Rural Missouri - October 2011 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Keeping everything on L by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop egendary Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up.” Electric cooperatives are the world’s worst at telling about their accomplishments. But this month is National Cooperative Month, which makes it an excellent time to do some bragging on the state’s electric coops. I’m extremely proud of what this hard-working group has achieved. I think that feeling hit an all-time high this summer when representatives from four electric cooperatives gave Gov. Jay Nixon an update on their efforts to bring high-speed Internet to rural areas. One at a time, they related the progress they have made on what is one of the governor’s highest priorities through his MOBroadbandNow initiative. First up was Jerry Hartman from Sho-Me Power Cooperative in Marshfield. Sho-Me plans to expand its network of fiber-optic line to 1,380 miles that will provide the backbone for Internet providers in 30 south-central Missouri counties. This infrastructure will tie together community colleges. It will reach deep into economically distressed areas. And it will provide communications for many public safety entities. Sho-Me’s ambitious timetable calls for the work to be completed in one year, prompting Gov. Nixon to remark, “Well, we didn’t call it Mo Broadband Sometime.” Next, Ralls County Electric’s Lynn Hodges took the floor. Ralls County, based in New London, took on the challenge of bringing broadband to a part of the state others said would never be served. Lynn explained that the project’s success was based on a 40 percent “take” rate. But as word spread, an amazing 80 percent of those in the underserved area signed on. Ralls County Manager Dan Strode related how his son found himself behind city kids when he entered college. College freshmen from the cities have access to high-level math, science and multiple foreign languages. Rural kids do not. But Strode sees future rural students benefiting from distance learning — once they have access to high-speed Internet at home and at school. United Electric’s Gary Stein gave an update on how his co-op is helping to bridge the digital divide in northwest Missouri. United is installing 1,500 miles of fiber to reach 4,224 households and 58 businesses. The project has an added benefit. In order to support the fiber cable, power line poles on the system are being replaced closer together. This will help the next time a major storm hits the area, too. Finally, Co-Mo Electric’s Randy Klindt told the story of how employees went door to door to gather support for a high-speed Internet project. Unlike the other three co-ops, Co-Mo did not receive funding under the federal stimulus. Undaunt- “It’s not just about keeping the lights on anymore. It’s about keeping everything on.” Barry Hart ed, the Tipton-based co-op decided to move ahead on a different business model that is seeing tremendous support from the members. As Randy spoke, I couldn’t help but think of the electric co-op pioneers who went from farm to farm in the 1930s in order to make rural electrification possible. Other electric cooperatives are closely watching these four co-ops to see if their business models will work elsewhere. While rural America often has struggled to gain access to the highest level of education, retail, health care and other services, the ability to connect people and ideas at the speed of light changes everything. No one can say for sure how many jobs will be saved or created by bringing these fiber optic lines to rural Missouri. One thing we do know for sure, however. Without broadband, rural communities will not be able to create the economic future that will allow them to survive. Moving rural areas along on the information superhighway is just one thing electric co-ops are doing to improve their service areas. Ask anyone at Missouri’s electric cooperatives, and they will tell you this: It’s not just about keeping the lights on anymore. It’s about keeping everything on. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Our best days lie ahead F by Jon Hagler rom local farmers coming together to trade techniques for planting, controlling pests and rebuilding after disasters to sharing in the work during harvest, Missouri agriculture has a long tradition of neighbors helping neighbors. Throughout our history as an agricultural state and nation, we have seen technology revolutionize the ways we come together time and time again. In the 1800s, it was railroads moving people, crops and livestock across the U.S. and in the 1900s, it was roads and interstate highways. Rural cooperatives have played an integral role in this evolution. Following rural electrification, we saw communities leap forward in their adoption of technology and access to information. Now, through the expansion of high-speed Internet access, rural cooperatives once again are leading agricultural communities into a new era of rejuvenation and rebuilding. Through the combined efforts of our agriculture industry and electric cooperatives, the power of high-speed, broadband Internet access has rapidly reached our rural areas, making what was once thought of as a luxury into a necessary tool for those communities and families. Broadband has proven indispensable for education and small business economic expansion in our rural communities. Our farmers are using the information highway as part of their daily operations, accessing resources to make informed decisions for their businesses, from the latest weather and livestock reports to buying and selling everything from seeds to equipment online. As many as 60 percent of those rural households now have high-speed Internet access including homes, schools, community buildings and businesses within those communities, expanding the opportunities for all of those Missourians. Our producers have become better informed, more efficient and have greater opportunities for their operations, whether they’re growing corn, soybeans or cotton, raising livestock or “Throughout our history as an agricultural state and nation, we have seen technology revolutionize the ways we come together time and time again.” Jon Hagler OCTOBER 2011 marketing an agritourism destination. All of this is made possible because of the strong partnership between cooperatives, farm families and rural communities. In the days ahead, much work remains to take full advantage of the opportunities made possible by bringing high-speed, reliable access to the Internet to all of Missouri’s farm families and rural communities. We will all have to pitch in and do our part, building stronger partnerships between our cooperatives, our communities and our industries to ensure continued success into the future. Missouri farmers are the most productive, innovative, environmentally friendly and fiscally responsible farmers in the nation. With willing partners in our cooperatives and our communities and a clear vision for the future, our farmers, farm families and rural communities will continue to lead our great state forward. Hagler is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. You can learn more about the state’s Department of Agriculture at www.mda.mo.gov. 5 http://www.mda.mo.gov

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - October 2011

Rural Missouri - October 2011
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Dining on the tracks
Zagonyi’s Charge
Staying on target
Outdoors
Husking heritage
Painting memories
Out of the Way Eats
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
On the brink
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - October 2011

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