Board spotlight: Ross Larson remembers the past to serve rural America today

Small Towns

Many of us have strong memories of those who came before us, and of the stories of how our families became what they are today.
When Ross Larson remembers his ancestors, one in particular stands out as a shining example of courage and strength during challenging times—a 16-year-old girl who traveled alone by boat from Sweden to the U.S. to make a life.
As a member of the Center for Rural Affairs Board of Directors, Ross often thinks of her as he does his part to help others trying to do the same thing, so many years later.
“I get great satisfaction from the knowledge that I'm a part of helping some other newcomer to our country get their start like my great-grandmother did 150-plus years ago,” Ross said.
He was interested in the Center and a supporter of it for decades before he joined the Board in March 2019.
“I had heard of the Center back in the 1970s, and became more aware of it during the farm crisis of the 1980s,” he said. “The pivotal change for me came in 2008 when I heard a member of the Center explain the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. I was impressed.”
That positive experience led him to dedicate much of his time to bettering rural America. In addition to sitting on the Board, Ross is part of the Center’s Granary Foundation Board, which has fiduciary responsibility for the Center’s endowment fund.
From earning his bachelor’s degree in chemistry to serving in the military, then returning to his family farm in Wahoo, Nebraska, where he and his wife, Carole, still live, Ross has worn a variety of hats over the years. From farmer to banker, he worked as a financial adviser, insurance sales representative, crop insurance agent, and agricultural and commercial lender before retiring. Today, he uses his life and career experience to guide his actions while serving the Center. 
“I love that I can take a lifetime of experience and use that knowledge to help lift up corners of rural communities that seldom get a lot of attention,” Ross said. “The Center's work is a marvelous example of what grassroots organizing of morally engaged people can do to help others climb the ladder of success to the benefit of their families and community.”
Ross is especially driven to continue moving the Center’s lending capabilities forward, as he’s seen the value of this work firsthand. And, in the two years he has been on the Center’s Board of Directors, he has experienced much to make him proud to be part of the organization.
“Unlike huge corporations and powerful interest groups, the Center is a voice for the voiceless,” he said. “I have a particular fondness for the impact of the Center’s ability to offer business and residential loans to underserved rural, immigrant, and Native American people. Our target market is different from a typical bank, but our goal is the same: Make loans in a community so that everyone wins.”
Feature photos: Ross Larson, center, participates in a Center Board meeting in December 2019 in rural Louisville, Nebraska.
During a break between meetings, Ross visits with Center Board and staff.
Ross, left, meets with Center staff during a Board meeting in September 2019 in West Point, Nebraska.  |  Photos by Rhea Landholm