Rural Monitor: In a Rural Colorado Valley, Old-Fashioned Print News Lives On

​Earlier this month the High Country News ran a story by Jonathan Thompson about another newspaper called the Saguache Crescent. The paper serves the community of Saguache, Colorado—population: about 500. Other than the all-in-one publisher, editor, pressman, and mechanic of the Saguache Crescent, who is described as “marinating in the smell of hot lead, dust and the slow decay of old newsprint,” the most notable thing about this paper is how it’s made.

One of the Saguache Crescent's 1920's Linotype machines, which forges lines of type from hot lead. | Photo by Jonathan Thompson

According to the article, this is “the last weekly newspaper in the nation produced using only letterpress technology.” This letterpress method entails using a 90-year-old Linotype that makes a line of text from molten lead. These are arranged into a frame with ads engraved into wood or metal. Then the type is inked and the newsprint is rolled onto it. The article notes that not a whole lot has changed for Saguache Crescent in its 134 year history, except for maybe the the ad for a local yoga studio.

Articles commenting on various facets of rural culture often seem to note the “traditional.” This is undeniably a part of the appeal of rural America for some. Indeed, here at the Center, we often evoke this notion through our use of idyllic landscape photos and phrases like “family farming.” Embracing and appreciating our past is important and necessary. However, like the local yoga studio in Saguache, fostering new energy and creativity is equally important and necessary to developing our rural communities.

Click here to read the full article “In a rural Colorado valley, old-fashioned print news lives on” by Jonathan Thompson in the High Country News. Read more about Rural Monitor: In a Rural Colorado Valley, Old-Fashioned Print News Lives On

  • Small Towns

MarketPlace Event Celebrates Rural Entrepreneurs

The Center for Rural Affairs' MarketPlace Small Business Conference recently celebrated our 7th annual run. Nearly 300 people came to the Nielsen Community Center in West Point, Nebraska for a tremendous experience.

Even after 7 years, rural Nebraskans are as eager as ever to create a better future for their families, farms, ranches, communities and their mainstreet businesses. It's exciting, particularly in the current economy, to see rural entrepreneurs and civic leaders gathering to learn from each other about new ways to overcome challenges and bring their hopes and dreams to fruition.

People came from at least four states - Kansas, South Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska. But something bigger than attendance is going on. People from across the rural Midwest are creating connections and sharing what they learn. It fosters entrepreneurship, creates jobs, and develops sustainable economic opportunities in their communities.

West Point native, Dr. Connie Reimers-Hild, a leadership and innovation coach, educator, and author, spoke at the luncheon. Her inspirational keynote "Creative Confidence: Leading Yourself & Your Business" gave participants 10 powerful, yet practical confidence boosters designed to grow their business and improve their life.

Breakout sessions (15 in all) covered marketing, agriculture, financing, community development, social media, business development, innovation, youth, and policy. Fresh approaches to growing the rural economy (jobs, jobs, jobs) gave attendees ideas they can use to improve or expand their small business, farm, ranch, or rural community.

"The knowledge I gained, the support I received, and the connections I made are all priceless in my development as an entrepreneur and student,” said Logan Peters, a freshman at the University of Nebraska. “I hope to take back things I learned at MarketPlace to my community and grow on them with years to come."

Closing keynote speaker, Johnny Schrunk, CEO/Founder of Next Move Marketing, presented “Relationship Marketing: The REAL Marketing Mindset.” Attendees not only walked away with strategies to grow a business quickly and efficiently, but also gained a newfound purpose and vision for positioning their business in the new economy.

Over 20 exhibitors were available throughout the day. Attendees met with experts in numerous fields – attorneys, web designers, etc. – who answered their questions.

“It was a great experience, and I hope I can attend another conference in the future,” said Peters. With community support and anticipation from attendees, 2014 ought to be another great year for MarketPlace. See a short MarketPlace video and learn more about the event. Read more about MarketPlace Event Celebrates Rural Entrepreneurs

  • Small Business

Hispanic Business Center Grows to Meet Increased Needs across Nebraska

This year promises to be an exceptional year for micro entrepreneurs and the Center for Rural Affairs’ REAP program. The Hispanic Business Center (HBC) is committed to excellence in delivering technical assistance, networking, assisting clients through Roundtable formation, and providing loans to Hispanic businesses.

