Rural Renewal Monitor



Students solve town's EMS shortage

 KTIV.com | By Zach Tecklenburg | May 10, 2010

AKRON, Iowa (KTIV) -- In small towns, services like emergency response are often limited. That's why it's important for volunteers to step up and take on duties in the fire department, or as EMTs.

Rounding up people to respond is a challenge in rural towns, but in Akron, Iowa, they're looking to teenagers to be first on the scene. Monday night, they received their EMS certification.

"We have a problem with volunteerism in the community and this is a way to maybe get some more volunteers," says program instructor John Jorgensen.

Monday night, six students from Akron-Westfield High School received their certificates for completing the EMS program through WIT. Read more about Students solve town's EMS shortage

Study finds Midwest could profit by growing fruit, vegetables to meet demand for local food

Los Angeles Times | By MICHAEL J. CRUMB, Associated Press Writer | May 7, 2010

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Midwest is known more for growing corn than cauliflower, but if its farmers raised the fruit and vegetables eaten in the Heartland, they could create thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in income, according to a recent study.LA Times

The study from Iowa State University looked at what would happen if farmers in six Midwestern states — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — raised 28 crops in quantities large enough to meet local demand. It found that if an ample supply of produce could be grown regionally, it would spur $882 million in sales, more than 9,300 jobs and about $395 million in labor income. Read more about Study finds Midwest could profit by growing fruit, vegetables to meet demand for local food

In Maine, A Rural Coalition That Works

Maine rural legislators from the inland had never worked with Maine rural legislators from the coast. Until they did.

DailyYonder.com | By Rep. Nancy Smith and Rep. Leila J Percy | May 5, 2010

In Penobscot Bay off the coast of Mount Desert Island. Photo was taken from a ferry ride to Little Cranberry Island. | Photo by Nancy Smith via DailyYonder.com

In the Maine legislature we know that our marine coastal areas are indeed part of our rural heritage and our current economy.  We understand that fishermen, clammers, lobstermen, mussel farmers, and those who run businesses dependent on ocean-based enterprises share many of the challenges faced by our farm and forestry centered family businesses.

We didn’t start off this way. For some time, land-locked Maine legislators couldn’t see the connection between rural communities and the waterfront. Read more about In Maine, A Rural Coalition That Works

Minnesota's Farm to School Program Brings Local Produce to Local Kids

By Wendy Johnson | Pine Journal | May 6, 2010

When Brent Campbell, a chemical-free market gardener from Iron River, Wis., supplied the 8,000 students of the Superior School District with fresh apples, students enthusiastically welcomed the fresh produce.

But after he and his wife spent six hours each washing, cutting, seeding and packaging their home-grown winter squash for those same students, at first the youngsters weren’t sure just what to make of it.

“The first time we served it, the little kids wondered what it was, so there was a fair amount of waste,” admitted Superior Food Service Director Jeanne Hopkins. “The second time around, however, a lot less went to waste. What it really amounts to is trying to change the students’ thinking patterns about what’s on their plates,” she concluded.

Campbell and Hopkins were among some 100 area residents gathered at the Cloquet Forestry Center last Thursday with one common goal in mind – to bring more local foods to community cafeterias. The Farm to School Program (more generically referred to as “School to Cafeteria”) is a recent initiative of the University of Minnesota Extension Service, which sponsored the day-long conference in consort with various sustainable farming initiatives and agricultural organizations.

“Our goal,” said Stephanie Heim, Farm to School coordinator, “is to bring food producers together with buyers and food service workers in order to supply cafeterias with fresh, local produce in place of the institutional, processed foods that many of them currently serve.” Read more about Minnesota's Farm to School Program Brings Local Produce to Local Kids

Rural Hall history reflected in displays

Winston-Salem Journal | By Melissa Hall | April 25, 2010

Peggy Toler, a member of the historical society’s board of directors, gathered many of the items donated by local residents for display in the museum. | Photo by Jennifer Rotenizer

Town leaders and members of the Rural Hall Historical Society showed off the museum yesterday at its grand opening. It is in the former town hall on Bethania Street.

Mayor Larry Williams said that for many years he had wanted the town to have a museum and supporting historical group, which was formed about three years ago.

"We're excited about it from the town's perspective," Williams said. "It was the logical step."

