From the desk of the executive director: Growing reach, growing impact

The Center for Rural Affairs makes its home office in Lyons, Nebraska. We built a new office in this northeast Nebraska community of 851 people in 2004.

Since our founding in 1973, putting down roots in a small town in the middle of the country has always been a radical demonstration of our commitment to rural America. Then – and now – rural places face profound challenges. Being part of rural America, and confronting these challenges in our daily life, is truly part of the makeup of the Center.

We recommitted ourselves to that vision when we invested in a new office. That vision drove staff and program growth in the 14 years since. Our office was built with future growth in mind. Empty offices were an expression of our optimism for increased future impact.

That optimism has been born out. Over the last 14 years, the Center’s staff has grown from 25 to more than 40. Today, our office is full. With plans to hire three additional staff, construction is underway to turn an underused conference room into five additional offices.

Over the same time period, our budget has grown from $1.9 million to $5.5 million per year. Every single aspect of our work has grown in scope and impact.

Half of the team is in Lyons. We also now have an office in Nevada, Iowa, with three staff members. Additional staff are remotely located around the state of Nebraska. A contract organizer in Kansas rounds out the map.

As our staff grew, we took on new work, often prompted by your feedback. The Center played a major role in health care and energy policy in the last 10 years. At both the state and federal level, we are active on a broad set of issues today. Our small business assistance work doubled and doubled again. We also added major focus on Latino small business development in direct response to need in the field.

Our work with small towns now spans from community-based art strategies to a large-scale effort in Nebraska to create more welcoming communities as immigration reshapes rural places. Our engagement with farmers reaches from hands-on assistance with low resource producers to engagement with conservation, beginning farmer, and crop insurance policy.

None of this would have been possible without you – our grassroot supporters, community advocates, donors, and funders. We know that if we are persistent, we can create a better future for our communities, ourselves, and future generations. That is the vision and the ethic that our team commits itself to each and every day.

What will the future bring? That depends on what you think the needs are, and what you will help us create. We will create the future together. As we do, our commitment to rural America will remain at the center.