Since July 1, 2012, REAP Hispanic Business Center staff provided seven loans to micro entrepreneurs across the state. We also developed Computer Classes in Columbus, Norfolk, Schuyler, and Wakefield. From July to December last year, 15 workshops were held. A highlight – 706 Hispanic individuals were invited or participated in our trainings. Basics Computers, Microsoft Office, Identity Theft, E-Commerce, and QuickBooks were some of the topics covered in the workshops.

Nancy Flock, Hispanic Loan Specialist, and I assisted at the Heartland Latino Conference in Omaha last November. With great speakers, the quality of presentations was outstanding, and we took part in several discussions. The networking was a plus, especially since we don’t have a chance to interact directly with our colleagues serving Omaha and Lincoln.

REAP staff were involved in hiring our new Hispanic Business Specialist. At this moment, it’s too early to disclose this information. But we are excited to announce the REAP Hispanic Business Center will continue to expand. 2013 will bring opportunities to deliver our services in new areas. It’s our goal to implement seven REAP informational meetings in the next six months in different communities to educate and promote our program.

If you need more information about the REAP Hispanic Business Center, please contact me at 402.371.7786 or email Read more about Hispanic Business Center Grows to Meet Increased Needs across Nebraska


Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Women

The REAP Women’s Business Center and the Small Business Administration (SBA) have put together a Day of Insights, Inspiration and Personal Growth for Women. Come join us at the Grand Island YWCA on Wednesday, March 20, 2013!

Presenters will provide information on Launching, Marketing, and Business Succession! A panel of  women entrepreneurs will share their stories. Information about the Affordable Health Care Act will be discussed. AND we will have time for Networking. With everyone’s busy schedules, we seem to be missing that sharing and encouraging time!

Registration is open at: Hear from other women who have done it, and get the motivation to make your own success happen.

For more information contact me at or 402.643.2673. I look forward to seeing you there! Read more about Unprecedented Times Call for Unprecedented Women


Renewable Energy Resources-Questions and Answers

We polled Nebraska Extension Educators to learn what questions they received related to renewable energy.

With the record-setting heat and drought in 2012, its no surprise that alternatively powered irrigation pumps were a popular topic. But Nebraskans were curious about a wide range of other energy issues as well, with conservation andsolar and wind energy systems topping the list. Check out the complete survey results.

Not surprisingly,these interests echoed the topics favored by farmers in our Small Farm Energy Project back in the late 1970s. Energy trends and costs rise and fall, but saving money with smarter energy use is always popular.

Over half the Extension Educators who responded to the poll said they were `unsure´of where to find answers to the questions they were being asked. So we asked other Extension Educators, industry representatives, and farmers about where they find information.

Our collected results include resources on Financing, Government/Industry, Information/Technology, and Experiences/Education. The list includes both Nebraska and national resources. Highlights are the videos and stories of farmers´ own experiences with energy conservation and on-farm energy production.

See our first groundbreaking report on energy conservation - the Small Farms Energy Primer here.

The Center for Rural Affairs is interested in connecting farmers with best energy practices. If you have helpful resources or your own stories to share, let me know! Send an email to Read more about Renewable Energy Resources-Questions and Answers

  • Clean Energy
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Get Ready … it’s Tax Season: Six Tax Prep Tips!

As you settle down after the busy holiday season, you will soon face another season … tax season! As a small business owner you need to understand how taxes are going to affect you and your business. It is important that you file properly, avoid audits and claim the right tax deductions.

Here are a few tips that may ease the burden of tax preparation and help you get ready for the April 15, 2013 deadline.