Society members pushed for the museum because they want people to know about their town and how it has gotten where it is today.

Bank building lives on in Buxton, ND

Prairie Business Magazine | By Amanda Hvidsten | April 5, 2010

Bullet holes remain in one of the building’s doorways from a still unsolved 1933 bank robbery that resulted in the death of one of the bank’s cashiers.

The small Buxton Bank building in Buxton, ND, has been vacant for decades. But new life is being breathed into the structure. An effort is under way to restore the circa 1893 building to its former glory.

Bobbi Hepper Olson, the owner of Hepper Olson Architects, moved to Buxton after marrying a local fourth-generation farmer and drove past the old building for seven years before deciding something needed to be done to the structure.

Between neglect and the effects of the elements since it closed in 1977, the building had fallen into disrepair. Its floors, ceiling and everything in between needed help.

Hepper Olson’s background as an architect and her interest in the building made her the perfect person for the job. Her passion for the project also helped sustain the effort.

Growing Number of Small Farms Living Off the Land

Wayne and Jo Ann Wilson, repot tomatoes on their family farm in north Knox County. They are starting their 8th year with farming as their sole income. | Photo by Michael Patrick

KnoxvilleBiz.com | By Larisa Brass | April 19, 2010

Lending new meaning to the term 'seed companies,' a new generation of start-ups is putting down roots in East Tennessee.

Micro-farming has found a niche here as agricultural entrepreneurs without the dollars to invest in larger, wholesale-type operations grow fresh produce for an increasing number of retail customers seeking natural and organically-grown local fruits and vegetables, eggs, flowers and other farm products.

In spite of a bad economy and poor growing weather — Tennessee producers were staggering last year from unseasonably wet conditions and the blights that followed — more small farmers are coming on the scene, and more of them derive their primary income from a few acres cultivated six to eight months of the year.

It's a new trend for this area, which has for a number of years hosted farmers markets, primarily populated by producers selling off extra veggies or engaging in a summer-only venture to supplement their primary income. Read more about Growing Number of Small Farms Living Off the Land

Rebuilding a Town Hub From a Store’s Ashes

The New York Times | By Katie Zezima | April 24, 2010

 Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times

“It’s almost like a death in this town,” Lorelei Smead said of the Putney General Store, destroyed by arson in November.

PUTNEY, Vt. — When residents saw flames shooting out of the Putney General Store in November, they were filled with an all-too familiar sense of dread.

Stunned residents watched the store, which had been rebuilt after being severely damaged in an electrical fire in May 2008 but had not yet reopened, burn in a fireball that could be seen for miles. Then the improbable got even worse: the fire was declared arson.

“It was definitely an emotional kick to the gut,” said one resident, Lyssa Papazian. And the town was determined to hit back.

For residents of this bucolic town of 2,600 in southern Vermont, the general store was more than just a place to grab a cup of coffee or pick up a loaf of bread on the way home. For more than 200 years it had literally and figuratively been the town center, where people learned when babies were born and debated town issues while perusing the shelves or buying a hammer. Out-of-towners on their way to ski or see foliage would stop for sandwiches and penny candy and pose for photographs in front of the red wooden building. Read more about Rebuilding a Town Hub From a Store’s Ashes

House Set to Extend Rural Home Loan Guarantee Program

Mortgage News Daily | By Jane Swanson | April 23, 2010

The continued availability of government guaranteed mortgages for rural homebuyers was virtually assured yesterday when the House Financial Services Committee voted to approve H.R. 5017.  The unanimous vote will send the Rural Housing Preservation and Stabilization Act of 2010 to the full House of Representatives where sources said it was fast tracked for a vote as early as next week.

If passed, the bill will correct the Section 502 Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program to make it self-funding.  Section 502 assists homebuyers living in rural areas to obtain affordable mortgages guaranteed by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  These loan guarantees have become enormously popular during the financial crisis and consumer demand has tripled the annual number of loans that are typically issued each year.  The program is set to exhaust its available funds within days.   Under the new legislation, lenders will pay up to a 4 percent premium for the guarantee at the time the loan is initiated which will enable the financing of the program to move from a combination of government funding and industry fees to a self-sustaining initiative. The bill authorizes the department to guarantee up to $30 billion in loans in FY 2010. Read more about House Set to Extend Rural Home Loan Guarantee Program

With bill's passage and projects in works, wind power gains steam

The Grand Island Independent | By Mark Coddington | April 24, 2010

Nebraska's wind power advocates, once few but vocal, are now part of a statewide push that's riding a wave of legislative victories and gaining momentum with every passing month. If you would have told Nebraska Farmers Union President John Hansen this five years ago, you might have been laughed out of the building.

