The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed lowering the renewable fuel standard (RFS) for 2014. The change threatens to undo the progress we’ve made in decreasing dependence on foreign oil and slowing the emission of carbon dioxide, says Richard Oswald.
Problems with the website aren’t helping, but the worst impediment to healthcare reform for some may be fear of dealing with the medical system, writes a former healthcare “navigator.” Marina Sáenz Luna explains how rural communities like those in the Rio Grande Valley can lead the way in helping folks get covered and get well.
When it comes to providing quality healthcare, rural communities are a natural antidote to the power of larger, less caring institutions, says Tim Size of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative. The status of underdog can be a strength.
Ted Wathen was one-third of a gang of young photographers who traveled the roads of Kentucky in the 1970s, shooting pictures in every county. Now, nearly 40 years later, Wathen examines why travling off the beaten path hits the spot.
Although rural veterans, like their counterparts in metro communities, are likely to own their own houses, a third of younger veterans are burdened by the high cost of housing. Rural veterans who rent are also more likely to be burdened by housing costs. One issue may be a lack of affordable rental housing in rural areas.
The small cities of Mitchell, South Dakota, and the Walla Walla, Washington, are international leaders in using broadband tools to develop stronger economies, according to a technology think tank. They made the list of “Smart21 Communities” by using new approaches to building on traditional strengths.
An extraordinary set of Library of Congress field recordings from the 1930s and ‘40s captured the depth and breadth of American folk music. Folklorist and musician Stephen Wade revisits the South to tell 13 stories of the artists who helped define American identity while remaining virtually anonymous themselves.
Ora Dell Graham Sonny Milton focused silently on the road ahead. Nestled between us in the cab of his pickup, set in a rusted metal frame held fast by tacks and twine, lay a picture of someone he had always loved. Ora Dell Graham—“Honey”—had been his favorite aunt. The hand-colored photograph, mounted on cardboard and bent from more than a half- century of age, shows her in late adolescence, confidently looking on with a pixie smile. In her family, she had been the voluble one, the extrovert. “She loved to go, she always loved to go.” Milton spoke quietly but emphatically. “She was what you call a night person. She loved to have a ball. She loved to dance. She loved to sing. That was her thing, you know.” The muscles in his jaw flickered, and there was a long pause. “And that’s what killed her.”
“I was playing ball with my friends,” he continued, “when I first got the news.” During the summer of 1952, Ora Dell Graham and three companions headed from her home in Drew, Mississippi, for the nightspots of Clarksdale. Three miles north of town, at the foot of a narrow highway bridge, their car smashed into a brick embankment. “They say her neck was broken. By the time I got there, they had taken her and the other three people in the car away.” Milton and his grandmother buried Ora Dell in the town’s segregated cemetery, marking the spot with a tin badge tied with wire. She was 24 years old. Her grave marker has since disappeared.
Photo via CSIROFarmers have a history of using the latest technology to help them build capacity and grow smarter.
Here around Langdon, being a "modern" farmer has meant different things to different farmers.
Being modern for Grandad meant more steel in his plow. When Dad was a modern farmer, he adopted wheeled farm tractors as replacements for sorrel mules. I can't remember seeing his mules, but I remember when he added power steering to his "M" Farmall.
Shoulders and back made strong (and sore) by scooping corn, pitching hay and hauling hard on the reins got a reprieve. That's when Dad called the family outside so we could see him turn the steering wheel with one finger.
I became “modern” with my own tractor when I got an air-conditioned, sound-insulated cab with a stereo. Then, decades later, satellite radio, Bluetooth, four-wheel-drive, and global position satellite guidance.
Dad turned his steering wheel with one finger. I don't even touch mine.
Something that hasn't changed is long days in the field. In the old days we were out of sight and out of mind, because neither Dad nor I had any idea what was happening with the family at home.
Things have changed again – this time with communications.
