Rural Renewal Monitor



With money and parental involvement, all things are possible in tiny Glenn schools

The Grand Rapids Press | By Kim Reinstalder | August 18, 2010


Glenn school.JPGTiny Glenn School is more like "Little Home on the Prairie" than a typical public school.

GLENN — With a rural setting, hardwood floors, high ceilings, old-fashioned desks and only 41 students, the Glenn elementary school in Allegan County is reminiscent of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” schoolhouse.

The tiny school is the state’s oldest continuously operating rural school. It’s also a rarity in Michigan: one of only 22 non-charter public schools with fewer than 50 students.

It has no teachers’ union, no lunch service, no busing, no gym. When weather doesn’t permit exercise outdoors, students usually practice yoga.

Drugs? Bullying? “Not a problem,” said Mike O’Connor, the part-time administrator of the three-room K-6 school.

Parent involvement? “Off the charts,” he says, beaming.

And money?

Also not a problem. Read more about With money and parental involvement, all things are possible in tiny Glenn schools

Lincolnshire Police tractor fights rural crime

BBC | September 10, 2010

A tractor has been "pimped up" in police livery - complete with blue flashing light - to help fight criminals in rural Lincolnshire.

The John Deere 6630 will be a star attraction at farmers' markets, where it will be used to raise awareness of crime prevention techniques.

It will help promote the use of Smartwater DNA marking and the Farm and Country Business Watch scheme.

Police said the tractor was a bit of fun but carries a serious message. Read more about Lincolnshire Police tractor fights rural crime

Highways: Rural Areas Underserved

 The Clarion-Ledger | September 7, 2010

The nation's rural highway system needs significant improvement and Mississippi is an excellent example of why that's true.

A new study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials concludes that more investment is needed in America's rural transportation system to keep agriculture, new energy products and freight moving; improve access for the travel, recreation, and tourism industries; connect new and emerging cities; and to ensure reliable access to key defense installations. Read more about Highways: Rural Areas Underserved

Egg Recalls Ripple Through Food Supply

 NPR.org, Shots: The NPR Health Blog | By Scott Hensley | August 24, 2010

 

Less than 200 big companies — including Hillandale and Wright County Egg, the firms at the center of the current recalls — supply 95 percent of the eggs in this country, the Washington Post reports.

 

Now we're seeing the recall ripple effects of the massive egg contamination in Iowa.

Moark, an egg marketer in California, said it's recalling 291,600 eggs (or 24,300 dozen) sold under the brand-names Albertsons, Yucaipa Valley, Farmer’s Gems and Mountain Dairy.

New problem? Not exactly. We checked with a Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman who called this a "sub-recall." Huh?

It turns out that Moark gets eggs from Hillandale Farms of Iowa, which recalled 170 million eggs last Friday, repackages them and sells them under a bunch of different names. So the Moark recall is really an echo of the Hillandale problems. Read more about Egg Recalls Ripple Through Food Supply

In Rural Calif., A Debate On How To Save A Hospital

NPR, All Things Considered | By Sarah Varney | August 19, 2010

Modoc County, in the remote northeastern corner of California
EnlargeSarah Varney/KQED

Modoc County is in the remote northeastern corner of California. Residents there will soon vote on whether to tax themselves to save their local hospital.

 Rural hospitals across the nation have struggled to stay afloat. There are, of course, fewer patients in rural areas, and many of them are on public health insurance programs that pay far less than private insurers.

Residents in Modoc County, in the remote northeastern corner of California, will soon vote on whether to tax themselves to save their local hospital.

The county has gone broke trying to keep the hospital open, and a fractious debate has erupted in this proudly conservative frontier community over the best way forward.

A Lifeline

The hospital hallways at the Modoc Medical Center, like the nights, are quiet. It's been years since pregnant women could deliver their babies here. A surgeon comes just twice a month to do simple procedures. Even the helicopter pad is sprouting weeds.

 

We're in a battle right now, we don't want to go insolvent. That's not going to resolve anything. If the county goes down, the hospital goes down. If the hospital goes down, the city goes down.

 

- Dan Macsay, chairman of the Modoc County Board of Supervisors

But it's no exaggeration to say that the county hospital in Alturas — even with its limited services — is a lifeline to the people who live here. The closest full-service hospitals are hours away, and the nearby medical centers over the mountains are often unreachable during winter storms.

