The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

March 26, 2013

USDA expanding program to fight rural poverty

(Continued)

Other small farmers from neighboring counties have come to see his setup and get ideas for their own projects, Harris said.

"On an acre of land, through these programs you could make more growing vegetables than you could doing row crops," he said.

In addition to increasing profits for farmers, specialty vegetable gardens of the type Harris operates could help reduce obesity rates in poor counties by increasing residents' access to better-quality healthy foods, Vilsack said.

In Sumter County, 74 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese, compared to South Carolina's overall rate of 67.4 percent.

"The key to nutrition is access to foods that are healthy and nutritionally dense," Vilsack said. If farmers grow more of their own fruits and vegetables, he said, "people don't have to rely on a convenience store that has a very limited set of offerings."

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