June 12, 2015 – On May 28, more than 70 U.S. Department of Agriculture officials and community representatives met at Fort Valley State University’s Agricultural Technology Conference Center for the Georgia USDA Strikeforce Initiative meeting.
The USDA Georgia Strikeforce Initiative is a program that aims to increase resources in rural communities by providing technical assistance to Georgia’s 60 Strikeforce counties, or counties with consistent poverty. FVSU is a partner in the Strikeforce Initiative.
Dr. Gregory Parham, USDA’s assistant secretary for administration, participated in the meeting as a part of his visit to Georgia. During the meeting, he addressed attendees about USDA’s commitment to making sure rural communities are sustaining. The administrator also expressed the importance of connecting resources. “The Strikeforce meeting is important because it brings together the people that have the information to get things done,” Parham said.
Following Parham’s opening remarks, panelists Jackie Romain and Samantha Benjamin-Kirk representing the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service southeast region, informed the group about community gardens. Both presentations highlighted gardening as a way to improve poverty conditions, and teach skills that can be useful for helping rural residents obtain a job. They also shared information about using local foods for summer feeding programs. “I hope I planted an idea in people’s heads,” Romain said. In addition Lauren Ladov, a Georgia
Fellow with Food Corps, spoke about gardening techniques and the importance of creating community gardens and using small spaces.
Organic gardener Jeanette Norwood, said she found the information shared by the panel helpful. The retired Warner Robins native said she learned new gardening techniques as well as opportunities available from the USDA for growers.
Moreover, on May 29, Parham participated in a press conference at FVSU’s C.W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center. Parham announced and provided information about the USDA Value Added Producer Grant (VAPG). The grant can be used to develop new product lines from raw agricultural products or additional uses for already developed product lines.
“The idea is to add value right here in the communities that are local to Georgia and other communities around the country to make sure the benefits are derived from where the raw elements are produced,” Parham said.
For more information about FVSU’s role in the Strikeforce Initiative, contact Karla Martin, FVSU’s USDA 1890 program liaison, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
FVSU Agricultural Communications Department