"They gotta have something," says Vicky Smith, 61, who moved to the area as a young girl. She now owns the Main Street Family Diner. "There's a lot of retired people here, a lot of 'em. And if they don't have medical, they'll have to leave.

The talk of the diner, and elsewhere in the remote Pit River Valley, is the fiscal calamity that could force the hospital to close and the county to go bankrupt.

An outside audit found that county supervisors improperly used restricted funds to bail out the hospital, which was losing millions of dollars a year. Now, the county has to pay back some $12.5 million in federal and state grants. And the hospital is on its own to make ends meet.

"It's almost living paycheck to paycheck basically," says Monica Derner, the hospital's interim chief executive. She's the seventh CEO in the past four years. "And some months are better than others. And sometimes the payables are more current than other times. And it's kind of just juggling the finances around to make it work right," she says Read more about In Rural Calif., A Debate On How To Save A Hospital

Telephone exec says broadband key to keeping young in rural Iowa

Radio Iowa | By O.Kay Henderson | August 19, 2010Radio Iowa

The general manager of a rural telephone company says extending “broadband” service is key to getting young people to live in rural Iowa.

“It’s a living, breathing network and it has to evolve as our needs evolve,” says Tom Conry, general manager of the Farmers Mutual Cooperative Telephone Company in Harlan. 

Broadband service is “essential” for entrepreneurs in rural Iowa, according to Conry. Having high-speed lines available can help attract “telecommuters” as well.  Read more about Telephone exec says broadband key to keeping young in rural Iowa

Healing Rural Patients With A Dose Of Broadband

NPR | By Laura Sydell | August 17, 2010

University of.California, Davis Health System via NPR


Dr. James Marcin, a pediatric critical care physician in the University of California, Davis Health System, consults remotely with rural health care professionals.

Millions of Americans who live in rural areas travel long distances to get health care. Or they may go without it. But high-speed Internet connections now make it possible to bring a doctor's expertise to patients in far-off places, if those places are connected.

As part of its National Broadband Plan, the Federal Communications Commission has pledged $400 million a year to connect nearly 12,000 rural health care providers.

Overstretched Clinics, Hurting Patients

Redway, Calif., is more than 200 miles north of San Francisco — a pit stop on the way for tourists heading to see the giant redwoods more than an hour up the road. The town of 1,200 has one health clinic. And Wendi Joiner is the only doctor at the Redwoods Rural Health Center.

There are 4,000 people from Redway and the surrounding area who use this clinic, so Joiner is one busy physician.

"It's a great job. It's a special challenge. I love it, but sometimes I feel like there should be two or three of me," she says. "It happens a lot where we're asked to do things that we're not specialists in."

Patients come in with skin problems, cancers, diabetes, hepatitis — all diseases that require expertise Joiner may not have. So she has to send patients to doctors in cities 100 or more miles away. That can be hard on many of them, both physically and financially. Read more about Healing Rural Patients With A Dose Of Broadband

Remedy for rural doctor shortage is in test stage

 Boston Globe | By Darryl Fears |  August 15, 2010

ESMONT, Va. — Sarah Carricaburu slipped her sleek new iPhone into her purse for the day. With no signal here deep in the woods, it is useless. She swiveled away from her desktop computer, which cannot use the Internet, and glanced at the manila folders of patient records neatly stacked on a shelf by nurses.

“I grew up in the age of electronic medical records,’’ said Carricaburu, 33, a primary care physician who was raised in the Washington suburbs. “Coming here was like stepping back in time. I would like to stay in a community health care setting, but here I didn’t feel like I had the resources to do my job. You’re cut off.’’

Net Neutrality and Rural Iowa

 Blog for Iowa | By Paul Denton | August 14, 2010

"...the management of network discrimination (how packets of data are prioritized) on routers owned by large corporations is a matter in the public interest. Most of us have not questioned how this has been done and hold a view that there is Net Neutrality. The truth is that Net Neutrality, for those who have access, has never been neutral..."

