Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to johnc@cfra.org.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

What if Rural Mattered?

The question itself is presumptuous. And it depends on ones point of view, I guess. In pop culture, in New York City and Los Angeles, and on Wall Street, not many concern themselves with rural people. In Washington, the same is often true.

So, what if rural mattered? Would mega farms be allowed to use unlimited farm payments to drive beginning farmers and smaller operations out of business? Would rural development always be the last farm bill programs funded and the first cut? Would rural poverty and economic hardship be as enduring and persistent as they are now?

If you read what I have written in these pages, you know what I think. But what do you think? What is the value of rural America? What makes it worth fighting for? What would it look like, if rural mattered – not more than we deserve, not less – but if we just truly mattered?

Send me an e-mail, write me a letter or post a comment here - because I want to know, we all need to know, what it would look like if rural mattered.

John Crabtree
Center for Rural Affairs
Box 136Lyons, NE 68038
johnc@cfra.org

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

2 Comments:

  • At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Of course rural matters and today (Dec. 20) is a good example with the transit strike in New York City. As I was watching TV this morning sipping on a cup of fresh ground organic Kona Blend coffee that was purchased in a rural grocery store, I thought, "I'm sure glad we don't have that problem here." In fact, I can sometimes drive for 60 miles on a main highway and not see another car. But I can drive the speed I want, not what the rest of the traffic dictates and, I can think.

    For many years we've seen the rural to urban trend, not only in the Great Plains, but in the Canadian prairies as well. Most of us who live out here understand the cities are getting larger, that's just a fact. Winnipeg, Fargo, Sioux Falls, Omaha, Kansas City; they've all grown at the expense of the outlying rural areas.

    But the rural areas are worth fighting for. There's peace and tranquility, the night sky,.trust in each other, you know where your food is coming from, and you know the difference between a cow and a steer.

    Addressing your point about Washington. There are far too many people in Washington who believe if it is outside the beltway, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately for them, it does matter. Think for a moment if you took away the canola from North Dakota, the beef from Nebraska and the wheat from Kansas, where would we get those products, China, Argentina, Australia?

    Now, lets assume that mega farms were allowed to operate. In my opinion that would eventually turn into corporate chaos. It may be good initially because people would be euphoric about new jobs and all that, but the control of corporate America we've seen so many times would take over the farm sector as well.

    In the past couple of years I've done some research about organic farming. As you know the stereotype is for farms to get bigger and bigger to continue with a profit margin. Some farms, privately owned that I'm aware of, are in the neighborhood of 10,000 to 14,000 acres. To me, it's just ludicrous because they continue getting bigger and they continue farming for the bank.

    Nowathen, most of the farms in California are much smaller. In fact, more than half the organic vegetable farms are less than 100 acres. Some are as small as 10 and 14 acres. And they're making it. They are making profit. How can that be possible? Well, it is. They're land, machinery, taxes and labor is paid for, thus the product they produce, be it lettuce or garlic, is profit. Thus California organic farmers can afford to remain on the farm and make a living.

    I am a beginning farmer. This past year, 2005, was my first growing season and I made a profit growing vegetables on one acre, yes, one acre, about 40 miles from the Canadian border. Last spring, before I purchased equipment, I was hoping to get a loan to buy a good garden tractor, seed and some other items to jump start production.

    USDA and the banks said one acre doesn't constitute a farm, but I ended up making more money than some of the small farms that grow wheat and barley. So, I made a promise to myself. I will not borrow money under any circumstances. I will operate in the black, just like organic farmers do in California and when I make enough money selling cantaloupes, I will buy more riverbottom farmland and get bigger and all the time I will control the spending, not the bank. To me, bigger is 10 acres, not 10,000 acres.

    Bigger isn't always better and the day is going to come when these little podunk towns in the panhandle of Nebraska, or near the international boundary in North Dakota are going to become pretty important. Have you ever heard of Kilgore or Albion, Nebraska, Leola or Presho, South Dakota, Hazelton or Noonan, North Dakota or Blue Rapids or Scott City, Kansas? I'll bet everyone in all those communities know where Washington is?

    Those small towns that are hanging on will come back. Too many people are going to get sick of the big city transit strikes and homicides and drug deals and political corruption, that they'll return to the "Buffalo Commons" that we call home. We like it here. We know there are four seasons and we know the difference between North and South Dakota.

    Thanks from someone in rural America who is concerned about where his food is coming from. By the way, tonight my wife and I will be enjoying Grade AA Montana beef that we basically hand picked and paid about a third of what people in the big city grocery stores pay for it. Then, after dinner, we'll go out on the deck with a glass of organic red wine and watch the northern lights.

    from North Dakota

     
  • At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    things that government does for rural people and rural communities would not always get the crap kicked out of them - like what is happening with the budget bill in your recent updates

    We would not always get the crap kicked out of us - if RURAL mattered

     

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