"I'd have just looked at you and said, 'You've got to be kidding,'" Hansen said.

The last couple of years have been a flurry of activity for Nebraska's development of wind energy, and few stretches have been busier than the last month or so.

Earlier this month, the state Legislature passed LB1048, a bill several senators referred to as a "landmark" in the state's pursuit of wind development. State Sen. Annette Dubas of Fullerton, one of the Legislature's staunchest wind-power advocates, called it "the granddaddy of them all."

The Nebraska Public Power District issued its third annual request for proposals, starting a process that should culminate in at least one wind farm being added to the state's portfolio, if not more. Read more about With bill's passage and projects in works, wind power gains steam

Against the grain: Keith Fritz creates divine furniture in rural Indiana

The Washington Post | By Annie Groer | April 25, 2010

Even with tenants generating $48,000 a year in rent, Fritz has posted either meager profits or moderate losses in recent years, with the rising cost of labor and materials and the downturn in the market. He believes he can ride out the recession and ultimately earn a 5 percent profit without expanding beyond his six showrooms. "I don't want to be larger than 10 employees and five outside contractors, and maybe a couple million dollars a year in sales. If it gets larger than that, then I cannot control quality." | Photo by Bill Luster

On a raw and dreary February morning, former Washingtonian Keith Fritz wrestled a heavily padded tabletop and base into the tony Washington Design Center, where clients can pay as much for a chandelier as they would for a low-end BMW.

The table wasn't just another piece of fine furniture. With its round 64-inch-wide top and three curved legs on silver paw-foot casters, it represented more than 125 painstaking hours of work: sawing, sanding, gluing, planing, scraping, filling, staining, sealing, polishing, waxing and buffing. It symbolized Fritz's recession-tossed dream of proving that a tiny Indiana town with one traffic light could produce swoon-inducing furniture for designers from Dallas to New York and, in the process, help nudge a corner of the American heartland toward economic health and artistic fellowship.

***

On that Monday not far from the U.S. Capitol, Fritz, 33, was wearing jeans, sneakers and a Brooks Brothers shirt -- one of many high-quality hand-me-downs from well-dressed designer pals familiar with his frugality and indifference to fashion. Sitting on the floor of the elegant Michael-Cleary home furnishings showroom, shoulders hunched up around his ears, he began attaching the tabletop to its base. After several minutes, he wriggled out and unfolded his 6-foot frame to inspect the surface, which was bathed in the bright glow of the chandeliers, sconces and lamps of the showroom's lighting gallery. Fritz, who has blue eyes and a monkish fringe of hair, peered down at 16 near-identical pie-matched slices of American "cathedral arch" walnut veneer, bordered in a thin circle of ebony. He smiled broadly.

When two local interior designers had told him they needed a table to anchor their dining room in the 2010 D.C. Design House, Fritz built this one for them on spec. It would stay at Michael-Cleary, Fritz's Washington showroom, which is open only to the design trade, until late last month, when it would be moved to a 1905 Georgian-style red brick mansion in Chevy Chase. From April 10 through May 9, it would be seen by thousands of home decor devotees who would come to ogle the efforts of 21 designers who had worked their magic on 20 rooms and newly landscaped gardens.

Although Keith Fritz Fine Furniture samples are also in showrooms in New York, Chicago, Boston, Dallas and Atlanta, Fritz's deepest roots outside Indiana are in Washington. It is here that he met his first decorators, architects and designers; snagged his first important clients; and came to believe he could, indeed, earn a living making furniture. It was here, too, that he learned that real estate could subsidize art. Read more about Against the grain: Keith Fritz creates divine furniture in rural Indiana

Poll finds overwhelming support for wind power in Nebraska

Lincoln Journal Star | By Staff | April 20, 2010

A strong majority of Nebraska voters -- 79 percent -- favors requiring electric utilities to use renewable energy sources for at least 20 percent of the power they generate.