  1. Keep Good Records
    Proper record-keeping year-round is the first step to ensuring your taxes are filed accurately and that you have the paperwork you need to back-up your deduction claims should you be audited.
  2. Understand Your Deductions
    What small business deductions can you take? Do you have the documentation and original receipts to back them up? Tax credits and deductions change each year.
  3. Use the Small Business Jobs Act
    The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama has over 17 tax provisions decreasing the tax burdens for small businesses. You can take advantage of several of these provisions during this year’s tax season. Using them will provide great savings for your business.
  4. Remember the Tax Credits within the Affordable Care Act
    These tax credits will allow small businesses to cover up to 35 percent of the premiums a small business pays to cover its workers. In 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent.
  5. Avoid Common Audit Traps
    It is very important to be aware of potential red flags and act on them before the IRS does:
    • Classifying Employees as Independent Contractors – Independent contractors and employees are not the same, and it’s important to understand the difference. In the eyes of the IRS, misclassification can be seen as an attempt to avoid payroll taxes, and non-compliance can bring penalties and back taxes.
    • Home Office Deduction – This deduction is very specific and not all home-based businesses will qualify. Likewise, if you run your business from a commercial location and claim the home office deduction, you might trigger some interest from the IRS. Know how to determine if you are eligible to claim it, and what specific expenses you can write off.
    • Large Sum Miscellaneous Deductions – If you claim a large amount of itemized deductions relative to your income, the IRS will get suspicious. Likewise, if you bucket a large amount of miscellaneous expenses, you may raise eyebrows. Be specific and label every deduction.
  6. Keep Business and Personal Expenses Separate
    The IRS scrutinizes personal expenses that may have been claimed as a business expense, such as the use of a business vehicle for personal use. Be diligent about keeping good records. Maintain a separate bank and credit card account for your business.

Source: By Patricia Brown-Dixon, SBA Region 7 Administrator. For additional information, visit and search for the SBA Small Business Tax Guide or contact Read more about Get Ready … it’s Tax Season: Six Tax Prep Tips!


Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska

This report examines the rural implications of the new Medicaid initiative as provided for in the Affordable Care Act. We examine the fiscal and economic impacts - additional revenue provided to the state, jobs created and costs to consumers of uncompensated care without expansion - of the state’s  participation in the expansion of Medicaid.

The report concludes that significant implications for Nebraska’s small towns and rural residents underlie the decision of whether the state will participate in expanding Medicaid coverage. Read more about Medicaid Expansion in Nebraska

New Farm Microloan Program from USDA

The US Department of Agriculture has established a microloan program targeted at helping small farm operators. Microloans of up to $35,000 will be available. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the program is “designed to help bolster family-run farms and help disadvantaged farmers and military veterans seeking to start a farm,” according to the Associated Press.

This program is an exciting development. Value-added farmers producing niche, specialty, or organic crops are a quickly expanding segment of agriculture. Vilsack told the AP that direct-to-consumer sales are growing, with a 60 percent uptick in farmers markets over the last three years.

Capital from these loans can be used for a wide variety of expenses, from seed to delivery vehicles. Vilsack said farmers would have up to seven years to pay off the loan, and the interest would be roughly 4.9 percent. Read more about New Farm Microloan Program from USDA


Obstacles Abundant for Health Insurance Coverage in Rural Nebraska and Rural Montana

Two new Center for Rural Affairs reports examine health insurance coverage in rural Nebraska and rural Montana, the two states where we do much of our health care work. Based on recently released county data from the US Census Bureau, we found more rural residents under 65 in both states are without health insurance.

The charts show the uninsured rates by county type (metropolitan counties are large city and suburbs as designated by the Census Bureau; micropolitan counties are counties with a small city of 10,000 to 49,999; and rural counties are all other counties). 

Clearly, rural Americans face structural barriers to adequate health insurance coverage. With an economic foundation of small businesses and self-employment, rural communities are not well served by a health insurance system that relies on employer-based coverage. Many families are forced to purchase from the individual insurance market where they often wind up underinsured, with coverage that costs too much and provides too little. Those who cannot afford the generally more expensive individual packages must go without or rely on public insurance.

Unfortunately, these primary means of getting (or not getting) health insurance translate into weaker rural communities. A community’s economic development, community cohesiveness, and health care infrastructure are all threatened by a lack of affordable health insurance that results in more families without health insurance or less than adequate insurance.

And we all pay for the skyrocketing costs of health insurance as the insured and health care providers in rural Nebraska and Montana face increasing economic pressure from uncompensated care, or the costs of health care services to the uninsured or underinsured that are not paid by insurance or any other source. Like most issues facing rural America, everyone is in it together.

The significantly higher uninsured rates in rural Nebraska and Montana also affect the health status of rural residents and communities. Research shows rural people receive fewer necessary health care services and less preventive care, leading to more expensive health care later. The ultimate result of less than adequate care for rural residents is a worsening of health status and an increase in chronic conditions, exactly what has been found in rural areas.

