U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack recently announced the funding of awards that will support rural communities, help create jobs and build regional economies in 34 states. The secretary announced investments through USDA's Rural Business Opportunity Grants (RBOG) program which supports regional planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas.
The Wallace Centers of Iowa, with locations in Des Moines and rural Orient, will receive $50,000 for a two-year project to develop a holistic value-added support program to assist local farmers and growers in developing, processing, and packaging new food products. The Wallace Centers of Iowa was one of only four Iowa organizations to receive a grant. The highly competitive program awarded just 39 grants nationwide.
"The funds I am announcing today will help local business leaders, communities, and disadvantaged agricultural producers take more of a collaborative and regional approach toward jobs creation, business development and economic growth," said Vilsack.
Projects funded as part of USDA's regional initiative will focus on strategic planning activities to improve economic conditions in rural areas, particularly in underserved communities. Vilsack says the initiative will help communities to connect and cluster their economies geographically based on their self-identified strengths, so they are able to increase productivity and build more robust, sustainable economies.
"This support will enable us to broaden the outreach of our food programming within a 13-county area," says Diane Weiland, CEO and program developer for the Wallace Centers of Iowa. "In addition to expanding the restaurant at the Country Life Center at Orient and adding value to the fruits and vegetables grown there, we will serve other small producers through teaching and mentoring in the development of new food products. This project will have a positive effect on growers' revenues."
This announcement is one of a series of rural infrastructure investments
The 13-county outreach area includes Adair, Adams, Cass, Clarke, Decatur, Greene, Guthrie, Madison, Polk, Ringgold, Taylor, Union, and Warren counties.
This announcement is part of a series of rural infrastructure investments expected by Secretary Vilsack during the next two weeks. This effort supports the goal of the Obama Administration's proposed American Jobs Act that is being sent to Congress, which if passed and signed into law, would make critical infrastructure improvements to put people back to work immediately, he says.
The Wallace Centers of Iowa is a non-profit organization that includes the Henry A. Wallace Country Life Center in rural Orient (near Greenfield) and the Wallace House, which is located in Des Moines. The two historic sites provide programs and community services centered on sustainability and civility, organic fruits and vegetables, and Wallace family history. More information can be found at www.wallace.org.