First bag phones. Then flip phones opened up. They were perfect for keeping one hand on the steering wheel and both eyes on the row. One simple motion could answer a call or end it. A lot of farmers still have them.
Photo via Sheila Scarborough Flip phones may be old technology, but they started a small revolution in farming by allowing a farmer to open the phone with one hand and while driving the tractor with the other.
Today farmers who want more can have smart phones and tablets. We use them in ways Dad never dreamed possible. Closest thing he had to up-to-date information was an old AM radio he stripped from a junk car and mounted behind the tractor steering wheel. He had to put a bucket over it if it rained, and, turned up loud as it would go, it was still barely audible above the sound of the engine.
A photo by Shaena MallettClaudia the goat grazes in the pasture at Prodigal Farm, October 31, 2013. In the background is one of a handful of empty school busses that the goats use for shelter and a place to climb.
There is a certain sensation I get while visiting an old farm. It is, perhaps, the residual feeling of many years and seasons of stories stored up in the soil and barns and in the air. This particular story is a newer one, about love, goats and finding the way home.
Just to the north of the bustling streets of Durham, North Carolina, the city melts into a landscape of woods, pastures and farmland. Go a few more miles and you’ll find Rougemont. Similar to much of the Piedmont, this community’s history is steeped in tobacco farming. Ninety-seven acres of land on a former tobacco farm is home to Prodigal Farm, owned and run by Kathryn Spann and Dave Krabbe.
A tractor is parked under the 115+ year old tobacco barn.
(Left) There are many signs of the past at Prodigal Farm, including old outbuildings and antique vehicles. (Right) A new building on the farm serves as storage for goat feed.
Driving down the long driveway, you pass the 115-plus-year-old log tobacco barns, the old farmhouse, corn crib, smokehouse and outbuildings, as well as antique trucks and old farm equipment. Kathryn and Dave bought the farm in 2007 and opened the dairy in 2010.
Five years ago at his grandmother’s funeral, Matthew Fluharty reflected on the value of rural culture and what he might do to help promote and enliven it. Today, the “Art of the Rural” project relaunches its online work with a more powerful website and bigger ambitions.
The Art of the Rural began as a blog in 2008 and earlier this fall expanded to a website with multimedia, a story archive and essays on rural arts and culture projects.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This fall the Art of the Rural blog expanded to a full website with online cultural mapping tools, a story archive and reports on its work with partners around the country. We asked founder Matthew Fluharty to answer a few questions about the new site and the purpose of the Art of the Rural, which he describes as a “collaborative organization” whose goal is to “help build the field of the rural arts.”
Why are you relaunching the site?
I am really grateful for the first four years of Art of the Rural, and for the time spent on our former site. That said, a little over a year ago, around the time of the first convening of the Rural Assembly’s Rural Arts and Culture Working Group, it became clear that there was a need for a kind of site that could share a range of media and integrate all those forms more seamlessly.
The new site responds to those needs. Designer Nicole Irene has made a visually unique space, but also one that is uncluttered – and one that can load quickly in rural areas where internet speed may be an issue. As Nicole’s design merged with the visual work of Epicenter (out of Green River, Utah), I was elated. At last, it seems like we have a digital space that can effortlessly put together the rich and varied narratives we see in our communities and fields of interest.
What is the Art of the Rural and how did you get started?
Art of the Rural is a collaborative organization with a mission to help build the field of the rural arts, tell its stories and contribute to the emerging arts and culture movement across rural America. We try to connect our digital work to on-the-ground activities and events, and to keep what we call an “open cycle” in motion between those two kinds of knowledge.
We first began as a blog. The whole practice of Web 2.0 has influenced our design as an organization – we try to be as collaborative, open source and non-hierarchical as possible … and we recognize that that goal will always be a work in progress. That said, those early years of blogging taught me that the “process” was often as important as the “product,” and that lesson still guides our work.
