Roundup: Inverting the Farming Model

Making farm money stick around • Getting rich off of the poor • Starting life a step behind • Bouncy house hospitals • Thoughts from Twitter

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The Atlantic looks at a group effort in Pottawattamie County, Iowa, to reverse the standard industrial farming model, where both money and product tend to leave the area. The goal is to keep more money in local communities.

The first seeds of this effort were planted around 2005 and 2006 when a handful of longtime farmers formed a group to think through the future of farming in southwest Iowa. Denise O'Brien, owner of Rolling Acres Farm, was among them. (She grows fruits and vegetables on her farm, with 10 acres currently in production.) "We brought everyone together to talk about how much money was going out of our area," she remembers. "What if that money stayed?"

Part of the strategy to keep money in-state was to shift the type of farming that southwest Iowans engaged in from large industrialized farms to smaller operations that grew food that local people could eat. From this initial series of meetings was born the Southwest Iowa Food and Farm Initiative. The group has grown to a roster of more than 50 farmers, O'Brien says, with a smattering of local food-policy councils.

Known as SWIFFI, the group does both education and outreach. It has helped traditional farmers develop their business savvy through workshops and coaching. The nonprofit has set up local farmers' markets and CSAs ("community-supported agriculture" networks) throughout its corner of the state to connect residents to local farmers. For a while, it even identified and mentored aspiring farmers, and trained roughly 50 young people in farming with the hope that they'd remain in rural Iowa.

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The Guardian has a fairly depressing piece on landlording trailer parks for fun and profit. Spoiler: It’s mostly about the profit, often at the expense of the mostly poor, mostly rural residents. The story describes a mobile home buying boot camp in Orlando, where attendees learn the ins and outs of park ownership.

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A new joint study says the United States needs to pay more attention to rural immigrant populations. Immigrants are helping some rural areas buck the trend of population loss. But rural areas don't always have the services that are critical for helping immigrants succeed and improve local economies. 

Citing traditional immigration gateways like New York City, San Diego, Miami and Chicago, the sociologists observe in an essay published online at Scholars Strategy Network: Population growth in the 2000s is occurring “in many parts of rural America from Alabama to Nebraska [where] growing numbers of Hispanics provide a demographic lifeline to dying small towns.”

But too many rural communities are not prepared – or inclined – to offer critical support services to non-English-speaking, undocumented mothers, the authors say.

Scholars and policymakers have ignored immigrant poverty outside metropolitan areas, the authors tell Strategy Network readers: “Addressing the very real needs of these communities and their burgeoning numbers of poor Hispanic residents is vital for America’s future.”

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The French wing of Doctors Without Borders is using an innovative tool to take emergency healthcare to people in remote places: bouncy house hospitals. All right, they aren’t bouncy houses, but they are inflatable. And that means doctors can take a hospital to a place in need, most recently to post-earthquake Nepal, and be up-and-running in a couple days.

Within each tent, sheets of rubber are sewn between huge tubes that work like ribs. Those long, rectangular panels have grommets for hanging up room partitions, and once the structure is complete, volunteers can throw up partitions for different operating rooms, including heat or AC. (While the inflatable tents will mostly be operating rooms, inpatients will be housed in dozens of traditional canvas and pole tents on the grounds of the pop up-hospital.)

Médecins Sans Frontières’ Nepal relief effort started in a warehouse in Bordeaux, France. No packing was necessary: All the surgical supplies the teams needed were available in pre-packed kits, including gauze, sutures, antibiotics, bags of fluid, and settings for broken bones. Those are the basics. But they had also pre-packed beds, lights, bag stands, and all the other furniture you and I take for granted in an operating room (because we’re usually knocked out on anesthetics). “This is logical, working in kits. You can send anything from Europe to be 100 percent autonomous,” says Lacharité.

 

What's Happening on Twitter?

@iamflyrock reports in from a gathering of rural broadband experts on Capital Hill, sponsored by Public Knowledge. They talked about the impact of the technology transitions on rural communities.

 

We're keeping track of the California drought, like everyone else, and caught this exchange:

 

Bryn Greenwood shares how she became interested in BB King, who died this morning at age 89.

R.I.P. BB. He was no big dummy.

 

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