The age of home computers dawned in 1995 at our house with the purchase of an Acer desktop computer and a subscription to dial up internet service. The computer cost more than a thousand dollars, and we felt we could afford it. In fact, we felt we needed the computer to help with our daughter's education in an increasingly computerized world. We fondly remember our small family gathering in the kitchen, listening to the modem squawk and watching the screen as we dialed into the internet for the first time.

The author had been using personal computers at work since 1989, but home use, with Netscape and Internet Explorer web browsers, was exploding. The revolution that was dial-up internet service, where we could access web pages at businesses, colleges, universities and government sites, was remarkable. One of the innovative features of Netscape was that it allowed the pages to load text and graphics to appear on the screen as they downloaded. We did not understand why a page loaded the way it did, and were more interested in content than the technology behind receiving it. We understood that something was behind slow-loading web pages, but not exactly what.

We live in rural Iowa, and high speed internet was slow coming to us. While we now have three choices of service providers, for what seemed like the longest time, dial-up was our slow-moving standard. This is true throughout much of rural Iowa. Many believe high speed internet should be a utility available to all, just like electricity. 

Architecture program aims to benefit the impoverished

Boston Globe | By Bonnie Tsui | August 15, 2010

Mellissa Denney, Auburn University Rural Studio Architecture Project


The view from the top of the 100-foot birding tower at Perry Lakes Park in Newbern, Ala. It offers the public access to a protected woodland landscape that had been closed for 30 years.

NEWBERN, Ala. — I’m standing at the top of a 100-foot birding tower in Perry Lakes Park, the platform at eye level with the tree canopy and overlooking a magnificent topography of oxbow lakes and tupelo and cypress swamp.

What’s extraordinary about this tower is that it was designed and built by four undergraduate architecture students of Auburn University’s Rural Studio. I’ve come here to western Alabama with Andrew Freear, the director of the program, to explore some of the latest design feats by students who have, over the past 17 years, created modest yet innovative homes and community spaces for the residents of Hale County and its surrounds.

Tight Times Force Small Towns To Cut Police Services

NPR.org | By Gail Banzet | August 1, 2010

Gail Banzet/NPR


Creek County in Oklahoma is so big, responding to a call can sometimes take a bit of research for Cpl. Allen Harwood.

People who live in sparsely populated areas understand that a call to 911 doesn't always mean a quick response. But no reply at all? The difficult economy has forced police departments in a growing number of small towns to close.

"The economy here is so bad," says Mylora Tuttle, the mayor of Depew, a community outside Tulsa, Okla. The town gave up its two police officers more than a year ago because of money. "It's just, we have no possibility for generating income."

In Oklahoma, two-thirds of all law enforcement agencies have five or fewer officers. At least 10 police departments in the state have closed in the past year.

Now the policing of Depew falls to the Creek County Sheriff's Department. It's a big county — about 950 square miles — but its population is small, just 70,000. Cpl. Allen Harwood patrols its open roads. Stray dogs, domestic disturbances, even the occasional murder — they're all part of the cases he handles. He's one of only a handful of deputies on duty at a time, and even in emergency situations, it can take a half-hour to respond to a call. Though his department is newly responsible for Depew's safety, Harwood says no extra deputies have been added. Read more about Tight Times Force Small Towns To Cut Police Services

After 378 years, NH family farm goes up for sale

Associated Press via MSN Money | August 1, 2010Associated Press

DOVER, N.H. (AP) - In 1632, John Tuttle arrived from England to a settlement near the Maine-New Hampshire border, using a small land grant from King Charles I to start a farm.

Eleven generations and 378 years later, his field-weary descendants — arthritic from picking fruits and vegetables and battered by competition from supermarkets and pick-it-yourself farms — are selling their spread, which is among the oldest continuously operated family farms in America.

"We've been here for 40 years, doing what we love to do," said Lucy Tuttle, 65, who runs the 134-acre farm with brother Will. "But we're not able to work to our full capacity any longer, unfortunately." Read more about After 378 years, NH family farm goes up for sale

With Squeeze on Credit, Microlending Blossoms

The New York Times | By Kristina Shevory | July 28, 2010

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Amanda Keppert obtained a $6,500 loan that she has three years to pay back and that carries a 6.5 percent interest rate.

Amanda Keppert is convinced that she would have lost Mandy’s Korner, her hot dog stand in San Jose, Calif., if she had not received a type of loan that is more common in the third world than in the United States.

