Iowa Farm Couple receives Center for Rural Affairs Citizenship Award

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Virginia Wolking,, (612) 816-8731 John Crabtree,, (402) 687-2103 ext. 1010
Kearney, NE – Yesterday, the Center for Rural Affairs presented its Citizenship Award to Suzanne Castello and Robert “Barney” Bahrenfuse of Grinnell, Iowa during an awards banquet on the eve of the organization’s 5th annual MarketPlace entrepreneurship conference in Kearney. The Citizenship Award is given annually to an individual or individuals who actively participate in the democratic process for creating public policy, and who work closely with the Center for Rural Affairs to advance public policies that strengthen family farms, ranches and rural communities.
“Barney and Suzanne care deeply about their community and understand the impacts that public policy can have on rural communities,” said Virginia Wolking, Rural Policy Organizer for the Center for Rural Affairs.

According to Wolking, the couple raise cows, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens on B and B farms outside of Grinnell, Iowa.  Suzanne has also made the time to become an advocate for improving access to quality, affordable health care in rural communities - writing letters, making calls, attending meetings and even sitting for an interview by Iowa Farmer Today reporters for a story on health care.

“I first met Suzanne, Barney and their son Gabe in Grinnell at a meeting on how to make health care reform work for rural people,” recalled Wolking. “We knew Suzanne was serious about the topic of health care when we found that she recruited several other people from Grinnell to attend the meeting, including her family doctor. She has the guts and smarts to ask the hard questions about health care reform.”

“The Center for Rural Affairs does such good work giving voice and action to my concerns as a farmer and business person,” said Castello. “So often, I’m silently saying thank you to the Center for organizing, doing leg-work, bringing people together to get something done when I feel it is too overwhelming as one person, or as a family, to get something done about that concern.”

“I feel honored that the Center for Rural Affairs staff see my husband and my small efforts as a help, especially in getting the word out about the needs of others like us for stable, affordable health care.  And for bringing our voice to people in Washington,” concluded Castello.

“It doesn’t take long to see how passionate Suzanne and Barney are about many issues the Center for Rural Affairs works on, including rural health care,” Wolking added.  “Barney and Suzanne care so much about rural issues that they actually stopped by the Center for Rural Affairs office on their honeymoon!  That’s something that the Center staff will not soon forget.”

For a picture of Suzanne and Barney, visit:

Citizenship AwardCitizenship Award on Flickr (Picture courtesy of Center for Rural Affairs) and Barney_0.jpg