Rural Missouri - December 2011 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Counting my blessings I by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop n December, things slow down enough for me to take a look back on the past year. Whenever I do, I count my blessings because no matter how difficult things are for me, I know there are always others who are in much worse circumstances. What stood out to me the most in 2011 was how people came together to help one another during trying circumstances. The first example of this came in the winter when a heavy snowstorm, dubbed “Snowpocalypse,” shut down the state. While snow doesn’t cause as many power outages as ice, there were a good number of outages in the affected area. Line crews from Co-Mo Electric Cooperative based in Tipton found their trucks unable to move in the heavy snow. But they were able to restore service thanks to farmers who towed them behind massive tractors. In May, Joplin was devastated by one of the worst tornadoes to hit Missouri. As news of the tragedy spread, people from all over the state and nation offered their time and treasures to help Joplin get back on its feet. Gov. Jay Nixon told me that unlike other major disasters in the U.S., resi- dents of Joplin have not left and are committed to rebuilding. I will keep you updated on the rebuild efforts and let you know how we can help. We featured one group of kids in our October issue who raised money to help pets left homeless by the storm. Employees of electric co-ops dug deep to assist fellow employees at New-Mac Electric and KAMO Power who lost homes in the disaster. Closer to home, we have two employees at the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives who are either battling cancer personally or are helping loved ones fight this disease. I was inspired to see how everyone at our office pitched in financially and emotionally to help them cope. It’s encouraging to see fundraising efforts locally, in the state and nation to find a cure for cancer. They tell me the battle is easier when you know you aren’t alone. As I travel and stop for gas, I often see coffee cans on the counter asking for donations to assist someone in need. Seems to me these cans are always full. This fall we had an opportunity to come together to support a cause that was a lot less heartwrenching. I’m talking about the Cardinals’ unlikely World Series Championship. If you weren’t a Cardinals fan when the regular season ended, you most likely were before the dramatic “What stood out to me the most in 2011 was how people came together to help one another during trying circumstances.” Barry Hart game 7 came to an end with the Redbirds on top. Everyone likes to root for the underdog. It’s hard to imagine it’s been more than 25 years since the I-70 World Series between the Royals and Cardinals, and many of us hope to see that happen again. As I look toward 2012, I am reminded that this will be the 75th anniversary of this association. It was formed in 1937 to help electric coops do the things they couldn’t do on their own. By working together the way neighbors in rural areas have always done, they achieved great things despite the warnings of skeptics who said it couldn’t be done. May you all have a blessed Christmas, and all the best in the coming year. It’s been a pleasure visiting with you in 2011, and I look forward to continuing this dialog. Even though we face challenges every day to ourselves, our families and our friends, we can all be thankful for our electric cooperatives’ commitment to community and the members they serve. We will do our best to keep you informed of the challenges facing your electric cooperative in the future. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column Swords into plowshares S by John Crabtree ome veterans returning home from war have jobs waiting for them; however, many others do not. Some return to areas — rural and urban — where jobs can be scarce. The jobless rate for the most recently returning vets is nearly 10 percent nationally and much higher in some areas. In Isaiah 2:4, the prophet says, “And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks . . .” Likewise, at the Center for Rural Affairs, we believe a career in farming and ranching for veterans will not only help revitalize rural communities but also give solace and purpose to those who have sacrificed so much. No one is more deserving of spending a rewarding life on the land than the veterans who have stood in defense of the United States. Although traditional rural employment in farming, logging, mining, fishing and small manufacturing has been declining for decades, small farms and ranches have been on the rise due to consumer interest in locally grown, organic and specialty foods. This demand creates unique and excit- ing opportunities for veterans. The USDA Risk Management Agency recently awarded the Center for Rural Affairs, Farmer-Veteran Coalition, Missouri Farmers Union, Missouri AgrAbility Project and seven other organizations with funding for a project that will allow veterans to learn strategies and implement plans for farm/ranch start-up, including financing, land access and business development. Veterans also will learn to access the resources available to them for technical assistance, production and marketing information and mentoring. The end result, we hope, is to introduce veterans with dreams of farming and ranching to various areas of agri- culture and thereby find solutions to the employment and economic challenges facing so many rural veterans. Through this initiative, these partnering organizations will do their best to repay the impossibly high debt our nation owes these men and women. Veterans returning to farming and ranching offer real hope for rural communities as well. Many rural communities have experienced a chronic exodus of family farmers and ranchers. That fact, coupled with a lack of young families going into agriculture, has changed the landscape of much of rural America, physically and demographically. The 2007 Census of Agriculture revealed that the average age of the American farmer and “No one is more deserving of spending a rewarding life on the land than the veterans who have stood in defense of the United States.” John Crabtree DECEMBER 2011 rancher is 57 and climbing, with 35 percent of all farmers over age 65. Rural America’s small cities and towns are, however, less prepared to absorb returning veterans than urban centers. The Iraq and Afghan Veterans of America have noted that veterans returning to rural communities were having the hardest time reintegrating into civilian life. In addition, the Carsey Institute noted that only 24 percent of employed young adults, ages 18 to 24, hold full-time jobs in rural communities. Fostering a new generation of family farmers and ranchers can help reverse those trends. It will create new jobs and new opportunities and another generation of families that can build upon rural America’s work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. Veterans building on their military discipline and sense of service while using farming or ranching to reintegrate into society gracefully and fruitfully provide an opportunity for themselves and genuine hope for many of our rural communities. Crabtree is the media director for the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb. For more information on beginning farmer and rancher programs, call 402687-2100, e-mail info@cfra.org or log on to www.cfra.org/renewrural/farm. 5 http://www.cfra.org/renewrural/farm

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

Rural Missouri - December 2011
Table of COntents
Comments
Columns
Giggin’ on the Gasconade
A historic rumbling
Outdoors
Bent on perfection
Out of the Way Eats
Christmas country church tour
Hearth and Home
News Briefs
Of two governments
Best of rural Missouri
Marketplace
Around Missouri
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - December 2011

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