Last year, as fewer people ate out and layoffs mounted in Silicon Valley, sales plunged more than 60 percent at the once-thriving Mandy’s Korner. “My business was drowning and I was afraid it would go under,” Ms. Keppert said. While she picked up catering work at a local concert site, it wasn’t enough to pay her expenses. She had invested all of her savings in the business, and she did not want to see it go under.

But her loan applications were rejected repeatedly at banks in San Jose. Then she found Opportunity Fund, a local microlender that has teamed up with Kiva.org, one of the best-known international microlenders. Kiva, which has lent more than $150 million in 53 countries, had just begun a pilot program lending to business owners in the United States.

Through Kiva, Ms. Keppert obtained a $6,500 loan that she has three years to pay back and that carries a 6 percent interest rate. She used the money to buy an ice maker, a generator to save on propane costs and large signs to advertise her business.

Before the economic collapse, microfinance — the granting of very small loans, mostly to poor people — was a concept most closely associated with the developing world. But tight credit and the recession have increased the demand for smaller loans in the United States, giving microlending a higher profile and broadening its appeal. Both Kiva and Grameen Bank, a microfinance group that is based in Bangladesh and was started by Muhammad Yunus, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his groundbreaking work in microlending, have widened their lending to Americans. Read more about With Squeeze on Credit, Microlending Blossoms

Small number of doctors face unique challenges in rural America

Evansville Courier & Press (Ind.) | By Ella Johnson | July 17, 2010

ROCKPORT, Ind. — Having grown up in a small town, Dr. Lloyd "Pat" McGinnis was happy to open a private medical practice in Rockport 10 years ago when he retired from the military after nearly 30 years as an Air Force physician.

As one of only five doctors in Spencer County, a rural area of Southwestern Indiana with about 20,000 people, his caseload quickly grew to 3,000 patients.

McGinnis, a family medicine and geriatrics specialist, was excited about being able to continue to practice medicine — unlike some of his colleagues who grew tired of seeing patients toward the end of their military careers.

What he wasn't prepared for were the extra time and hassles that came with treating patients who had little or no health insurance to cover the cost.

Doctors throughout the country are struggling with the same issues of providing quality care to patients with limited incomes in an environment of uncertainly as major provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are phased in over the next five years. Read more about Small number of doctors face unique challenges in rural America

Plains towns fighting hard to hang onto rural grocers

The Denver Post | By Karen Auge | June 27, 2010

Osborne's Supermarket checker Dorothy Osborne, left, sacker Roger Trainer and customer Betty Hamilton puzzle over a price at the Hugo store that's been open for nearly 35 years. | Photo by Judy DeHaas, The Denver Post

HUGO — The instant she saw Virginia Petersen propelling her motorized scooter between aisles, a heaping basket of groceries teetering on her lap and oxygen tank rolling alongside her, Megan Hohl moved in.

"Virginia! Are you finished shopping? Let me take this up to the front for you," Hohl said, and walked the basket up to one of the two checkout stands in Osborne's Supermarket, which her grandparents opened 35 years ago.

This is grocery shopping, Hugo-style, and it hasn't changed much since Creighton and Dorothy Osborne opened the store in 1975. Nor will it, if Hohl and her husband, Lucas, have anything to say about it.

It's more about keeping Hugo — population 771 — going than selling milk and bread, Hohl said. "We have a great responsibility."

The idea that getting healthy food or staying fit can be a problem in the hinterlands contradicts most everyone's idealized image of rural life: fresh air, hard work, wheat rippling in the breeze.

The truth is, rural counties, especially on the Eastern Plains, have some of the state's highest rates of obesity and diabetes, along with lower rates of exercise and healthy eating. That's just part of the reason small communities in eastern Colorado, in Kansas, in Nebraska and across the nation are fighting hard to hang onto stores like Osborne's Supermarket, which serve as vital links between rural residents and nutrition and provide economic and social sustenance, too.

"It's an issue, first, of food access, and secondly, of economic development," said David Procter, director of Kansas State University's Center of Engagement and Community Development.

