Saturday, October 31, 2015
From the #USDA:
In the fall a person’s fancy often turns to thoughts of…pumpkins. The season is underway, from the ornamental pumpkins of Halloween to the pies that grace many tables at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Where do pumpkins come from? Though six States account for nearly half of U.S. production, pumpkins are grown in virtually every State of the union. This is important to consider in light of recent media reports of a looming pumpkin shortage.
Reports of “the great pumpkin shortage of 2015” cite heavy rains during the planting season in central Illinois as the culprit. Illinois is the top producing State, and most of its output is processed (think canned pumpkin for pies). So the concern this year is for Thanksgiving rather than for Halloween. Illinois’ Tazewell County is the top producer of pumpkins in the United States. And the town of Morton, near Peoria, home to a huge canning facility, is the (self-proclaimed) Pumpkin Capital of the World.
While data are not yet available on the size of the 2015 U.S. pumpkin crop, the production of pumpkins is widely dispersed. (And like this year, occasional alerts on pumpkin shortages over the years have been attributed to weather conditions in specific areas of the country.)
Meanwhile, consumers have been buying more pumpkins over the past decade, in both fresh and processed form. U.S. production of pumpkins for all uses rose 31 percent – from 1.46 billion pounds in 2000 to 1.91 billion pounds in 2014 – reflecting rising demand for ornamental and food-use pumpkins. Per capita annual use (adjusted for feed use, shrinkage, and marketing loss) rose from 4.6 pounds to 5.4 pounds during the same period. Demand for specialty pumpkins in particular has expanded. With names like Big Mack, Cinderella, and Knucklehead, and the heirloom pumpkins, these varieties are available in alternative skin textures and in colors such as green, white, and yellow/green stripes. Food uses such as pumpkin-flavored coffees and seasonal beers are also gaining popularity.
This year, as in previous years, the Economic Research Service (ERS) has posted a special web page assembling information and data on pumpkins. Journalists – and other interested users – can grab background information like the farm value of pumpkins over several years, production volume and yield in the top six States, and recent wholesale and retail prices. At ERS, this web resource is one sign of the season.
From the #USDA:
Posted by Dan Campbell, USDA Rural Business and Cooperative Service, on October 30, 2015 at 11:01 AM
October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services. John McNamara is a Cooperative Development Specialist with the Northwest Cooperative Development Center in Olympia, Washington, and his story below helps illustrate how resident-owned communities benefit when their members are proficient with new technology:
Manufactured home communities play an important role in meeting the need for affordable housing in the Northwest and across the nation. Through cooperative action, many people now have the opportunity to create resident-owned communities (ROCs), securing the land beneath their homes for perpetuity.
Once a cooperative completes such a purchase, residents have responsibilities to govern and manage their communities. The Northwest Cooperative Development Center (NWCDC), a ROC USA® certified technical assistance provider (CTAP), is charged with providing guidance to community leaders as they carry out these duties. A major challenge is maintaining good communications among co-op members and helping them balance their work/life needs.
It is becoming increasingly important to supplement communications with Internet technologies. Progress has been made in connecting rural residents to broadband and “next-generation” Internet. But a digital divide still exists between rural and urban communities.
Resident-owned communities often have limited ability to bridge this divide, whether caused by a lack of hardware or software, or the ability to use it – or for all of these reasons. NWCDC, in partnership with ROC USA, is seeking to close this gap by bringing the benefits of modern information technology to the communities in its network.
To accomplish this, ROCs are testing standardized curriculum and software systems designed to help co-op members develop increased technology self-sufficiency. The curriculum should also help CTAPs better manage a growing portfolio of clients. Communities in the Washington towns of Moses Lake and Puyallup are serving as a pilot project intended to create a nationally replicable model.
There are broad aspirations for the initiative. “A resident-owned community is more than just a homeowner’s association; it is a business that requires constant attention, maintenance, oversight and nurturing,” says Daniel Luis Arrañaga, a CTAP for NWCDC. Goals are to promote residents’ computer fluency and more efficient and productive time allocation for CTAPs, he notes. Another goal is to help build leadership in communities.
Many resident-owners of ROC’s have never had – nor necessarily needed – access to information technology. To overcome this challenge, NWCDC has partnered with students from the Evergreen State College in Olympia to create curriculum to teach adults basic skills in e-mail, on-line editing and typing. Arrañaga began using Google Docs, a free software word processing application, to work with community members.
“The great thing is that I can get on the document with board members who are 250 miles away and train them on how to make an agenda without making an eight hour round-trip drive,” says Arrañaga.
The goal of this initiative is to give resident-owners a greater sense of ownership by using IT to research solutions to community problems, find needed vendors and to create an archive of organizational documents that all members can access and share. It will reduce the need for CTAPs to provide some of these services, opening more time to work with new clients and providing for more efficient use of funds needed to develop new ROCs.
From the #USDA:
Posted by Katherine Belcher, Public Affairs Specialist, USDA Rural Development, Kentucky, on October 30, 2015 at 11:00 AM
October is National Cooperative Month, and we’re happy to spotlight several projects throughout the month that have been supported through USDA Rural Development’s Cooperative Services.
It took nearly two years to travel from Italy to America via transportation across water, through the air, and along roadways and railways – and now a large, brightly colored piece of equipment is making history in the tiny rural community of Springfield, Ky.
But this is no ordinary piece of hardware. It is a technically advanced dehairing machine that is unique for a variety of reasons. The machine is one of only four in existence in the world; it is touted as one of the most powerful, sophisticated dehairing machines available; and it will greatly reduce the time and cost required to prepare American natural fibers for processing into luxury yarns that will be used to make textiles.
Natural Fiber Producers cooperative – which is comprised of 318 producers of all types of animal fibers, primarily alpaca, llama, and sheep – invested their own money to make the down payment for the equipment. NFP worked with USDA to obtain a Business and Industry Loan Guarantee with financing from Springfield State Bank, in addition to the Kentucky Agricultural Finance Corporation,
The dehairing machine is operating it in a 12,000-square-foot facility owned by U.S. Natural Fibers. It occupies 500 square feet of floor space and can process between 20-65 pounds of fiber per hour.
USDA Rural Development staff joined members of NFP cooperative from across the country for a grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration on Sept. 17, 2015.
A large crowd turned out to celebrate this monumental 2-day event because of its significance in creating more textile jobs in the United States. NFP President Brian Willsey said this machine greatly improves fibers for use in luxury textiles and reinforces the growth of “Made in America” and “Buy Local” campaigns.
For more than three decades, luxury fiber producers lacked access to the dehairing process, which meant they, along with U.S. textile manufacturers, had to outsource their processing overseas.
With the purchase of this equipment, producers will save time and money by shipping raw fiber to the Kentucky plant and having it processed into soft, usable fiber.
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