Rural communities may be left out of philanthropic funding for increased equity, but they’re precisely where equitable solutions are being created. Maybe philanthropy’s ignoring of rural communities is based on a misunderstanding among funders who concentrate specifically on race equity and assume that rural America is all white. Perhaps they don’t realize that 13 million rural residents are people of color and 2 million are immigrants, or that 54% of Native American and Alaska Native peoples live in rural communities.I have heard too many funders talk about not being able to work in rural places because of “lack of scale” or “poor return on investment” or even more boldly about “throwing money into a dying way of life.” I sometimes wonder: Do foundation leaders hide behind those excuses for strategic reasons? Or is it because they wouldn’t know Allen County, Kansas, from an allen wrench, or the Pine Ridge Reservation from their similarly named country club? America has enough forces trying to deny the value of supporting rural communities without philanthropy piling on.
The agenda for an effort to reach voters in 72 “critical” rural counties includes universal healthcare, improving public education, countering corporate power, and economic justice for farmers, according to a report. A coalition of rural community organizing groups has launched a campaign to educate rural voters in 72 counties they say are key to winning federal elections. The groups, which have united around a theme of “progressive populism,” will work in 10 states, including swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa. The counties are primarily ones where Donald Trump won a majority of votes in 2016 – some by as much as 10 points. Special focus will be on 28 “pivot counties” – where a majority voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 but which moved into the Trump column in 2016. The coalition will focus on health care for all, better public education, corporate accountability, a stronger working class and economic justice for family farmers. The organizing strategy will speak against corporate greed, hate and white supremacy, according to the report.
Kelly Folse, DVM, is at home on bond awaiting trial after her Dec. 19 arrest in Louisiana for allegedly shooting and killing her neighbor’s 15-month-old bulldog, Bruizer, six days earlier. Her attorney, who spoke with dvm360, says Dr. Folse has been unable to find employment as a result of the charges brought against her. According to the court affidavit for the charges filed against the 35-year-old veterinarian, Dr. Folse “shot her neighbor’s dog in the head, killing him.” The dog was in its backyard, which borders an elementary school, at the time of the shooting.
Outside of Cheyenne, Wyoming is an 8,900-acre former ranch where cattle and horses once roamed. Now it's just open land with nothing but grass. When the owner passed away he didn't have a succession plan. With no obvious heirs, a family member sold it. It eventually became subdivided and a realty company now advertises it for redevelopment primarily as retirement or vacation properties. Lesli Allison, executive director of the Western Landowners Alliance, doesn't want to see more huge ranches like this one broken up into pieces, each with houses and utilities."Then that landscape then is fragmented and is really not available to support agriculture or wildlife and the other values we care about in these landscapes," she says. "All the projections call for a massive transfer of land in the next decade," says Allison. "We're going to see many, many millions of acres of land change hands as these farmers and ranchers age."
The Connecticut House of Representatives gave final passage Wednesday night to legislation that opens financial aid in the state to “dreamers,” the undocumented immigrants brought here as children, only to find themselves priced out of higher education as they come of age. The legislation, passed on a 91-59 vote, makes undocumented immigrants eligible to apply for help from the $150 million pool of financial aid awarded annually to students at the state’s public colleges and universities. College-age immigrants and other supporters of the bill exploded into cheers from a House gallery decked in red, white and blue bunting. “It means that college is a more realistic option for me,” said 19-year-old Michael Hernandez of Stamford, who came to the U.S. from Honduras as a 10-year-old. He has been accepted to the University of Connecticut and is seeking a green card under the Special Immigration Juvenile classification program. With the governor’s promised signature of the bill into law, Connecticut’s public colleges will join seven other states in opening access to financial aid for some undocumented students.