That was a key finding of a new poll released Tuesday by the Center for Rural Affairs, American Wind Energy Association, and Wind Coalition and Energy Foundation, all proponents of a strong, federal renewable electricity standard.

"We are most encouraged by the fact that the strong support for wind energy knows no geographic, political or demographic bounds. From Falls City to Scottsbluff, from Hartington to Imperial, rural and urban, Republican and Democrat, there is overwhelming support for wind energy and more than 3-to-1 support for a 20 percent renewable electricity standard," said John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs, in a prepared statement.

Rural ozone can be fed by feed (as in silage)

ScienceNews.org | By Janet Raloff | April 21, 2010

Livestock operations take a lot of flak for polluting. Manure lagoons not only irritate neighbors’ noses but also leak nitrogen — sometimes fostering dead zones up to 1,000 miles downstream. And ruminants can release copious amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas. Researchers are now linking ozone to livestock as well. But this time the pollution source is not what comes out the back end of an animal but what’s destined to go in the front.

State air-quality managers have been puzzling over why some rural areas suffer high ozone pollution. It’s been a real conundrum in California’s San Joaquin Valley, home to three of the nation’s six most ozone-ravaged counties.

In big cities, combustion products spewed out of tailpipes and smokestacks play a big role in cooking up ozone. But there’s a paucity of these in rural America. Read more about Rural ozone can be fed by feed (as in silage)

Research into promoting physical activity in rural America digs beneath scenic surface

 The Washington Post | By Holy Ramer, Associated Press | April 20, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — From hiking and biking to skiing and shoveling snow, staying physically active in rural northern New England might sound like a cinch. But researchers who have begun exploring how to promote healthy living in rural communities are digging beneath that scenic surface.

"From the outside looking in, you say, 'Oh, they don't need a park, they have the woods. But the woods can be as much of a deterrent to being physically active as a freeway, depending on how you look at it," said Barbara McCahan, director of the Center for Active Living and Healthy Communities at Plymouth State University.

The New Hampshire school is one of a handful of universities looking at ways to encourage active living, health and wellness in rural places. Researchers say the work is important because people living in rural communities are at greater risk for obesity, and past research focused on cities and suburbs has often produced conclusions that are a poor fit for rural towns. Read more about Research into promoting physical activity in rural America digs beneath scenic surface

Senator Tester asks VA for better G.I. Bill support in rural areas

Senator demands better communication, handling of landmark law

The Clark Fork Chronicle | By Andrea Helling | April 21, 2010

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today criticized the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the way it handles overpayments made to colleges and universities through the new 21st Century G.I. Bill.

The landmark law went into effect last year, paying college tuition, living expenses and books for thousands of Montana veterans who have served on active duty in the military since the terrorist attacks of 2001.

But during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today, Tester said he expects the VA to improve the way it’s implementing the law.

Currently, when the VA sends too much money to colleges and universities to reimburse veterans’ tuitions, the VA directs the schools to refund the students instead of returning the money to the VA. This means veterans are automatically placed in “overpayment status” by the VA —meaning they are responsible for a debt they are sometimes not even aware of.  Read more about Senator Tester asks VA for better G.I. Bill support in rural areas

Program to Help Rural Home Buyers Is Nearly Broke

The New York Times | By the Associated Press | April 14, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A federal loan program that has helped hundreds of thousands of Americans buy homes in rural areas is about to run out of money, potentially crippling the real estate market in many small communities.

Since last fall, the loans from the Department of Agriculture have fueled much of the real estate business in some parts of the country. Real estate agents are pleading with Congress to find a way to keep the money flowing until more funding becomes available later in the year.

The program has doubled in size thanks to stimulus money, but now it appears to be a victim of its own success, largely because of the generous terms offered to borrowers.