High Speed for the Sparsely Wired

The New York Times | By SUSANNA G. KIM | July 9, 2010

Photo by Matthew Staver

For Cynthia K. Wegener, the owner of a horse farm in rural Kansas, using the Internet often means staring at a blank screen waiting for a page to load. | Photo by Matthew Staver for the New York Times

Government stimulus spending is a contentious issue right now in Washington. But the $7.2 billion in the last stimulus package for extending high-speed Internet access is just beginning to be spent, and the beneficiaries could not be happier.

Cynthia K. Wegener and her husband, owners of a farm and horse-breeding business in western Kansas, will be able to upload a photograph of a horse to show a potential buyer in seconds, not the 20 to 30 minutes they now need with dial-up service. “I just cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is to do anything with it,” she said.

And in remote Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, with limited Internet access, the program will bring more fundamental changes, expanding the health care options, for example, to allow doctors in Anchorage, 400 miles to the east, to see patients via videoconference.

“This is the first time in my 25 years in health care where technology has a direct impact,” David P. Hodges, the chief information officer for the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. “It sure gives you a new perspective on what you do for a living.”

The types of Internet activities that most Americans take for granted — watching videos, downloading songs, social networking — are out of reach for millions of homes across the United States. These people — many in poor, rural pockets — either have outmoded dial-up Internet service or have no affordable high-speed service. Sometimes the nearest high-speed connection is at the local library, 10 miles away. Read more about High Speed for the Sparsely Wired

Old Movie Houses Find Audience in the Plains

The New York Times | By Patricia Leigh Brown | July 4, 2010

Volunteers have been helping make small theaters like the Roxy centers of their communities

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Volunteers have been helping make small theaters like the Roxy centers of their communities.

LANGDON, N. D. — Every Friday through Monday night, from her perch behind the Skittles and the M&M’s, Amy Freier awaits the faithful at the historic Roxy Theater. There is Dale Klein, the school bus driver (large Diet Pepsi with a refill). And there is Jeannette Schefter, the social worker (large plain popcorn, medium Diet).

“You know who comes,” said Ms. Freier, one of 200 volunteers in this town of roughly 2,000 who are keeping the Roxy’s neon glowing. “They’re part of the theater.”

In an age of streaming videos and DVDs, the small town Main Street movie theater is thriving in North Dakota, the result of a grass-roots movement to keep storefront movie houses, with their jewel-like marquees and facades of careworn utility, at the center of community life.

From Crosby (population 1,000), near the Saskatchewan border, to Mayville, in the Red River Valley, tickets are about $5, the buttered popcorn $1.25 and the companionship free.

“If we were in Los Angeles or Phoenix, the only reason to go to a movie would be to see it,” said Cecile Wehrman, a newspaper editor who, with members of the nonprofit Meadowlark Arts Councilresuscitated the Dakota in Crosby, its plush interiors now a chic black, red and silver. “But in a small town, the theater is like a neighborhood. It’s the see-and-be-seen, bring everyone and sit together kind of place.”

Read more about Old Movie Houses Find Audience in the Plains

Banner County plans to provide its own power

Star Herald | By MAUNETTE LOEKS | June 17, 2010

Star HeraldAs strong winds kept the flags flying over the Banner County Courthouse flapping Thursday, Banner County Highway Superintendent Toby Tyler talked about harnessing that wind to power the building.

Banner County plans to lead the way to use wind energy to power its courthouse and a roads department building located on the same site. Last week, the Nebraska Energy Office announced that Banner County had been awarded an $82,360 renewable energy grant to construct a 20-kilowatt wind turbine.

Banner County was the only county to receive a renewable energy grant.

“Banner County and its commissioners are a lot more progressive than people think,” Tyler said, adding that commissioners decided to be proactive in encouraging wind energy within the county. The county’s foray into wind energy began when companies began looking at the county for a possible wind farm.

Commissioner Milo Sandberg said proposals heard by the county have as many as 1,250 wind turbines considered for a wind farm. Tyler said he began working with the Banner County Wind Energy Association, a group of landowners being proactive in bringing wind energy to the county.

Rural Entrepreneurs on the Rise

The Internet and Non-Profit Organizations Have Aided Rural Businesspeople With Start-Ups

ABC News | By WADE HILLIGOSS | June 20. 2010

Five years ago, Katrina Frey wanted to make a little extra money, so she started cooking up homemade gourmet jellies and syrups. Then she sold them out of the back of her van at a farmer's market in western Nebraska. She made $5,000 in her first year of business.

