Monday Roundup: Son of Prairie Dies

The map of a new rural arts movement • George McGovern, son of the South Dakota prairie, dies • Who would be ag secretary should Barack Obama be re-elected? • Eat your vegetables and you will have a greater sense of 'well-being'

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The Art of the Rural has launched its Rural Arts and Culture Map project. The project is mapping what AOTR calls a “new rural arts movement.” 

Check out the page for the project here. Then click on the map

You’ll get a map with a whole bunch of little locator thingys. Click on one of the thingys and you’ll read, for example, about Henry Real Bird, who lives in Central Montana — and is the Poet Laureate of the state. Move around the country and read about artists, poets, singers. The whole shebang.

The map is “a space for collaboration, conversation, a platform where individuals from across the country (and the world) can share their artistic and cultural life.”

This project is the manifestation of what Rachel Reynolds Luster called for last January in The Daily Yonder. Rachel said most maps of culture don’t get what is important to rural communities. She wrote

On our drives, (my husband) Mike and I have often talked about what an accurate cultural atlas would be for our county. It usually involves layers, so you could compare things such as settlement patterns, language, music, native populations, native plants and domesticated crops. The ideal map would allow you to, say, …

Determine how much fiddle music is being played today, in the Eleven Point Watershed, where the Osage used to hunt for deer.

Or, find what percentage of the folks there today live under the national poverty line and for how long. Where most people go to church, or if they go at all. The residents who have broadband. The location of the nearest hospital. What people do for work or recreation.  What else they make and do. 

Rachel called for a new map of rural culture. Now there is one. Check it out and add to it.

George McGovern, Son of the PrairieGeorge McGovern died early Sunday in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He was 90 years old. 

McGovern lived a full life — son of a minister, born on the South Dakota prairie, war hero, history professor, Senator, Presidential candidate, advocate for the hungry, father. McGovern was born in a parsonage in Avon, South Dakota, a town of 600. He grew up in Mitchell. He went to school at Dakota Wesleyan University. He  died in Sioux Falls. 

Most people who make it in politics — and McGovern was a three-term U.S. Senator — stay in Washington. Not George McGovern. He moved back to South Dakota.

“I always thought of myself as a good old South Dakota boy who grew up here on the prairie,” he said in an interview with the New York Times in 2005 in his home in Mitchell. “My dad was a Methodist minister. I went off to war. I have been married to the same woman forever. I’m what a normal, healthy, ideal American should be like.

“But we probably didn’t work enough on cultivating that image,” he added, referring to his 1972 presidential campaign organization. Instead, McGovern ran his campaign on issues — the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, hunger and poverty.

Here, USA Today writer Chuck Raasch writes about McGovern and the prairie: 

Rarely was a politician so shaped by the geography of his upbringing. It is why, I think, after he left public office that he took a largely untrodden path back to South Dakota to live part-time. A lot of politicians never come home once they’ve left public office. The allure of Mitchell was never something he was ashamed of, even when other politicians or the pressies covering him would crack jokes about the Corn Palace.

McGovern and I had a few conversations over the years about our mutual upbringings in the wide skies of the Dakotas, where fence rows and ghost towns can often seem like the only thing between you and infinity. It was there, growing up in the dust and the suffering of the Great Depression, that this son of a Methodist minister was grounded in the knowledge that there are many things bigger than you in this great big world, but that knowledge is never an excuse for not trying to make that world better.

Yes, That Climate Change — Nothing like a nice little drought to change some minds about climate change. 

Todd Neeley reports in DTN that a new survey “finds that Americans’ belief in global warming has increased by 13 percentage points in the past two and a half years, from 57% in January 2010 to 70% in September 2012. At the same time, the number of Americans who say global warming is not happening has declined from 20% in January 2010 to only 12% in the latest poll.” 

Belief in climate change had been dropping. And then the drought.

Ag Secretary in Obama II — The National Journal speculates on who might be President Obama’s Agriculture Secretary should he win a second term.

Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack is the current secretary and appears ready to stay around, but the National Journal says that “lobbyists are trading rumors that perhaps the administration might want someone with more of a congressional background.”

In that case, look for former Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas or retiring Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota. 

HSUS Goes After Steve King — The political action wing of the Humane Society of the U.S. will spend $500,000 trying to defeat Iowa Rep. Steve King, a Republican. This is a majority of the campaign budget of the organization. 

“He has made himself the self-appointed leader to oppose animal welfare laws in the House,” Michael Markarian, president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, said of King. “He routinely speaks against animal protection policies and tries to defeat them.”

King is running against Christie Vilsack, wife of the Ag Secretary. The HSUS tried to give Vilsack $1,000, but she gave it back, saying her campaign does not accept donations from groups that lobby the Agriculture Department.

Plum Island Sale Questioned — The federal government wants to sell Plum Island, the 840-acre site where it operates the country’s only laboratory that studies infectious animal diseases. Then it wants to open a new lab in Kansas.

Some Kansas ranchers have argued that placing an infectious disease lab in the middle of the nation’s cattle herd might not be the best plan. But what about Plum Island?

The government has proposed turning the island, located off the tip of Long Island, into a nature preserve or housing development or to allow another lab to open there. At a hearing, those speaking said the best thing would be to leave it alone. Rep. Timothy Bishop, who represents the district that includes Plum Island, said he opposed moving the research operations to Kansas.

Similar sentiments were voiced at a hearing the day before in Connecticut. “It makes no sense,” Connecticut state Sen. Andrea Stillman said at a hearing in Old Saybrook.

“The common sense solution to this is to leave it alone,” she said. “What we have on that island now is an extraordinary research facility and an extraordinary wildlife habitat that live together.” 

A ‘Simple Fix’ For Food — New York Times food writer Mark Bittman says there is a “simple” way to fix food and farming. 

He writes that ag scientists at Iowa State tested three different modes of farming on test plots. One was traditional farming (Pour on the chemicals and grow corn and soybeans). The second rotated in oats. The third added alfalfa AND integrated livestock. Manure was used as fertilizer.

Bittman:

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it’s a big-stake game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.

Power Line Controversies — Just so we don’t forget, the construction of transmission lines still stirs up controversies. Here, residents are opposed to a 500,000-volt transmission line cutting across the James River in Virginia, on the same stretch of river settlers sailed in 1607 before landing at Jamestown. 

Vegetables and Well Being — Some social scientists have found that eating fruits and vegetables leads to higher levels of psychological well-being. The paper finds that well-being “peaks at approximately 7 portions per day.”

The paper, “Is Psychological Well-being Linked to the Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables?”, is published by the National Bureau of Economic Affairs. 

 

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