A leading force engaging people and ideas in building a better future for rural America.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the Center for Rural Affairs do?
The Center has three broad program areas: policy, research and strategic services. Our policy work strives to influence state and federal policies which strengthen family farms, small businesses and rural communities. Our strategic services involve individuals and families in demonstrating positive alternatives for rural areas in job creation, economic opportunity for beginning farm families, agricultural marketing and farm stewardship practices. Our research work examines issues affecting rural America and informs and is informed by our policy and strategic service work.
Where does the Center for Rural Affairs get its money?
The Center for Rural Affairs’ current annual budget is about $2.1 million. We receive funds from private foundations and national church programs, state and federal government sources, individual donations and earned income sources such as sale of publications, fees for service, honoraria for speaking engagements, etc. Our annual report describes our accomplishments in the past year. In 1996 the Center established The Granary Foundation, which helps provide a valuable source of income for Center operations. This unique endowment fund helps ensure the long term survival of the Center’s important work in Rural America.
Does the Center for Rural Affairs have an office in my state?
The Center maintains only two offices – both in Nebraska. But the Center involves people throughout the U.S. We also work with many similar organizations throughout the country. You can get involved by joining the National Rural Action Network. The network will unite the thousands of people across the country who care about rural issues and want to see something done in Congress. Add your voice to the National Rural Action Network.
We subscribe to the definition of a family farm or ranch as one on which the management and the majority of the labor are provided by the family or families that own the production and at least some of the productive assets.
However, we believe that it is more important to decide what system of agriculture we want than to define a category to decide who is in and who is out. We believe it is in the interest of rural America and all of America to have a strong family farm system of agriculture. By that we mean a system that:
Provides genuine opportunity for those who work on farms and ranches to own the fruits of their labor and productive assets.
Offers open opportunity for new people to enter the business even if they aren’t rich.
Fairly compensates those who produce food and provides a meaningful share of food system profit to agricultural producers.
Maintains a substantial number of farms and ranches, sufficient to support healthy communities.
Within such a system, there will always be farms of varying sizes. The key threat to the family farm system today is the loss of our smaller commercial farms – our medium-size farms – and movement toward a system where production is dominated by a few very large farms with little opportunity for anyone else.
Why was the Center for Rural Affairs originally located in Walthill, Nebraska?
Two ex VISTA volunteers came to Walthill in 1972 to work for the Goldenrod Hills Community Action Council, a local arm of the Federal War on Poverty authorized by the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. When, on Christmas Eve of 1973, President Richard Nixon proposed complete elimination of this anti-poverty effort, the council's board of directors instructed Don Ralston and Marty Strange to develop an institutional survival strategy which would attack the causes and conditions of poverty in northeast Nebraska without the restrictions imposed on Federal Community Action Agency grantees. The strategy resulted in the formation of the Center for Rural Affairs.
Susan LaFlesche Picotte (1865-1915) was the first Native American woman physician. She was a member of the Omaha Tribe raised on the Tribe's reservation in Nebraska. In addition to her pioneering medical career, Dr. Picotte was a church and community leader, public health advocate and Indian rights activist. Her life was devoted to promoting health, healing illness, serving community and fostering respect between races.
Near the end of her life, she raised the funds necessary to construct a hospital on the reservation in the town of Walthill. After her death, it was named in her honor. A local multi-racial committee acquired the property in 1988. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1993.
Why did the Center for Rural Affairs move to Lyons, Nebraska?
The Center had outgrown its Walthill facility, a turn of the century two-story hotel. The board of directors decided to build a new, modest office building in the small, rural community of Lyons. The new one-story building is energy-efficient, accessible and technologically advanced.
The logo shape itself resembles an arched window — we are, in effect, looking through this window to rural America — over the shoulders of those who live and work in this place — and sharing their view of what is important to them.
The logo image combines people, community, and natural resources — the raw materials that form the very substance of rural America. There is an interdependent relationship between these components that must be recognized and nurtured in order to maintain the viability and sustainability of rural areas.
The Center for Rural Affairs is concerned not only with what happens in rural areas today — but in the future. The intergenerational image (father and daughter) speaks to this concern and underscores the fact that decisions we make today will be the heritage we pass along to future generations.
The logo is by no means an idealized view of rural America — nor is it a "hearkening back" to the way things were. Instead, the father and daughter in the image are looking ahead and beyond — envisioning a future in the place they call "home." The road to the horizon also communicates a "looking ahead" — and a path to be taken.