''It definitely helped me out,'' said Lisa Kartak, who closed late last month on a new three-bedroom house in Annandale, a small town 50 miles west of Minneapolis. ''If I didn't get approved through them, I would have had to bring thousands of dollars to the table.'' Read more about Program to Help Rural Home Buyers Is Nearly Broke

A State With Plenty of Jobs but Few Places to Live

The New York Times | By Monica Davey | April 20, 2010

Mercedes Allen, with her son, Hunter, scanned ads for scarce housing in Williston, N.D.
Photo by Todd Heisler/The New York Times 

WILLISTON, N.D. — When Joey Scott arrived here recently from Montana, he had no trouble finding work — he signed almost immediately with a company working to drill in the oil fields. But finding housing was another matter.

Every motel in town was booked, some for months in advance. Every apartment complex, even every mobile home park, had a waiting list. Mr. Scott found himself sleeping in his pickup truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot, shaving and washing his hair in a puddle of melted snow.

“I’ve got a pocketful of money, but I just can’t find a room,” said Mr. Scott, 25. Read more about A State With Plenty of Jobs but Few Places to Live

Walthill, NE Residents Ponder Future

KMEG | By Jeremy Maskell | April 20, 2010 

"Seems like we have our annual barbeque here about once a year on Main Street. You can only do that so often," said Fire Chief Mark English. His volunteer crews respond to 16 structure fires each year. They beg the question, what will people do as the heart of their hometown slows?

"Hardware store, service station, repair shop, our bar, apartment complex," said Hawkins, naming all the vanishing buildings. "No where to go anymore," said Elizabeth Whiteeyes.

"Burning these buildings down, accidental or arson, it's just taking away from their community," argued English. Read more about Walthill, NE Residents Ponder Future

Gallagher: Life after meatpacking? There is in West Point

Locals remember day when Tyson closed, putting 265 out of work

Sioux City Journal | By Tim Gallagher | April 18, 2010

WEST POINT, Neb. -- The following are figures from recent projects here:

  • $5.4 million Nielsen Community Center.
  • $7.4 million renovation/addition at St. Francis Memorial Hospital.
  • $8.2 million West Point Elementary School.

All started after Tyson Foods dropped an economic bomb on Feb. 15, 2006, announcing it was closing its production facility south of West Point. The news sent 265 workers looking for jobs and sucked a $7 million payroll from this town of 3,660.

I came here Friday asking: What's it like for a town to get punched like that?

"I almost forgot Tyson was there," Brian Kreikemeier of West Point said during lunch at A Taste of Mexico Mexican Grill.

What Obama is Missing on Rural Schools

by Caitlin Howley | The Daily Yonder

Jack Corn Children at recess in Chatteroy, West Virginia (Mingo County), in 1974. Rural schools have different needs than urban schools — a fact that the Obama Administration's Blueprint doesn't acknowledge.

It’s difficult to argue that the Obama administration and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) have overlooked rural schools and districts. At the same time, administration officials don’t appear to have seen rural education either, at least in their major proposals.

A Blueprint for Reform introduces the administration’s priorities: in particular, it spells out how the Obama administration wants to change the nation’s most significant federal education law, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), otherwise known these days as No Child Left Behind. Plans range from revising all state learning standards so that students leave school “college- or career-ready” to measuring student academic growth rather than student grade level proficiency. Read more about What Obama is Missing on Rural Schools

Small towns hope incentives of up to $8,000 spark residential growth

ArgusLeader.com | By Brenda Wade Schmidt | April 5, 2010

Some area small towns are willing to pay people to become their neighbors.

Groups in Parker, Lennox and Beresford are offering incentives to anyone who buys a developed lot and builds a home. In some cases, buyers can save as much as $8,000.

"That's huge. I'm not seeing that anyplace else," said Bret Gardella, Parker Development Corp. executive director. "Eight thousand dollars is a huge drop in the bucket."

Parker's development group started offering a 50 percent discount April 1 on the 27 lots in its development called The Meadows. The deal, which allows up to $8,000 in savings, will be good through August. Read more about Small towns hope incentives of up to $8,000 spark residential growth

Lawyers a luxury in rural Georgia

State has plenty of attorneys, but few serve outside metro areas

Attorney Cristina Meneses (left), of the Georgia Legal Services Program, talks to Jessica Walls inside the Econo-Wash Laundry in Sparta about the free legal services the GLSP provides. The GLSP, which works in rural counties, finds its services increasingly in demand in this brutal economy.
Photo by Johnny Crawford, jcrawford@ajc.com

McRae — Sylvia Moon, along with everyone else waiting in the packed reading area of the public library, hopes the young lawyer from Macon can help.

