Tag Archives: small towns

Prosperity Amidst the Absence of Population Growth…

High school athletics in rural America are incredibly unique. Not only does the home town come together to support its youth, but the community travels hundreds of miles for “away” games. Distance takes on a new meaning in the Great Plains region of the country, and the school bus drivers get my vote for the unsung hero award as they work hard to safely deliver our kids to competitions all across the state.sandhillsroad.jpg

Saturday, the Cozad Haymakers road tripped north 140 miles to take on the Ainsworth Bulldogs. My favorite teenager is a member of the JV Girls team. I love the drive to Ainsworth — it is just under 3 hours of peaceful beauty and showcases some of Nebraska’s finest views. Both the rolling Sandhills as well as the small towns nestled along its interior are perfect examples of prosperity amidst the absence of population growth.

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Outstate Nebraska (the 3rd Congressional District), covers 65,000 square miles and is home to approximately 570,000 people, and many, many more animals. The wide open spaces and abundant wildlife attest to a natural balance, and the friendly cultures of the towns show a beautiful but perhaps nontraditional definition of prosperity.

With each census that passes, rural Nebraska gives up population numbers relative to urban areas. Additionally, several investigative journalists involved in the current food movement seem to have a love affair with disparaging rural America — likening our communities to ghost towns (the antithesis of prosperity).

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But, as I drive the corridors of the Cornhusker State, I see a simple beauty that warms my heart and brings peace to my soul. I am surrounded with the feeling of coming home as my eyes witness a harmony between humans and nature that defines the essence of sustainability .

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Rural Nebraska (America) houses a unique form of prosperity that goes much deeper than population numbers and mortar. It is based on a culture that is rooted in community, governed by Mother Nature, and marked by a dedication to hard work and core values.

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  • We rally to support our youth and the one community school that they all attend together.
  • We volunteer outside of our families and jobs to continue to ensure that our communities are viable.
  • We work with the land to produce food and fiber that provides the foundation of our country.
  • We share the belief that it is the simple things in life that ensure long term prosperity.

We demonstrate with each day that passes that there is indeed prosperity amidst the absence of population growth…

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Filed under General, Rural Communities

1011 News and “Our Town Cozad”

1011 News out of Lincoln and Grand Island, Nebraska featured my favorite blonde cowgirl/chef and I Wednesday night on the evening news.  We participated in a series segment called “Our Town Cozad” where the news station spends a week focusing on interesting things relative to our small town to share with viewers.

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Over the years, our farm has hosted a number of different reporters, and I would like to issue a special thank you to Lance Schwartz of 1011 news for his genuine interest and kind demeanor during the interview.  It was an enjoyable morning as well as a great learning experience.

Click here to watch the 3 minute video of our farm story and my journey from the city to the cattle feed yard.

 

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Filed under Feed Yard Foodie "In The News", General

Meat Racket Communities…

“In 1931 Springdale was a tiny crosshatch of streets populated by modest houses and small stores.  Even eighty years later, the architecture of Springdale is utilitarian, and it speaks to a meager past where the greatest economic ambition was to put food on the table and little else.  Today, the tallest buildings downtown are the grain silos, and the commercial strip downtown is a squat roof of one-and two-story rectangular buildings that look as though they were designed by architects who felt that tilting their heads upward was overly presumptuous.”

Chris Leonard, The Meat Racket

The above quote appears in the second chapter of The Meat Racket.  I think that it does a nice job of illustrating the author’s tone relative to portraying rural America.  This tone is reiterated throughout the book in descriptions of towns ranging across the Midwest from Arkansas to Kansas.  These caricatures are often followed by a commentary on how large agricultural businesses (most especially Tyson Foods) are destroying the character of rural towns.

Home to about 4000 people, and proudly marked on a local grain elevator---the tallest building in town...

Home to about 4000 people, and proudly marked on a local grain elevator—the tallest building in town…

While Springdale, Arkansas is 604 miles from Cozad, Nebraska the appearance of my town seems to structurally fit Mr. Leonard’s above description.  From the crosshatch of streets with modest homes and small stores to our grain elevators and downtown buildings, the looks of Cozad speak to the universal pragmatic nature of a farming community.

The Meat Racket’s surface description captures the physical anatomy of rural America, and intertwines it with the author’s supercilious undertone.  However, this superficial recounting missed what I believe is the most important component of small town America.

They are both the heart and future of our community...

We unite to support each and every one of them because they are our heart and our future…

Mr. Leonard, when you described our small towns you missed the core—you missed the heart—it is not in the architectural makeup of our buildings, but rather in the compassion and faith of our people.  Our community sustains because of teamwork and “home town pride” and I found that no where in your book.

When they "Win the Day" on the court, they bring both hope and pride to our towns as their hard work and faith determines our sustainability...

When they “Win the Day” on the court, they bring both hope and pride to our towns as their hard work and tenacity contributes to our sustainability…

  • I believe that the true heart of rural communities is our youth.  Recognizing this, our citizens bind together to nurture our young people, and in return, the younger generation sparks optimism and creates an ongoing sustainability for the town.
  • The agricultural businesses that are the pulse of our towns invest not only in local farmers and the economy but also encourage their employees to volunteer within the community.
  • There is a quiet pride that lives in the members of a small town, a sense of teamwork and loyalty that transcends cultural and socioeconomic boundaries.  This phenomenon is stronger than any one company and is the driving force of day to day life.

    They don't just work on the court and in the classroom, but they also take part in the family farming businesses that are the pulse of Nebraska's economy...

    Our youth don’t just work on the court and in the classroom, but they also take part in the family farming businesses that are the core of Nebraska’s vibrant economy…

Although structurally my rural community fits the author’s description, apart from this physical description, I can find no other accurate representations in the book.  Our town does not depend on one large company to tenuously hold onto survival.  Rather, we are a myriad of compassionate individuals who pool our talents in order to create a caring community atmosphere all while working to ensure a sustainable economic environment for our farms and businesses.

Rural Americans do not need a patronizing investigative reporter to inaccurately portray our towns in order to build momentum for increased government regulation of food production.  What we need is the faith and trust of our urban customers, and their willingness to believe that farmers, alongside our packing plant partners, raise food with integrity. 

Small town communities evolve over time just as farming and food production do — some people will choose a rural lifestyle and others will not.  That ability to choose is one that makes America special.  The best decision that I made in my adult life was to move to a small community in Nebraska and learn to be a farmer.

“Even in 2012, there is a sense that somehow, without small towns and rural communities, America has lost a piece of itself, even though most people today would never want to actually live on a farm or in a rural community.”

Chris Leonard: Chapter 2, The Meat Racket

I made the choice to be a farmer and have successfully made my life in rural America...

 I am living proof that there are still Americans who choose to make their lives in small town America.  My town of Cozad (along with many other rural communities) are testimony to the fact that rural America offers a unique life style that still appeals to some Americans.  Farmers are proud of what we offer to our country, and hope that our urban counterparts realize that we care about both them and the food choices that they make at the grocery store.

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Filed under A Farmer's View on Foodie Thoughts..., General