Today, after taking her venture online and moving to a building on Main Street in the small town of Stapleton, the mother of three whose husband is a farmer now grosses $50,000 a year.

John Marquis started his entrepreneurial journey four years ago in the basement of his Ogallala, Neb., home, recreating a vintage men's fragrance. Today, six online vendors sell his Ogallala Bay Rum aftershave and cologne to customers in 50 states and 31 countries.

Marquis and Frey are rural entrepreneurs who have created thriving businesses despite the bleak economy and their out-of-the-way locations. They're not the only ones. From 2008 to 2009, the number of self-employed Americans increased by 200,000 to 8.9 million, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas, a Chicago outplacement firm.

Grocery closings leave rural residents few options

The Washington Post | By BETSY BLANEY, AP | June 25, 2010

TURKEY, Texas -- Craig Chancellor tried everything he could, but last November he finally closed the Turkey General Store, leaving the small Texas Panhandle town without a grocery.

Although Chancellor tried to trim overhead and relocated a small cafe he owned into the store, he couldn't make it work. He paid more for salaries and utilities than he made in sales, and finally, lost more than he could afford.

"It didn't play the way we wanted it to," the 48-year-old Chancellor said. "People understand why we had to do it, but they hate it."

Researchers said Chancellor's story is being repeated across the country as rural stores struggle to survive amid competition from distant supercenters and relatively high operating costs. The grocery industry and government don't keep statistics on rural store closures, but experts said a long-running trend seems to be picking up speed. A survey by Kansas State University backed up that belief, finding that more than 38 percent of the 213 groceries in Kansas towns of less than 2,500 closed between 2006 and 2009.

It isn't just a store that goes when groceries close, said David Proctor, who studies rural communities at Kansas State. Such closures rob towns of their vitality, with the loss of gathering places and sales tax revenue to fund local governments. Read more about Grocery closings leave rural residents few options

DOT Gets Earful On Rural Transportation

by Leslie Wollack | National League of Cities and Towns

Main Street

Rural road in Montana. Photo by Jimmy Emerson and used here under Creative Commons. Click here to see more of Emerson's work.

Federal transportation officials continued their national listening tour with a meeting last week in Bismarck, N.D. Headlined by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, the multi-state tour is seeking perspectives on reauthorization of the federal surface transportation program, which expired last September and remains in limbo due to a lack of national consensus on a new direction for transportation programs and a shortage of transportation revenues.

Secretary LaHood emphasized his interest in hearing about the needs of rural America during his visit to Bismarck and his commitment to enacting a new transportation law, but warned that with limited resources, all states will need to set priorities.

“There’s going to be limited resources. In some cases, some people are going to have to set aside this issue or that issue,” said LaHood.

Connie Sprynczynatyk, executive director of the North Dakota League of Cities, provided the welcome for the federal, state and local officials invited to attend the meeting and provided input on the next surface transportation legislation and expressed satisfaction that LaHood came to hear about rural issues.

“This meeting was a great opportunity to discuss with Secretary LaHood and his key staff the strong interest among local leaders in America’s investment in transportation systems,” noted Sprynczynatyk. “The other stops on this reauthorization tour have been metropolitan cities, so it was particularly important to talk about the issues in rural America. The need to maintain connectivity and the need for the longer planning horizon that we get with a multi-year highway bill were two recurrent themes throughout the afternoon.” Read more about DOT Gets Earful On Rural Transportation

Vilsack: Broadband Funds Will Improve Life In Rural America

By the United States Department of Agriculture

Download the full report here

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2010 -- Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today highlighted the release of a report that details how broadband deployment funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) will improve the quality of life of over half a million rural American households. The report also states that broadband awards announced to date will create about 5,000 immediate and direct jobs. Read more about Vilsack: Broadband Funds Will Improve Life In Rural America

Farmer paralyzed but not out

Omaha World-Herald | Story by Leslie Reed, Photo by Kent SieversEric Beckman | May 31, 2010

PENDER, Neb. — Eric Beckman never wanted to be anything but a farmer.

After getting an associate degree in agriculture, he married a young woman from Lyons, just down the road. They moved onto the homeplace south of Pender and he started farming with his dad and uncle. He and his wife, Dana, had two children.

