Roundup: A Wheelbarrow of Frogs

Family farm advocate • Liberal arts grade school • Oswald on the Post-Dispatch • Mississippi trailing Internet access • Broadband work in rural Minnesota • An award for rural data • Turning an archive into a tool • Rural housing's funding to be restored

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Family farm advocate. “Organizing farmers is like pushing a wheelbarrow of frogs.”

Those are the words of the late John Kinsman, a Lime Ridge, Wisconsin, dairy farmer who championed the cause of family farmers in his hometown and around the world.

In the video clip above (produced by the Food Rights Network), Kinsman describes his participation in demonstrations outside the Chicago Mercantile Exchange protesting the way corporations influence dairy prices.

Kinsman died on January 20, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, at the age of 87. He farmed until last year.

A Presbyterian Church (USA) blog includes tributes from people around the country who worked with Kinsman on farm and trade issues, like this one from the Rev. Stephen Umhoefer:

John Kinsman was a prophet, much in the spirit of Amos, of the Old Testament. He spoke truth to power, emboldened by the validity of his own experience as an organic farmer. He was grounded, both literally and figuratively, by those stony fields and yet his outreach was world-wide

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Liberal arts grade school. A Catholic grade school in northeast Colorado hopes that returning to a classical liberal arts curriculum will help reinvigorate the school and provide a well-rounded education for its students, reports the Catholic News Agency.

St. Anthony Catholic School in Sterling, Colorado, narrowly held off closure this academic year with a local fundraising effort.

They are adopting the new (well, make the old) approach to education as a way to better serve students and boost enrollment.

Teacher Abbey Daly said classical education is important “not as a means of getting ahead in life, but as simply a way of being happy no matter what you do in life – farming, or driving a truck, or being a lawyer, whatever God is calling you to be. Latin, learning history this way, learning philosophy and logic, are helpful no matter what God is calling you to do.”

The News Agency reports: “Classical, or liberal arts, education is meant to help students learn how to think, giving them the tools of learning rather than merely teaching them ‘subjects.’ The foundation of classical education is a set of three methods of learning subjects, called the trivium – grammar, logic and rhetoric.”

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Oswald on the Post-Dispatch. The Daily Yonder’s Richard Oswald makes a guest appearance in the St. Louis Post Dispatch this week. Here’s a taste:

Realities of today are that though U.S. agriculture seems a national icon, corporations, some native to foreign countries, are busily replacing people like me.

The National Cattleman’s Beef Association and the American Meat Institute opposed labeling meat and poultry according to its country of origin because their largest dues-paying members aren’t cattlemen at all, but multinational meat packers.

During recent farm bill negotiations, disaster assistance for U.S. beef producers hit hard by weather was held hostage in an effort to kill Country of Origin Labeling, known by the acronym COOL.

In order to have identity, family farmers must have products. Denying us the right to label our safe, wholesome, home-grown food denies not only who we are, but our very existence.

Family farms are not far from extinction as rural populations fall. Many of us who remain, even large farms, can claim family traditions. But the fact is that farm bill mischief and politics have hastened our demise.

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Mississippi trailing Internet access. About a third of Mississippians live in a household that lacks access to the Internet – the worst access rate in the nation, the SunHerald.com of Biloxi-Gulfport reports.

Andy Collins with the Mississippi State University Extension Service said four factors have the biggest impact on whether a household has Internet access: “living in a rural area, having less than a high school education, making less than $30,000 per year and being a single parent with children under the age of 18.”

“Mississippi leads the nation in all four of those categories, which leads to a lower use in high speed Internet,” Collins said.

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Broadband work in rural Minnesota. Thirty-two rural Minnesota communities received grants to support work in broadband last week. The support came from the Blandin Foundation, a funder that focuses on rural Minnesota communities. The grants supported a range of projects, according to the foundation’s press release:

Mille Lacs County is using GIS technology to overlay affordability data over existing broadband availability maps, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa is hosting an app development camp, the City of Mora is equipping a tele-work center for telecommuters and after-school homework, Itasca Economic Development Corporation is building a loan fund for technology investments by local businesses, and Winona’s Project FINE is advancing digital literacy among immigrants and refugees and strengthening their connections to the broader community.  These and many other efforts across rural Minnesota got a boost this week through Blandin broadband grants ranging from $1,000 to $30,000.

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An award for rural data. The Rural Data Portal, a website that shows a variety of demographic and economic data about rural communities, has won a national design award, according to a press release from the Housing Assistance Council.

The site won “Best in Class” in the nonprofit website category. The award went to website designer Lightmix Design Studio.

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Turning an archive into a tool. For the past 17 years, the Rural Advancement Foundation Int’l (RAFI) in Pittsboro, North Carolina, has been awarding grants to “innovative farmers to help them put their own ideas to work.” In addition to an 80% success rate with the grants, according to nonprofit, the grants have also yielded an archive that’s “about 16 feet thick.”

RAFI has launched a Kickstarter campaign to convert the archive into a tool for other farmers to use. The project will create an online library and book.

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Rural housing’s funding to be restored. Funding for rural housing programs administered through the Department of Agriculture fared better in the current farm bill than they did in President Obama’s original budget proposal.

Obama had proposed cuts in the programs. They were restored in the version of the farm bill the Senate will vote on today. The House approved the measure last week.

The Housing Assistance Council reports the following:

Section 502 direct loans received $900 million, Section 521 rental assistance got $1.11 billion, and Section 515 rental loans, $28 million. The bill also directs that communities currently eligible for USDA rural housing assistance will remain so through the end of the fiscal year. In addition, it expands the Section 502 packaging demonstration, directing USDA to contract with five intermediaries.

 

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