In the coming months policymakers in both states have opportunities to enhance health insurance coverage that will improve the health of rural people and the economies of rural communities. We found that choosing the new Medicaid initiative for working adults as allowed in the Affordable Care Act will reduce the rural uninsured rate in Nebraska by half and in Montana by a third. The federal government pays all the cost of this initiative for its first three years.

Both states would be wise to opt for this new initiative. It’s a smart investment. It provides hard-working families in both states the security of quality health care, boosts the economy of both states and prevents health problems. Read more about Obstacles Abundant for Health Insurance Coverage in Rural Nebraska and Rural Montana

  • Rural Health

Why I Support the Center

I'm Doug Crabtree. My wife Anna and I own and operate a certified organic dryland crop farm just south of the Canadian border in Hill County, Montana. We first worked with the Center back in the 90’s when trying to make a connection to start farming through the Land Link program.

While we were unable to make a connection at that time, we saved and learned for nearly 20 years and purchased our own land and machinery in 2009.

We used a number of beginning farmer financing and conservation programs authorized in the 2008 Farm Bill to make our dream of farming into a reality. The Center, along with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), made those programs happen.

We have also relied on the Center to interpret program rules and help us to “educate” local Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) staff on programs and provisions for beginning farmers. We really appreciate the Center giving us an opportunity to advocate for programs and policies to support beginning farmers and conservation through “fly-ins” to Washington.

Without the Center and NSAC we would not be farming today.

Watch our story here.

*photos by Anna Jones-Crabtree Read more about Why I Support the Center

Your stories

Amazing Opportunity for Livestock Enthusiasts Awaits

An established direct-market meat operation is seeking renters in Oregon’s Central Willamette Valley.

Rainshadow El Rancho is a 120-acre ranch raising and selling bison, pork, and poultry directly to consumers. The operation includes a USDA-approved poultry processing plant used to process the ranch’s birds and birds for other producers. 

Two large barns are included on the property. Livestock handling corrals include a squeeze chute. And an established small orchard and room for a large garden cap off the ranch.

Owners prefer leasing the ranch to an experienced person(s). In turn, the renter(s) will have the first option to purchase.
This is an incredible opportunity for someone with livestock experience. The slaughter facility could be managed by a separate person(s), depending on the situation.
Give me a call, 402.687.2100, or send an email,, to learn more. Read more about Amazing Opportunity for Livestock Enthusiasts Awaits

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher

Living, Loving, and Working for an Even Better Rural America

It was nearing the end of November and the first half of my senior year of college. The semester and two jobs had left me groggy. I scrolled through my email inbox deleting the spam until I came across a subject line reading, “Nice letter in the Mirror-Sun.”

A letter-to-the-editor I had written to the Lyons Mirror-Sun newspaper had appeared that week. It was about whether or not to tear down the old opera house in my hometown. The email was from Brian Depew, Assistant Executive Director and Director of Policy at the Center for Rural Affairs. I didn’t know who he was and had only recently learned about the Center and its mission.

Brian’s email encouraged my interest in rural issues. He told me to look at the internship opportunities at the Center. Unfortunately, the opera house was torn down. But I did check into those internship opportunities.
I spent that summer in Lyons learning about rural America and seeing my hometown in a new light. My walk down the brick Main Street was filled with anticipation every day during my internship. Never before had I worked in a place where every person was so fully invested. Skip forward nearly five years later, and this is why I still work at the Center. 

Not only does the Center have an admirable mission, they have admirable people working for them. They are the kind of people that advocate for a better community by working on federal policy late into the day only to rush out the door for a city council meeting. 

I can summarize the Center for Rural Affairs this way: We live in rural America. We love rural America. We work to make it even better. Read more about Living, Loving, and Working for an Even Better Rural America

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Your stories

Congress Approves Energy Tax Credits and Saves 37,000 Jobs

With the last-minute fiscal cliff deal, most of the country breathed a sigh of relief. But those concerned about rural communities and renewable energy had an additional reason to celebrate the deal: the extension of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit.