Then came the accident that changed everything for this northeast Nebraska farmer.

On a rainy night three years ago this month, Beckman drove two buddies over to Bancroft, Neb., about 10 miles away, to watch an Oscar De La Hoya fight on pay-per-view at a local bar.

Driving back, his truck hydroplaned on a curve and skidded into a ditch, where it caught a tree stump and flipped.

His friends walked away from the crash, but Beckman, who wasn't using a seat belt, was thrown partway out of the truck. He broke his neck and was left paralyzed from the collarbone down.

He was 31, and his life would never be the same.

But with assistance from a program that helps disabled farmers get back to work, Beckman once again is experiencing some of the simple joys of farm life. Read more about Farmer paralyzed but not out

USDA Identifies Gaps, Releases Maps Which Detail U.S. Local Meat Processing Facilities

By USDA

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2010 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture today released a preliminary study revealing existing gaps in the regional food systems regarding the availability of slaughter facilities to small meat and poultry producers. The study by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is a first attempt to identify areas in the U.S. where small livestock and poultry producers are concentrated but may not have access to a nearby slaughter facility. Read more about USDA Identifies Gaps, Releases Maps Which Detail U.S. Local Meat Processing Facilities

Bias Payments Come Too Late for Some Farmers

The New York Times | By Ashely Southall | May 25, 2010

On a recent Sunday in rural Macon, N.C., John W. Boyd Jr., the president of the National Black Farmers Association, went to his fourth funeral in a week.

Mr. Boyd has been burying his group’s members with bitter frequency, attending two or three funerals most weeks. Each death makes him feel as if he is running out of time.

Wrangling over the federal budget in Washington has delayed payouts from a $1.25 billion settlement that Mr. Boyd and several others helped negotiate with the federal government to compensate black farmers who claimed that the Agriculture Department had discriminated against them in making loans.

“I thought that the elderly farmers would get their money and get to live a few happy days of their lives,” Mr. Boyd, a Virginia farmer who is not a plaintiff in the settlement, said in an interview. “They deserve the money before they leave God’s earth.” Read more about Bias Payments Come Too Late for Some Farmers

Using Social Media to Attract People To Your Rural Community

By Mike Knutson | Reimagine Rural

Last summer, I met an individual who had moved from California to rural South Dakota. She was charged with setting up an office in the region for her employer, but the field of potential communities to locate was pretty open.

So, how did she choose? Part of the answer rested with a blog she discovered; she felt the blog helped her connect with people of similar interests and values in one community without having to move there first. But it also provided a more authentic view of the community than possible through a traditional community-based website. This isn’t a knock on traditional community-based websites. It simply acknowledges that even at their best, websites only tell part of the story. And they don’t usually help you meet people.

Is this an isolated incident or does it happens more often than we think? I don’t have research to validate an answer, but I believe the latter is more accurate. So until I find that research, I’d offer the following abbreviated list of reasons why I believe communities should include social media in their people attraction strategies. Read more about Using Social Media to Attract People To Your Rural Community

New USDA program offers 100 percent financing on homes

EpriseNow.com | May 19, 2010

USDA | Rural DevelopmentNo down payment home financing is available through USDA Rural Development to qualifying applicants in rural areas.

Through this home loan program, potential homebuyers may purchase a new or existing home, build a home or make improvements to an existing home. The current interest rate is 4.875 percent.

“Home ownership is still the American Dream, and it continues to be realized by many rural Alabamians using our housing programs,” said Ronnie Davis, state director of USDA Rural Development in Alabama.

“Our mission and goal at USDA Rural Development in Alabama is to provide every qualified applicant the opportunity to become a successful home owner,” Davis said. Read more about New USDA program offers 100 percent financing on homes

Healthcare Reports Aim to Clear Confusion for Rural Minnesotans

Public News Service - MN | By Sharon Rolenc & Deb Courson | May 20, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - In the wake of health care reform, many rural small-business owners are worried that insurance mandates under the new law will drive them out of business - further weakening fragile rural economies. In an effort to clear up the confusion about what the reforms will mean for rural Americans, the Center for Rural Affairs recently released the first in a series of reports, with the first topic addressing small business concerns. 

