Monday Roundup: Motivation and Land Values


Bill Dunlap

Bill Dunlap is a Maryland artist who uses barns as his canvas. See his other work here. Dunlap wrote about this project: “This is a barn in progress, although I probably won’t be able to finish it
until we get warm weather again in the spring, and painting on lap siding is
a slow process. The barn is in Garrett County, in Western Maryland. In the
spring I’ll be adding more elements and poetry. The poem will be something
great from local Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Stephen Dunn.”

A new study of rural Native American high school students finds they have closer relationships with their teachers than reported in previous studies, and the students had higher goals than shown in previous research.  Diette Courrege writes about the new report in her Education Week blog. 

The study wasn’t large, but it did find that rural Native students are now much more positive in their outlook than in the past. Courrege reports:

One of its new findings was that Native American students tended to favor math, which is known as a “culture-free” subject area. The study didn’t examine why students were more attracted to math, but the greater motivation could have implications for high schools wanting to leverage that to their advantage, whether it’s in offering more math courses or emphasizing math-related colleges or careers, according to the study.

Researchers pointed out early on that rural and Native American students often are marginalized in education research, and that research comparing the motivational characteristics of Native and non-Native American rural students is virtually nonexistent. They said motivation is important to school success, and that’s shaped by a number of factors, such as family and community background, teachers, peers, and personal beliefs.

•Farmland auctions in Iowa continue to bring prices above $10,000 an acre and, Dan Piller writes, “more folks worry that the prices are too high and the boom will burst.” 

One 80-acre tract this year has already gone for $16,200 an acre. “I’ve been amazed at what we’ve seen at auctions,” said Sam Kain, who oversees land sales in a seven-state region for Farmers National Co. of West Des Moines.

Lenders say that things are better than in the 1980s, when a farm boom went bust. Farmers now must put down 50 percent or more of the land’s value. Some banks limit the absolute amount they will lend per acre. One banker Piller talked to said his bank wouldn’t lend more than $4,500 an acre.

• Meanwhile, the Southwest Farm Press sees the increase in farmland value and the fact that in some western states more land is being devoted to farming as a sign that there is a bright future in agriculture. 

• The Wilderness Society laid off 17 percent of its staff last week: fundraising problems. 

• In a 12-mile zone around the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, nobody is allowed to live, and the area could remain deserted for decades. 

The plant was damaged by a tsunami 8 months ago; 78,000 people abandoned their homes. Now, because of radiation contamination, the Japanese government is not allowing anyone within 12 miles of the plant.

• There’s a cooking oil shortage. Stockpiles of oils (soybean, rapeseed, sunflower, etc.) are at their lowest levels since 1975 as farmers haven’t been able to keep up with demand. 

The world now has a 29-day supply of cooking oil.

• Long story in the New York Times Magazine about the “fracturing of Pennsylvania.” You can read it here

• The L.A. Times is reminding voters that one of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s pet projects was a 4,000 mile long, quarter-mile wide “trans-Texas corridor,” a multi-billion dollar plan to criss-cross the state with roads, pipelines, rail and electric lines. Rural Texans were incensed at the land the corridor would gobble, and the project quickly dissolved into oblivion. The Times reporters wrote:

Rural landowners, who had supported Perry, a fellow rancher, ever since his 1990 election as state agriculture commissioner, exploded. The state’s largest farm organization, the Texas Farm Bureau, which had endorsed his previous campaigns, lobbied to block the plan. Even the state Republican Party, driven by conservative anger over the looming “confiscation of private land,” went on record in favor of killing it.