic locations like Maine’s Acadia National Park, and recreation sites in national monuments in California and Arizona.

Land and Water Conservation funds secure access for the American public to their Federal lands.  For 50 years, the law has been one of the most successful programs for recreation and conservation in our history. LWCF has provided funding to local communities that supported the construction of more than 40,000 city parks, hiking and biking trails, and boat ramps, and access to thousands of acres of fishing and hunting and  important wildlife habitat.

Northeast Regional Climate Hub Vulnerability Assessment Published

The Northeast Regional Climate Hub covers Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The Northern Forests Climate Sub Hub shares this footprint and represents people working and living in the forests of the Northeast.

About 21 percent of land in these 12 states is farmland (6 percent of national total), and 62 percent is classified as timberland (total land area covered by trees is somewhat larger). The northeastern United States is home to about 175,000 farms that collectively produce agricultural commodities worth more than $21 billion per year. The most important commodities in the Northeast are dairy production and poultry, and about half of the field crops (including pasture) grown in the Northeast are for animal feed. Horticulture is a relatively large portion of total plant production in the Northeast, as are perennial fruits such as apples, pears, blueberries, and cranberries. Farms in the Northeast are on average smaller than in many other parts of the country, and a greater percentage of these are operated by women than in the rest of the United States. Organic production is relatively greater than in most other regions.

Farmers Help Fight Food Waste by Donating Wholesome Food

Sometimes Mother Nature and hard work come together to produce a bountiful harvest on the farm.  But what if the grocery store, distributor, or processor that the farmer sells to can’t handle any excess?  Or, what if a percentage of the crop turns out too big, too small, or oddly shaped and no one will buy it?  Organizations across the country are working with farmers to get this wholesome produce to people who need it.

Many farms may want to donate directly to a food bank, but are discouraged because they currently can’t claim a tax deduction for the donations. To help farms offset the costs of the labor required to harvest the crop and the packaging to transport it, many food banks and food recovery groups are able to assist the farmer with the “pick and pack out” (PPO) cost.  The PPO cost can be very beneficial to a farmer.  Chris Pawelski, a fourth generation onion farmer at Pawelski farms in Goshen, New York, donates his nutritious-but-undersized onions to City Harvest.  City Harvest is a food rescue organization in New York City that has been connecting good, surplus food with hungry New Yorkers since 1982.  The PPO cost that is paid to Pawelski by City Harvest in some years was the determining factor in keeping his farm from losing money.

A Bunny's Tale: Protecting New England Cottontail Habitat on Cape Cod

Cape Cod’s beautiful seashore, inlets, salt marshes and woodlands are a natural draw for year-round and vacation home owners, and tourists. A boon for the local economy, the associated development is not so good for an elusive little creature: the New England cottontail rabbit. Habitat loss has New England’s only native rabbit as a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.

Private landowners, conservation groups, a tribe and government agencies have joined forces to restore New England Cottontail habitat throughout New England. In Mashpee, Mass., on Cape Cod, habitat restoration work at three sites is yielding results.