It’s the third week of the month, and the reading area looks more like an office waiting room as the 10 people each seek a few minutes of his time. It’s a common situation in McRae, accentuated by a poor economy that has tightened access to legal help and driven an increase in cases in areas such as bankruptcy.

Moon’s problem: She’s being sued for a defaulted credit card account she says she never opened.

To her relief, Mike Tafelski, the lawyer, tells her not to panic and agrees to represent her.

“It’s so much off your mind when you get somebody to help you,” she says later, bristling at the idea of being seen as a deadbeat. “I’m 73 years old and I still work every day except Sunday. I pay my bills.”

For Moon and others who came to the library on a recent Wednesday, Tafelski, an attorney with the Georgia Legal Services Program, is their sole lifeline to legal help. Read more about Lawyers a luxury in rural Georgia

Munson: Iowa grocery tycoon, 21, builds small-town business

Des Moines Register | By Kyle Munson, kmunson@dmreg.com | April 2, 2010

Debbie Frank, shown with Nick Graham, is impressed with the resume of her new boss at the Nodaway Valley Market in Fontanelle. He also owns stores in Pomeroy and Rolfe.
Photo by Kyle Munson, The Register

Fontanelle, Ia. — Meet the "Donald Trump of Fontanelle."

Nick Graham swept into town this week, purchased the local grocery store and has residents buzzing.

For more than three years Nick, 21, has reigned as the undisputed "youngest grocer in America." Tuesday he took over the Nodaway Valley Market on the square in this town of fewer than 700. It's the third store in his Iowa grocery chain, which includes stores in Pomeroy and Rolfe, where he lives.

"Holy cow," Debbie Frank says Wednesday from behind the cash register. Just hearing Nick's resume "makes me think I've done nothing with my life!"

Lifelong Fontanelle resident Marge Westphal, 74, works evenings at Nodaway Valley Market and bestowed the Trump nickname on Nick.

"At his age, the things he's done - it's fascinating and overwhelming," Marge says.

Rural 'Dropout Factories' Often Overshadowed

Education Week | By Mary Ann Zehr | March 30, 2010

Some high schools are fighting the odds by employing research-based strategies.

Matt Hunter works on a car last week in Westminster, S.C. The 22-year-old quit school and says he has no intention of returning.
—Christopher Powers/Education Week.

Salem, S.C.

In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains here in the northwest corner of South Carolina, high schools’ attempts to curb student dropouts may not match what many people picture when they hear talk of the nation’s “dropout factories.” Yet one-fifth of the 2,000 high schools nationwide categorized that way by researchers at Johns Hopkins University are in rural areas, some of them small schools where students get a lot of personal attention.

With 50 such schools, South Carolina tops all other states in the number of rural schools on the dropout-factory list, with Georgia and North Carolina not far behind. Nearly half of those South Carolina schools have fewer than 500 students.

Tamassee-Salem Middle and High School here in Oconee County is among them. It has 154 students in grades 9-12 and is located in a town with fewer than 150 people whose commercial area consists of a convenience store, a dollar store, three churches, and a gas station. The school’s challenge of graduating students illustrates that it’s no simple endeavor to help them see the relevance of an education. Read more about Rural 'Dropout Factories' Often Overshadowed

Few to Count, but All Eager to Get It Done

The New York Times | By Monica Davey | March 31, 2010

Todd Heisler/The New York Times  The 2000 census counted 50 people in Wolford, N.D. “We'll be lucky if we have 40 people this time,” Mayor Jim Wolf says.

Todd Heisler/The New York Times
The 2000 census counted 50 people in Wolford, N.D. “We'll be lucky if we have 40 people this time,” Mayor Jim Wolf says.

WOLFORD, N.D. — Kyle Yoder, 8, heard at school that the Census Bureau was starting to count the country and began asking his parents the same question every night: Had their form arrived in the mail today?

When it did, Kyle and his mother, Laura, filled it out together, then mailed it back almost immediately. “That’s just what you do,” Ms. Yoder, a nurse, said with a shrug. “You get it done. It’s not even a question.”

