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rural business enterprise grant

UPDATE: A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

To update you on a story featured previously, I was honored to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe’s Mt. Pleasant Native Farmers Market. We broke ground on this project in June, and it is great to see the pavilion completed in time to share this summer’s produce. 

Tribal Chief Steve Pego sang a ceremonial song and a traditional offering of medicine was made to commemorate the occasion.  He noted that the response had been overwhelming and hoped it would lead to revival of interest in growing traditional crops and also improve the diet of tribal members, moving them away from processed food to fresh, locally-grown produce.

A Farmers Market Soars in Michigan

The Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Nation sits in rural Central Michigan about 90 minutes northwest of Flint. One of the newest business enterprises to open on Reservation is the Native Farmers Market.  I was there for the groundbreaking with Tribal Chief Steve Pego, and other tribal members to represent USDA’s investment in this exciting project. USDA Rural Development provided a $200,000 Rural Business Enterprise Grant to build the farmers market pavilion and supporting parking lot.

As we took shovel to ground, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Steve Pego recalled how the typical local diet consisted largely of home-grown foods and game from hunting when he was a kid. He lamented how packaged foods and other items have since taken their place. His vision is that the Native Farmers Market will reconnect tribal members with their traditional foods and increase access to healthy food options for the community.

A Kansas Community Dedicated to Providing Access to Locally Grown Food

Lawrence, Kansas has been building a local/regional foods movement since the early 1970’s.  In other words – they made local foods “cool” long before the local food movement and Farmer’s Markets gained in popularity across the nation.

The movement started with the creation of a retail food cooperative called the “The Merc” in 1974. The cooperative started with four individuals and currently includes more than 6,800.  The Lawrence farmers market has grown from a single Saturday morning market to four markets each week supported by regional producers that grow everything from asparagus to zucchini – from “A” to “Z” in the fruit and vegetable alphabet.

USDA Uses Grant Funds to Expand Businesses and Create Jobs in South Dakota

Last fall, South Dakota USDA Rural Development highlighted a valuable partner; GROW South Dakota, formerly known as the Northeast South Dakota Economic Corporation, for its 18 year partnership in community lending.  While giving back to the communities they serve, GROW South Dakota has also contributed to the region as a whole through its fiscal administrative support of regional planning and development through a Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG)  and a  Rural Business Opportunity Grant (RBOG).

Said South Dakota State Director Elsie Meeks, “The total impact that GROW has had is not just measured in loans made or jobs created; they have assisted in the stabilization and creation of thriving, vibrant communities in rural South Dakota.”  USDA funds have been used to develop and provide web-based technical assistance for the region’s partnering organizations and for a regional website that provides a central link to local organizations and expertise for the current technology and available social media.

USDA Funds Help Solidify Nebraska Businesses Needs

Nebraska Northwest Development Corporation (NNDC) is located in Chadron, Nebraska and serves the three northwest Nebraska counties of Dawes, Sheridan and Sioux.  NNDC approached USDA Rural Development in need of additional revolving loan funds as the previous Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG) was unable to keep up with the need for loan funds in this area of the state.

Building on previous discussions between Rural Development and NNDC, it was clear the amount of funds needed to significantly impact local entrepreneurs would best be served through an Intermediary Relending Program (IRP) loan.  An IRP application request in the amount of $250,000 was submitted to USDA and, following a national competition, was selected for funding.

Agriculture and Rural Main Streets on the Agenda for Smart Growth

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.

USDA Rural Development Tells Nebraska Stakeholders about Revolving Loan Opportunities

USDA Rural Development and partners held a revolving loan fund stakeholder roundtable in Lincoln, Nebraska via videoconferencing at the Nebraska sites of Kearney, Chadron, Norfolk and Scottsbluff.  Thirty-six stakeholders attended, learning about the various revolving loan fund programs that USDA Rural Development offers.

Partners who contributed to the roundtable included Executive Director Jen Wolf of Dawson Area Development, Business Loan Officer Craig Eberle of Southeast Nebraska Development District and Business Loan Specialists Jeff Christensen and Holly Quinn of Northeast Nebraska Economic Development District.

Entrepreneurship Helps to Engage the Youth of Nebraska through the Building of a Straw Bale Business Incubator/Grocery Store

In Nebraska, keeping small rural communities alive and vital is a hard road.  Part of the puzzle is keeping the rural youth local and involved.  Who would think straw built construction could create the buy in needed to interest the youth?

The Village of Cody, home to 150 residents, is mostly farmers and ranchers.  Residents know that entrepreneurship is important in creating more businesses and gain jobs but how do you inspire the youth towards this concept?

With Some Help from USDA, a Small Oregon Town Brings Shoppers Back to Main Street

Like so many small towns these past few decades, downtown Cottage Grove, Oregon has seen its vitality as the community’s economic and social center fade as retail, building occupancy and overall traffic on Main Street have declined. The historic city center was laid out and constructed as the community’s small, but bustling hub near the turn of the last century. Over the years, changes in lifestyle, business models, traffic patterns, and overall growth diverted activity away. In addition, the small town of under 10,000 is conveniently located on an interstate just 20 miles from a major population center. As such, Cottage Gove today is home to many who prefer a quiet, small-town residential environment, but who work, shop and do business in the nearby Eugene-Springfield metropolitan area.

Leveraging USDA Resources Has Positive Impact On Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate’s Economy

I was honored to attend the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Annual Homebuyers Fair on June 20, 2012 in Sisseton, South Dakota.  Although the previous evening and early morning rain saturated the ground, it didn’t stop the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate from having a successful event. June is homeownership month, and  USDA Rural Development was on-site at the fair to remind rural residents of the opportunities to purchase, repair and refinance homes in rural areas.