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

Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Rural Matters

A while back I asked the question, What if rural mattered? We had a wonderful discussion about what the world and rural America would look like if that were true. But another question kept tugging at me. Why does rural America matter? So folks in our discussion tried to answer that question too. But, to me, it comes down to the people that live there.

Recently I was reading a publication about the Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture, awarded by the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program.
The winners and others winning honorable mentions all seemed like outstanding people, the kind of folks you would love to have for neighbors. But one couple really stood out to me. The won an honorable mention in the Patrick Madden Award process in 2004.

The following is a description of Jim and Moie Crawford, of Hustontown, Pennsylvania, taken from the 2004 SARE booklet on the Patrick Madden Award winners. I hope you find the Crawfords as intriguing as I did. It is a smaller honor, no doubt, but I would like to offer Jim and Moie my own "Why rural matters" award.

Jim and Moie Crawford produce some 40 crops on 95 acres and market them though the successful cooperative they formed in 1988. While they had been farming organically for many years, the Crawfords had found that adequate profits eluded them. With four other southern Pennsylvania farmers, the formed the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative, now one of the most innovative and successful cooperatives in the country. Today, the cooperative is comprised of more than 20 producers. In one decade, sales increased tenfold, to more than $1 million in 2003.

On their own farm, the Crawfords pamper the soils with composted manure and mushroom soil from southeast Pennsylvania. The manure comes from their 250 hens, as well as from local chicken farms. The use a complex rotational system and beneficial insects to help manage psts and disease. The Crawfords run an organized apprentice program to help growers get started (more than 20 current farmers got their start at New Morning Farm), host field days for local growers and continue to work with the cooperative to promote sustainable growing practices and fair returns for produce.

If every success story in rural America included the Crawfords commitment to helping others get started doing what they do, imagine the impact that would have. Thank you Jim and Moie.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


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