Public News Service logoJon Bailey, the report's author and director of theCenter for Rural Affairs rural research and analysis program, says that debate and rhetoric around health care reform created a lot of misinformation and a whole lot of unnecessary worry.

"If you have a small business with 50 or fewer employees - and that's almost all rural businesses - there is no mandate. You're not required to offer and provide health care insurance for your employees." Read more about Healthcare Reports Aim to Clear Confusion for Rural Minnesotans

Rural roads: Two lanes and treacherous

StarTribune.com | By RICHARD MERYHEW | May 18, 2010

Jake Rajewsky, Associated Pres

This was the scene of the April crash on County Road 20 near Altura, Minn., where three teenage girls were killed and a fourth was injured. The three who died were not wearing seat belts; the survivor said she was wearing a lap belt. All four were thrown from the truck.

The sky was clear and the spring afternoon was filled with promise as four girls from Lewiston-Altura High School piled into a pickup and headed off to start their weekend. A half-hour later, Shauna Ruhoff, 16, Morgan Zeller, 13 and Katie Hornberg, 14, were dead and Cydney Maker, 12, was clinging to life after the truck veered off a two-lane county road in southeastern Minnesota and flipped in a grassy ditch. Three of the girls were not wearing seat belts; the survivor said she was wearing a lap belt. All four were thrown from the truck.

"It shouldn't have happened," said Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand, who was called to the horrific scene that April afternoon. "It was a flat road. It was dry. Everything was visible."

It may be quieter and less congested on the roads of rural America, but don't be deceived: They can be deadly.

While the seven-county Twin Cities metro area has more than half of the state's population, roughly two out of three traffic deaths statewide -- and nationwide -- occur in rural areas. Read more about Rural roads: Two lanes and treacherous

Verizon to fulfill 4G promise to rural Americans?

CNET | By Marguerite Reardon | May 13, 2010

Verizon Wireless could make good on its promise to get 4G wireless broadband to rural America.

The nation's largest wireless provider is in talks with rural wireless operators to expand its 4G network to consumers in hard to reach areas of the country, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Verizon is building its next-generation wireless network using $4.7 billion worth of spectrum it acquired in the Federal Communication Commission's 700MHz auction in 2008. Using a technology called Long Term Evolution, or LTE, the carrier hopes to be in 25 to 30 markets by the end of this year. Read more about Verizon to fulfill 4G promise to rural Americans?

Smog in a Rural Valley? Mystery Is Solved

 The New York Times | By SINDYA N. BHANOO | April 26, 2010

The smog in California’s San Joaquin Valley has puzzled scientists for years. Even though the region is largely rural and agricultural, its smog levels exceed those of densely populated cities like Los Angeles.

Some have speculated that animal waste or pesticides are the cause: both emit ozone, a primary ingredient in smog. But a recent study published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology suggests that the primary culprit is actually cattle feed.

Researchers found that animal feed is the largest emitter of ozone in the valley, at 25 tons per day, followed by motor vehicles at 14 tons. Read more about Smog in a Rural Valley? Mystery Is Solved

USDA Marks 75 Years of Commitment to Rural Electrification

USDA News Release | May 11, 2010

RUS Focuses Future on Renewable Energy and Broadband

USDA logoWASHINGTON, May 11, 2010 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack highlighted today the marking of the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). On May 11, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order to create the REA to bring power to rural areas. REA is hailed as having the greatest impact on rural America, credited with transforming a life of challenges into one of productivity and prosperity. Today, REA's successor, the Rural Utilities Service (RUS), a mission area of USDA Rural Development, finances electric, telecommunications including broadband, and water and waste systems across rural America.

"With the help of REA, electric cooperatives changed the way rural America works and lives," said Vilsack. "Today's rural electric cooperatives are innovative leaders, delivering smarter infrastructure to deploy broadband and develop renewable energy. The REA, and its successor, the Rural Utilities Service, created sustainable jobs and drove economic development across the countryside. That impact continues today."

"The Rural Electrification Program was one of the greatest successes in government technology programs of all time, and the electrification of rural America is considered one of the biggest engineering triumphs of the last hundred years," said Agriculture Undersecretary for Rural Development Dallas Tonsager. Read more about USDA Marks 75 Years of Commitment to Rural Electrification

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