Rural Missouri - August 2012 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart A blue-ribbon event hese days, it seems rural people are outnumbered everywhere. There are more city dwellers than there are people in the countryside. In the U.S. Capitol, urban legislators outnumber their rural counterparts. Urban schools are gaining students; rural schools are seeing declines. Meanwhile, Americans are getting farther and farther from the land. Today’s generations are in danger of losing their link to the rural way of life once enjoyed by their grandparents. While some continue to plant gardens and even raise a few chickens, there are many people who have no idea where their food comes from. Fortunately, there is an annual event designed to showcase all the best from the countryside. It’s the Missouri State Fair, set this year for Aug. 9-19 in Sedalia. The original purpose of the state fair was education. Here, Missourians could learn the latest ideas on farming, breeding livestock and housekeeping. You can still learn which seeds produce the best yield in Missouri’s soil and discover recipes that make the most of the state’s bounty. But in T by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop many ways, the state fair’s focus has shifted toward educating those who are curious about the rural way of life. On any given day, busloads of people from Kansas City and St. Louis pour into the fairgrounds. I’m always amazed at the enthusiasm of the city dwellers as they size up the massive farm equipment on display and discover just how much farmers have invested in their operations. No urban child will ever think the same way about breakfast after watching a chicken hatch out of an egg during the fair. I’m sure many people leave with a better appreciation for the contributions rural people make to our nation, whether they are farmers, electric cooperative linemen, Conservation Department agents or MoDOT highway workers. There has been an electric cooperative presence at the Missouri State Fair since the first cooperatives were organized. In the 1940s, we introduced the program in a display at the fair. Electric cooperatives teamed up to build the Electric Theater in 1959, giving 4-H members a place for demonstrations. Rural Electric Cooperative Day at the fair began in 1988; that event continues Aug. 17 this year. Our commitment to the fair stepped up a big notch with the dedication of the Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives Building in 2000. Our role has been to show off the accomplishments of the state’s electric cooperatives, “No urban child will ever think the same way about breakfast after watching a chicken hatch out of an egg during the fair.” Barry Hart to promote energy efficiency and to explain how the cooperative business model works. At the fair, we’ve had many opportunities to explain to urbanites why electric cooperatives are different from other utilities. We’ve also enjoyed meeting those of you who do call rural Missouri your home. We’ve helped many of you save money by using less electricity. Over the years, the fair has given us a chance to show off the accomplishments of Rural Missouri’s staff and introduce you to some “People from our Pages.” Agriculture Department Director John Hagler and his staff do a tremendous job putting together a most entertaining state fair. But its success depends on those of you who attend. Check out everything planned at www.mostatefair.com. Here’s hoping our paths cross at the 2012 Missouri State Fair, where you’re likely to find me getting my picture taken with Buddy Bear in the air-conditioned comfort of the Missouri’s Electric Cooperatives Building or at one of the many fun events. I’ll be the guy beaming with pride about what rural Missouri has to offer. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Holding on to those rural roots I by Alexandria Witt info@ruralmissouri.coop am the consummate girl-nextdoor, eighth-generation Missourian, descendant of the founders of my hometown, renegade county fair queen. My rural roots run deep. Still, it comes as no surprise to those who know me best that last summer I chose to pack my car and head east toward Washington, D.C. The calling was an internship at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and this year, I found myself once again making the 15-hour trek across Kentucky and West Virginia for a job at NRECA. It was four years ago that cooperatives and their mission first crossed my radar on the Rural Electric Youth Tour. Then, during my tenure on the Youth Leadership Council, I was enchanted by the Seven Cooperative Principles and familial co-op culture. After Youth Tour, I moved to college and began coursework in political science and communication, nursing an interest in energy policy. It’s easy to become disenfranchised with government when grappling with power politics and questions of human nature on a daily basis, and I won- dered how I would ever reconcile my beliefs with the need to become gainfully employed. I began applying for internships at lobbying firms, the Senate and private utility companies. That’s when Youth Tour crossed my mind. Co-ops had provided me with an unforgettable experience in D.C. once. Who was to say they couldn’t again? I contacted Youth Tour staff and inquired about a summer position. Working in D.C. offers two types of challenges: those that come professionally and those that come personally. NRECA is a trade association that deals in complex policy. The experience I’ve gained professionally has been invaluable in applying my coursework to the real world. Whether attending Senate hearings or interviewing elected officials, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the fact that I’m just a girl from Sullivan — population 7,000. Then, there are the personal challenges: living alone in a strange city, deciphering public transportation, being separated from my friends and family. With those challenges, however, come great rewards. D.C. is a vibrant town full of interesting people. In two summers here, I’ve “I like to think that as much as I’m learning about D.C. and electric cooperatives, I’m teaching the city and NRECA something, too.” Alexandria Witt AUGUST 2012 asserted my independence and gained a greater understanding of cooperatives, the United States and myself. In this city, few people are natives. Most come from other states or other countries. It’s interesting how your home comes to define you when you are thrust into a strange place. Mizzou football and a pragmatic Midwestern attitude suddenly gain significance. I like to think that as much as I’m learning about D.C. and electric cooperatives, I’m teaching the city and NRECA something, too — something about rural Americans and small-town values and yes, the superiority of the Missouri Tigers. However, the most important thing I’ve learned in D.C. is not how to properly format a press release or write a news article. It is that I don’t have to remain in my hometown to carry the lessons it holds with me. My life may be in Washington, D.C., but my roots are, and always will be, in Missouri. Witt, a senior at Truman State University, spent the summer interning at the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. She took part in the 2008 Rural Electric Youth Tour, where she was sponsored by Crawford Electric Co-op. 5 http://www.mostatefair.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - August 2012

Rural Missouri - August 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Exploring yesterday today
Forget 10,000 casts
A hundred years on the hunt
H2O & Go
Hearth and Home
Out of the Way Eats
Bloody August
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Locomotives in the landscape
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - August 2012

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