Both are vital tools for an industry that has proven beneficial to rural communities, especially in the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. The wind industry has helped provide new employment opportunities, sources of revenue, and additional sources of income to farmers and ranchers.

The extension saved an estimated 37,000 jobs out of the total 75,000 employed by the wind industry in the US, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. Construction of turbines and associated parts has led to new manufacturing booms in several states. Right now about 60 percent of component parts for turbines are made in the United States. Saving over a third of wind energy jobs maintains that additional economic opportunity for rural areas.

Other benefits for communities flow from the presence of projects and factories – new revenue sources from property taxes, which can amount to $189 million annually the county tax base. That new income for rural communities means more funding for the fire and police departments, public schools, infrastructure, and other public services. Land-lease payments for landowners in those communities average about $10,000 per turbine each year.

The extension changes the credits slightly and for the better. Developers no longer need to finish construction in 2013 to qualify. Instead they will qualify if construction begins this year.

The PTC continues to provide a return based on the energy produced by a project – about 2.2 cents for every kilowatt-hour the turbine produces during the first decade of operation. Some developers can instead choose to take the Investment Tax Credit, which returns some of the initial investment in projects immediately.

The extension is a boon to companies that were uncertain over the future of projects last year. 2012 was a good year for wind energy in the US. Expectations for new installations totaled 12,000 megawatts, but early in the year the actual total was around 50,000 megawatts. So far, wind energy has contributed about 35 percent of all newly installed generating capacity in the United States over the past five years. It has added more than coal and nuclear combined, coming in second only to natural gas. But uncertainty over the extension of the ITC and PTC made 2013 seem bleak.

The wind energy industry has shown great potential, and not just in energy output. It has shown an ability to create new domestic manufacturing jobs, provide additional income, and reinvest in small communities through new revenue sources. A short extension is better than none, but greater stability in the industry would help investors feel secure when they consider future projects and investments in rural America. Read more about Congress Approves Energy Tax Credits and Saves 37,000 Jobs

  • Clean Energy

New Farmers Find Thriving Opportunities in Niche & Specialty Markets

Family farming has long been an important contributor to community and economic vitality in rural America. But the opportunities in conventional family farming are shrinking. Young Americans who want to start 21st century family farms are increasingly looking to opportunities in niche and specialty markets.

A new Union of Concerned Scientists report lends support to that approach. It found that Minnesota and Vermont organic dairy farms contributed more to employment, income, and gross state product per dollar value of production than conventional dairies. Organic farms were also more profitable than conventional farms. The net farm revenue per cow of organic farms exceeded that of conventional farms of a similar size in Minnesota. In Vermont, it exceeded that of both big and small conventional farms.

Organic milk production is defying the trend toward bigger and fewer farms. The number of cows per organic farm actually decreased in recent years to an average of 63 in Vermont and 80 in Minnesota. This is roughly half the size of conventional dairies. The drop in size followed tightening of USDA organic standards requiring access to pasture throughout the grazing season.

Specialty markets like organic offer the opportunity to produce higher value products by substituting skilled labor and management for capital. They provide a strategy to squeeze more earnings out of each cow, each acre, and each dollar. That’s a good fit for beginning farmers, who generally have more management and skills than cows, acres, or dollars.

It’s also a good fit for small farms. The Union of Concerned Scientists report profiles farms that have used organic markets to sustain their small operations, including the 160 acre, 90 cow Full Circle Farm of Seymour, Wisconsin. The farm is operated by long-time Center for Rural Affairs supporters Rick and Valerie Adamski. They are now helping the next generation get started on their farm through a partnership with 27-year-old beginning farmer Andy Jaworski. He and the Adamskis have split inputs, labor, and revenue through a milk-share agreement.

Organic farming isn’t the solution for every family farm or rural community. But small entrepreneurship – local community members seeking new ways to create 21st century opportunities – is a big part of the solution for all of rural America. Our communities no longer have Main Streets teaming with retail businesses serving small farms on every section selling commodities.

To thrive, we must search out the new opportunities. We must support our new entrepreneurs who find those opportunities, even if they do things a little differently. And we must participate in and shape change so we can hang onto things that matter – strong communities, good neighbors, and genuine economic opportunity for rural people. Read more about New Farmers Find Thriving Opportunities in Niche & Specialty Markets

  • Farm Policy


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