The transformation of the American economy was supposed to usher in a new era of prosperity via a “rural renaissance.” Where has that dream gone and how do we bring it back? Over the past 50 years, many rural communities seem to have lost their purpose. The trend during this period has been toward fewer, larger, and more specialized farms. The result has been declining rural populations, declining demand for local markets and locally purchased inputs, and a resulting economic decay of many rural communities. Some communities attempted to diversify their economy to reduce their dependence on agriculture, and others abandoned agriculture entirely as a source of economic development. Industry hunting became a preoccupation of many small town councils and chambers of commerce. Jobs, any kind at any cost, seemed to be the primary development objective in some declining rural communities. Any lack of a geographical foundation to support sustained development was given little, if any, consideration. Many development activities, lacking a geographic foundation, were rooted in nothing more than short-run exploitation of undervalued human and natural resources in rural areas. The number of working poor – workers with full time jobs who live below the poverty line – in rural areas has continued to rise. In addition, many manufacturing companies and branch plants that initially relocated in rural areas eventually move to other countries where laborers are willing to work even harder for far less money.
A forest project in northwest Minnesota highlights how a small community can partner with a university to improve an important community resource. Some other small towns are starting to take notice of the success. The 160-acre pine forest runs along Highway 32 and holds historical significance to the community. Generations of residents have worked on the forest since it was developed as a Conservations Corps project in the 1930s. Originally a dusty area with blowing soil, the site was transformed into a pine forest. Local school children planted seedlings over the years, and community uses of the area became the stories of elders.Today, the Pines host hikers, horseback riders and ATVs, along with a community picnic shelter and rest area.
The shuttering of public housing complexes in two small Midwestern towns raises big questions for residents, HUD and Congress. To tell the story, I could use your help. It’s a Sunday morning in late February at the tiny Baptist church atop the hill in Thebes, a remote village of about 400 people in the southernmost part of Illinois. I’m here for a story assignment, but to know people is to worship with them. Faith is as much a part of these small communities as the rivers that run outside their doorsteps.My heart twists seeing the church’s sign out front that reads, “Pray for America.” officials from the Department of Housing and Urban Development called a meeting in Thebes to inform some 85 residents of two public housing complexes, including Williams, that they have to move out by the end of the year. I was at that meeting, too. I stood outside with residents as a long caravan of vehicles bounded over potholes and past weather-beaten homes.It resembled a funeral procession — the federal government arriving to bury yet another small town in my backyard. A year ago, I sat in a Baptist church in the nearby town of Cairo as HUD delivered similar news to 400 residents. This has been a long time coming. Housing complexes have been crumbling around families while the region’s infrastructure and economy collapsed.And it’s not unique to Cairo and Thebes. Public housing is aging across America. Federal officials are increasingly looking to shift people from housing run by the government to affordable dwellings that are privately owned or managed, and to encourage state and local governments to help pick up the tab. But some regions like ours lack the resources to replace what’s being lost.
As producers Daffodil Altan and Andres Cediel (“Rape in the Fields”) document, the young workers at Trillium Farms in Ohio, one of the nation’s largest egg producers, turning out 10 million eggs a day, found the American dream to be a nightmare. At one facility, captured on a bit of harrowing hidden camera footage, conditions were hellish, there were narrow halls barely big enough for a person, with rows atop rows of caged, squawking hens.“The manure falls in your eyes,” one worker says.Shifts started at 6 a.m. and, if workers were lucky, ended at 5 p.m. The plant temperature was over 90 degrees. The stench was so bad, many had to bolt to an exit to hurl.Workers’ quarters were about as vile as the living conditions for the hens. They were packed into trailers with no heat, no air conditioners and no running water. Their earnings were confiscated. If they tried to leave, they were threatened and abused.
A new report states the opioid crisis has cost Washington state billions of dollars in a single year. United States Senator Patty Murray released the analysis Monday, which found that in 2016 the crisis cost the state over $9 billion in fatalities, health care spending, addiction treatment, criminal justice and lost productivity.Opioid-related deaths had the greatest impact, costing the state $7 billion in 2016. According to the news release, deaths related to opioids cost the state more than $34 billion from the years 2012-2016.