So it goes in Wolford, a speck of a town surrounded by fields of wheat, barley, soybeans and flax, where, census officials say, every person who received a questionnaire has already filled it out and sent it back. That distinction is shared, they say, by a smattering of other tiny towns, mostly in the Midwest.

With Thursday dubbed Census Day — the day the questionnaires are meant to capture as a snapshot — South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota and Iowa are ranked the top five states by federal officials, because they have the highest participation rates in the census so far. People can send in the forms until mid-April, but the Midwest’s cooperativeness might rightly worry other regions. Read more about Few to Count, but All Eager to Get It Done

USDA Rural Development offers 100-percent financing for Nebraska homebuyers

High Plains Midwest Ag Journal | March 22, 2010

Thinking of buying a home? Now may be the time. Many people who never thought they could own a home may now have an opportunity through the USDA direct loan program.

USDA Rural Development offers home loans with no down payment and low interest rates for qualifying applicants in rural communities. The Direct homeownership loan program provides for a long-term fixed interest rate, which is currently 4.875 percent. Mortgage payments are adjusted according to household income; therefore, the effective interest rate paid by the homeowner may be further reduced through interest rate subsidy to qualified applicants.

Housing Specialist Teresa Olander in the Norfolk Area office said that applicants may actually be able to pay a total monthly house payment, including taxes and insurance, for less than what they are currently paying for rent.

As a result of increased funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, USDA Rural Development has more than $24 million available in Nebraska to help families achieve the dream of homeownership through the direct loan program. Last fiscal year, Rural Development provided nearly $11 million through this loan program to rural Nebraska households for home purchases. Read more about USDA Rural Development offers 100-percent financing for Nebraska homebuyers

Push to Eat Local Food Is Hampered by Shortage

The New York Times | By Katie Zezima | March 26, 2010

DEMAND AND NO SUPPLY Kevin McCollister raises sheep and pigs on his farm in East Montpelier, Vt., and has had trouble arranging for slaughter.  Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times.

DEMAND AND NO SUPPLY Kevin McCollister raises sheep and pigs on his farm in East Montpelier, Vt., and has had trouble arranging for slaughter.  Matthew Cavanaugh for The New York Times.

EAST MONTPELIER, Vt. — Erica Zimmerman and her husband spent months pasture-raising pigs on their farm here, but when the time came to take them to slaughter, an overbooked facility canceled their appointment.

With the herd in prime condition, and the couple lacking food and space to keep them, they frantically called slaughterhouses throughout the state. After several days they found an opening, but their experience highlights a growing problem for small farmers here and across the nation: too few slaughterhouses to meet the growing demand for locally raised meat.

In what could be a major setback for America’s local-food movement, championed by so-called locavores, independent farmers around the country say they are forced to make slaughter appointments before animals are born and to drive hundreds of miles to facilities, adding to their costs and causing stress to livestock. Read more about Push to Eat Local Food Is Hampered by Shortage

The Importance of Being Counted (Pop. 842)

The New York Times | By Dan Barry | March 24, 2010

Barbara Sessa is determined that San Antonio gets its due. Photo by Nicole Bengiveno / The New York Times

Barbara Sessa is determined that San Antonio gets its due. Photo by Nicole Bengiveno / The New York Times

Ten years have passed since the country last tried to meet the essential, constitutional and all-but-impossible mandate to count everybody; the whole lot of us. Ten years since it last attempted something akin to counting the granules in an ever-filling, ever-leaking bucket of sand.

A decade, then, since the Bureau of the Census undercounted the number of residents here in San Antonio, a very small community in central Florida that is named after — of all the saints in heaven — the patron saint of those who seek missing things.

If the short count caused some celestial laughter, San Antonio’s city clerk and protector, Barbara Sessa, respectfully did not join in. She has bristled ever since with the knowledge that the city’s official population has stood for 10 years at 684, when it should have been 842.

“I know that’s a small number,” she says. “But to claim we had 684! When we knew we had 842!”

The country is again taking roll, asking an estimated 307,006,550 people to raise their hands and say, Here. As part of this $14 billion effort to quantify who we are, the Census Bureau started mailing out questionnaires last week, then followed up this week with schoolmarm postcard reminders that basically said, Boys and girls, please raise your hands! Read more about The Importance of Being Counted (Pop. 842)

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