Hunters to go humanitarian

Dawn M. Kurry Richmond County Daily Journal

September 6, 2013

Hunters and landowners will be discussing ways they can partner up to alleviate poverty in nearby rural areas.

Earlier this year, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture will launch its “StrikeForce” initiative in 10 additional states, including North Carolina. The primary goal of the StrikeForce initiative is to increase partnership with rural communities and leverage community resources in targeted, persistent poverty areas. Vilsack noted that through the StrikeForce initiative, USDA will do more to partner with local and state governments and community organizations on projects that promote economic development and job creation.

“During my travels across the country, I’ve heard mayors and other community leaders say they have a hard time competing for USDA loan and grant programs. They have a plan to develop a new business or create jobs in their regions, but they lack development capital and they view our application and review processes as a barrier,” said Vilsack. “StrikeForce changes that. By increasing outreach and technical assistance to communities, we can serve as better partners and help better leverage resources.”

The “StrikeForce” initiative started as a pilot project in 2010 in selected regions in three states: Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi. In 2011 it was expanded to include Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. In 2013, Secretary Vilsack announced new efforts to bring the StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity to Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Next week the Farm Service Agency will host a three-county meeting to discuss the partnership goals. Located at 123 Caroline St., Rockingham, the meeting for food bank staff, biologists, hunters, landowners and farmers will begin at 7 p.m. and last until 9 p.m.

According to Amy Yaklin, director of the FSA in Richmond County, the goal is to encourage hunters to help feed people by donating meat to be processed into one-pound packages and taken to local food banks, which will freeze them and keep them for the community.

“This is one way for us to reach the community,” said Yaklin. “One deer can provide 200 meals. But we need donations.”

Yaklin said attendees of the meeting will meet a panel of people who will explain the initiative and will be available to answer questions. This will be the first StrikeForce meeting in North Carolina, and Yaklin said she feels honored to host it in Richmond County, and to spearhead the initiative.

The Richmond County Cooperative Extension is also getting involved, and has seen the impact of this effort elsewhere.

“Richmond County Cooperative Extension is partnering with Amy Yaklin in the Farm Service Agency and Joe Lasher with Backyard Pro to bring landowners, hunters, and food banks together in the community to help feed the hungry,” said Cooperative Extension Livestock Agent Tiffanee Conrad. “The meat will come to food banks packaged, ground, and frozen. It’s a very convenient way to feed a lot of people since one deer can feed over 200 people.”

Partnerships like this are starting to crop up all around the southeast, according to the Extension.

“We’re excited about the possibility of starting this program for the first time in our county,” said Conrad. “This program has become very successful in Chatham County. I’ve talked to several food banks in our county who have said that their freezers are currently empty, so this new program can help to fill them up. Hunting is a tradition and recreational past time for many of our Richmond County citizens and I think they are going to be excited to share what they love doing to help feed others. This program can also help our farmers to control the over population of deer that destroy many of their crops and will help to keep the deer herds healthy.”

USDA identifies census tracts with over 20 percent poverty (according to American Community Survey data) to identify sub-county pockets of poverty. As areas of persistent poverty are identified, USDA staff work with state, local and community officials to increase awareness of USDA programs, and help build program participation. Vilsack noted that often USDA conducts special outreach activities in an area, and that since 2010, USDA has partnered with more than 400 local community based organizations to promote local or regional development projects.

Staff Writer Dawn M. Kurry can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 15, or by email at