Universal Broadband in Minnesota? • Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee • Apprenticeships for High Schoolers • Draining Rural Texas • Farm Bill Breakdown
Photo by the Associated PressKevin Beyer, general manager of Farmers, a century-old phone company, talks with mechanic Morrie Schacherer (left) and his father, Al, talk at the auto shop they run in Dawson, Minn., where the addition of rural broadband has enabled them to reduce tire inventory now that getting different styles and sizes is only a click away. Farmers laid down 600 miles of fiber cable beginning in 2011 with the help of $9.6 million in stimulus grants and loans
Universal Broadband in Minnesota? The AP’s Brian Bakst looks at Minnesota’s efforts to provide universal broadband access by 2015. It’s an ambitious goal, one that isn’t going to happen without some sort of government involvement, says the chairwoman of state broadband task force:
"Without that sort of intervention we are going to have a very difficult time getting to 100 percent," said task force chairwoman Margaret Anderson Kelliher, president of the Minnesota High Tech Association. "There needs to be some sort of gap-closer."
In recent years, local phone companies and community cooperatives could get federal aid to run fiber through forests and fields to subscribers in sparse areas. Minnesota providers, many working with local government partners, drew more than $238 million in stimulus loans and grants from a national pool of $4 billion, according to state and federal data. All that money helped build out 105,000 miles of new or updated network connections across the country.
It's not just about having a broadband connection — more than 96 percent of Minnesota households have access to one — but about how fast it is. The state is striving to achieve download speeds of at least 10 megabits per second and upload speeds of at least 5 megabits per second.
Those rates are considered vital to unlocking the most technological opportunities: Seamless streaming of distance-learning courses in schools, telemedicine projects that allow for virtual doctor checkups and letting grandparents dote over their grandchildren via Skype or FaceTime without frustrating freeze-ups.
Expanding Medicaid in Tennessee The future of Tennessee’s rural hospitals rests with Gov. Bill Haslam, who has yet to decide whether to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage in the state, reports the Nashville Tennessean.
Expansion of the federal health insurance plan for low-income residents is essential, say hospital advocates. Hospitals need the new revenue from those patients to make up for decreases in funding that are occurring in other provisions of the Affordable Care Act.
Photo by Katie Dunphy/The State PressDiane Humetewa, a former U.S. attorney in Arizona, would be the first Native American to serve as a U.S. judge, if her nomination is confirmed by the Senate. The change in Senate rules last month makes that approval more likely. The United States Senate is a curious institution. It's not democratic. It's not representative. And it's the ultimate millionaire's sandbox.
So in the U.S. constitutional scheme: The 38 million people living in California get two votes out of 100, the same as the 576,000 folks who are residents of Wyoming.
One person's vote is worth more if they live in a tiny state, but at least it's a vote. Because some four million American Indians and Alaska Natives -- citizens of tribal governments -- aren’t counted as a unique constituency. By land mass, Indian Country's 50-plus million acres are bigger than almost half the states. Even breaking that number up into population counts, Cherokee’s 819,000 people or Navajo's 350,000 is in the same ballpark as one of those small states.
But that’s the deal. And the Constitution is sacred script (roll the organ-heavy musical theme now). So get over it, right?
But the thing is the U.S. Senate, this undemocratic institution, is made worse by the filibuster. Especially now that the filibuster has become a routine, invoked on every nominee or every bill. Instead of 50 votes, a supermajority of 60 votes, was required to get anything done. That changed last month. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, used another rule (one requiring just 50 votes) to overrule the filibuster on judicial and executive nominees. Only now that that procedure has been invoked, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster is gone forever. (The filibuster is only a tradition, not a constitutional procedure. It’s only been used for about a century. And in the past decade it’s use has increased significantly.)
Let’s be clear: The super-majority has not been good for Indian Country. One of the reasons it took so long to pass the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act was that 60-vote hurdle. Or reach a final settlement on the Cobell lawsuit. Or we’ve been reading all about the complications with the Affordable Care Act. One of the key appointments, Donald Berwick, was never confirmed as the director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, and took the job with a limited timeframe as a recess appointment.