Center for Rural Affairs January and February 2022 Newsletter

Small Towns
Farm and Food
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Editor's note

Throughout this issue, we focus on one of our organization's core values: "RESPONSIBILITY placed upon each of us to contribute to our community and society."

When you turn the page, you'll find a story on a group of students taking responsibility for their culture. We offered a week-long course this summer on preparing Native food and learning traditions. These amazing young people are taking to heart what it means to contribute to our community and society.

Responsibility continues with taking care of land and resources through farming and ranching. Mel and Jan Gimbel are doing what they can to conserve natural resources with the help of the Conservation Stewardship Program. And, beginning farmer Matt Brehmer works as a solar grazier to accomplish his clean energy, environmental, and agricultural goals.

Mark Villagrana, his wife, Allison Harder, and his sister, Michelle Donelson, moved their business from a food truck to a brick-and-mortar to better serve the community. Today, they serve up sweet treats as well as meals, and employ 15 people.

Last, but not least, Tim Mussack, one of our newest Center employees, talks about returning home to rural Nebraska and his responsibility to improve policies at the state level. Welcome home, Tim.

As always, these stories contain just a sample of what we are up to. Read more at

Inside this issue

Conservation program helps couple cultivate their love for the land - When Mel and Jan Gimbel realized the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) would provide additional incentives for their conservation goals and their desire to grow healthy food, the decision to apply was a no-brainer.

Grazing solar sites provides benefits to land and farmers - On a chilly September afternoon, a flock of Targhee/Rambouillet cross sheep quietly wander the grounds of an 18-acre solar garden site in south-western Minnesota. The sheep are fulfilling a duty known as "solar grazing," which uses livestock to manage vegetation at solar sites.

New guide outlines options for crop insurance for small grains - As farmers think about next year's crop, the Center for Rural Affairs has released a new resource guide to inform producers who grow small grains about crop insurance options.

Students learn modern twists on traditional meals during cooking class - Student with culinary aspirations had an opportunity to link food and culture in a week-long course this summer. Among sessions on kitchen safety, they prepared dishes featuring traditional Indigenous ingredients and flavors such as buffalo, elk, squash, and wild rice.

Family business celebrates sweet success with help from Center Express Loan - Sweet V's is more than a local eatery. It's one man's dream come true, and it's turned into a family-run success.

Staff spotlight: early memories shape Tim's view of rural Nebraska - "I remember how dedicated my parents were, both to the community and their own personal success. If a customer couldn't physically shop because of age or health, my parents would take the order over the phone and personally deliver the groceries. I rode along on many of these trips and will never forget how grateful those customers were for assistance."

From the executive director: commitment to community development lending - At the Center, we believe access to finance is a human right and an essential part of nurturing economic opportunity, social justice, and a vibrant future for rural communities. Many Americans use credit—to buy a house, buy a car, start a business. But, we don't all have equal access to credit. The Center cares holistically about rural communities, and we're driven to try to fill gaps that exist in the traditional finance world.

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