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rural development

Connecting Health, Faith and Agriculture: How One Community is Using Agriculture to Support Community Health

In the rural community of Conetoe, North Carolina, residents are taking aim at the lack of access to healthy and nutritious food and its youth are leading the charge. In the predominately African American town, more than 60 youth participants of Conetoe Family Life Center (CFLC) have a direct role in the health and welfare of their community.

Conetoe Family Life Center was established in 2007 by Reverend Richard Joyner, a 2010 CNN Hero, to address persistent poverty and lack of access to healthy foods for the predominantly African American rural town of Conetoe, North Carolina.  As a result of CFLC’s efforts, the community has seen a dramatic decrease in negative health determinants.

100 Strong: Rural Impact County Challenge Achieves Goal

In April, the White House Rural Council partnered with the National Association of Counties to announce the Rural Impact County Challenge, a call for at least 100 counties to pledge to create opportunity for children in rural areas. On October 25, we achieved this goal. These 100 community leaders will prove instrumental in addressing the opportunity gap for rural kids, which is so often compounded by rural counties' distance from health and early learning programs, lack of access to public transportation, and higher rates of drug and substance abuse.

Small towns and rural communities are home to millions of Americans, include some of our most beautiful landmarks and provide the vast majority of food, energy, and environmental benefits for the rest of the country.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine projects

Some of the best stories about successful rural health projects are often from those who offer medical services, or those who benefit from those services.  It was inspiring to hear from an Oklahoma woman who cared for her elderly mother, thankful because broadband and telemedicine services meant she no longer had to spend the better part of an hour sending medical data to a hospital over 100 miles away via dial-up service and then wait another hour for medication instructions.

USDA funding for broadband and Distance Learning and Telemedicine services helps connect rural communities to medical services and improve access to quality care from health care experts. For example, Norton Healthcare Foundation in Kentucky provides specialty care to patients in rural communities using telemedicine technology.  Providers consult with specialists to determine changes in care and whether care can be managed locally.  This reduces unnecessary transfers and allows patients to remain in their community where their support system is. 

HHS and USDA Collaborating Since 2012 to Improve Local Access to Healthcare in Rural America

It has been five years since the President announced that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) signed an agreement to streamline how our programs work together to support rural health and to improve the health and wellbeing of rural communities through the use of technology and health information that is accessible when and where it matters most.

In those five years, rural communities and rural health care providers in every state and territory have accessed USDA financing and HHS technical assistance to help improve local access to care and, and to support an interoperable health system.

Returning Veterans Put Down Roots with USDA

After 21 years of dedicated service in the United States Air Force, Jim and Laura Leffel looked to establish their “forever home.”  Both natives of the Midwest, they moved to a small farm south of Eau Claire, Wisconsin to plant their roots, quite literally.  Laura and Jim are now owners of Leffel Roots Apple Orchard, a 40 acre property that includes 2,500 apple trees and an on-site store where they sell bakery items, jams, cider, honey and more.

With the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Leffels will be able to expand their product lines further.  Last month, I visited their orchard with Wisconsin Congressman Ron Kind to announce the Leffels were among 325 recipients of Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG) funding totaling over $45 million. 

Advocacy and Outreach – Keys to Success in Serving Farmers, Ranchers and the Future of Agriculture in Underserved Communities

Day in, day out, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) brings programs to many farmers and ranchers as well as opportunities to students. As I meet with farmers, ranchers and USDA interns, a sense of great appreciation and anticipation wells up for the future of agriculture. One of the USDA offices that serves these farmers and students is the Office of Advocacy and Outreach (OAO). OAO staff connect with farmers, community organizers, veterans, educators and students to bring opportunities and services.

OAO works with community-based organizations to ensure access to USDA programs and services for underserved and limited-resource communities and farmers. A major program is the Outreach and Assistance for Socially Disadvantaged and Veteran Farmers and Ranchers Program (also known as the 2501 Program).  Forty-five projects from organizations representing 25 States were awarded $8.8 million in 2016. This included a second year of $400,000 for the Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center at Alcorn State University.

Housing is Opportunity, Housing is Jobs

 

When one thinks about home, they often think about warm meals on the dinner table, cozying up on the couch, painting the nursery, or even building equity in a place one calls their own. When I think housing- especially new housing: I also think opportunity; I think jobs.

Jobs come from laying foundations, installing windows, and making sure faucets pour water and lights shine bright. Most importantly, jobs go home at the end of the shift, and gather at that dinner table knowing local economies are improving. We have had 75 straight months of private-sector job growth in America, and the housing sector has played its part.

USDA Builds Communities with Lenders

It’s been 25 years since USDA guaranteed the first home loan in Donalsonville, Georgia. The home itself was a modest spot nestled into the tiny little village in rural Georgia. To an outsider this home may look non-descript, but to the family who moved in 25 years ago, owning this home was a dream that seemed impossible before they found out USDA and their small town lender could work together to make their dream become reality.

25 years later, USDA has worked with thousands of lenders big and small to help 1.48 million families just like the first in Donalsonville buy modest homes in rural America. USDA Home Loan Guarantees are so important to hard working folks who want to settle down in rural areas. This program is the golden example of the private and public sectors coming together to make this opportunities for a better life accessible for all.

Taking the Mystery Out of USDA Tools for Organic Agriculture

Getting people together to talk can result in great ideas. 

In June, USDA hosted 100 farmers, ranchers, retailers and producers in Chester, New York, in the Hudson Valley, to discuss opportunities and challenges in organic production, and to share information on USDA programs and services available to organic producers and processors.  

Wholesalers and retailers at the meeting all had a common challenge – keeping up with increasing market demands for organic food. Organic retail sales continue to grow at double-digit rates each year. In 2014, the market reached $39 billion in U.S. sales alone. That level of demand means a lot of opportunities for organic producers, as well as those in the process of transitioning to organic production.

Putting Our Minds Together to Improve Education on the Warm Springs Reservation

 

USDA celebrates National Native American Heritage Month in November with a blog series focused on USDA’s support of Tribal Nations and highlighting a number of our efforts throughout Indian Country and Alaska. Follow along on the USDA blog.

One year ago, I joined tribal and community leaders on the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation of Oregon to celebrate the completion of a new K-8 school. This state-of-the-art facility replaced a cramped school building constructed in the 1930s that could no longer meet the needs of educators, students or modern teaching techniques and tools. Today, young learners are benefiting from the modern science and computer labs, art and music rooms, a gymnasium, large cafeteria and gathering place, and many cultural features that celebrate the Tribal community’s heritage and traditions. By investing in the Warm Springs Academy the Tribe and community partners made a commitment to ensure the well-being, access to opportunities and success of children on the reservation for generations to come.