Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Friday, August 29, 2008


The Nicollet County Drug Court held its first graduation exercise on Wednesday, August 27. What a fantastic event and what a wonderful achievement for the graduates. These people have turned their lives around by showing that they can be productive members of society. They are staying chemical free, holding jobs, supporting families, and facing challenges. One of the persons who spoke for a graduate made the following statement. “We don’t argue any more, the bills are being paid, life is good!”

Kudos need to go to Judge Allison Krehbiel and all members of the drug court team. The team members guide the participants through this tough process. It would seem the team members need to be part advisor, part cheer leader, part parent, part strong believer, and 100 per cent hard core disciplinarians as they work with the participants and help them develop a belief in themselves that they can be successful. Ultimately, it is the drug court participants who will achieve the success; or fail to change their behaviors. It is easy to fail – it is only the hardest workers and strongest achievers who will attain success.

Ken White, Assistant Nicollet County Attorney said that the Nicollet County Drug Court has realized a 1.5 million dollar savings in jail days. Keep up the good work! end

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PIG LICKERS and 150 Year Old Farms

It would appear that there is no recession at the Minnesota State Fair. Last Saturday, the champion beef steer exhibited by a Blue Earth County 4-H er sold for a new record, $14,000. And this writer observed fair goers spending money like crazy on Monday. What a great country we live in when enterprising people can fry up several small pieces of bacon, dunk them in chocolate, and put a label like "Pig Lickers" on them - and get people stand in line to fork over $5.00 for the experience of eating them! If it sells more bacon, I'm all for it.
And speaking of bacon, the Nicollet County 4-Hers who exhibited hogs did well last Saturday. Of the 13 animals exhibited, nine brought home purple ribbons. Way to go - 4-Hers!!!

Nicollet County was in the limelight is several ways at the Great Minnesota Get Together. As part of Minnesota's 150th birthday, the State Fair Chautauqua was presented under the Big Top located near Heritage Square. This professional performance was extremely well done - as it depicted our state's history in a two part presentation. A big part of the production highlighted the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux and one of the few photos of a present day building used in the program was one of the Nicollet County Treaty Site History Center Building. The treaty rock was also highlighted.
Another part of Minnesota's Sesquicentennial was a program sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture which identified and honored farms in the same family for 150 years or more. On Monday, the farms who registered were recognized. The following were recognized from Nicollet County:
Cletus and Rosemary Franta- 1854-New Ulm
Fred and Judy Hanson/Fred and Jan Netz/Ralph and Carolyn Miner-1856-St. Peter
Emilie Lokensgard/Charles Johnson-1857-St. Peter
LouAnn and Perry Meyer-1858-New Ulm
David Rengstorf-1858-Courtland
Howard and Jane Swenson/Paul and Cindy Swenson-1857-Nicollet

There are several more farms in Nicollet County that would qualify, but did not register for this distinction. end

Friday, August 22, 2008


The county fairs are just about over and the Minnesota State Fair is underway. As I attended many of the county fairs and observed the 4-H projects on display, I was again reminded of the immense value of the 4-H program. I dare say that we would have far fewer problem drinkers, drug addicts, out of home placements, and incarcerations if more parents encouraged their young people to become 4-H members.
The following is part of a poem about 4-H membership and how it encourages learning.

"The important things are not the ribbons or pins,
And sometimes it's really the loser who wins.
Now here are the things most important, it's true,
Your 4-H experiences has accomplished for you.

You've seen how a business meeting is run.
This knowledge will help you in years to come.
You've conquered the fear of addressing a crowd,
You've learned how to stand up and talk nice and loud.

Patience you've learned in your projects too,
As well as your skills that will always help you.
You've learned the fine feeling it gives you to lend
A glad helping hand to a stranger or friend.

You've learned to cooperate with majority rule,
To give in with grace and not be a fool
Who must always have his very own way,
Be it in club work, in school, or at play.

You've learned how to lose without making a beef,
You know the judge judges to her best belief.
You've learned how to win without boasting too loud;
A kid can lose friends if he's overly proud.

These are the things most important to you.
You'll remember and use them all your life through.
They'll help you become a mighty fine person,
They'll do more for you than a prize or a ribbon."

This poem says it all. We need more young people who can live to these standards. end

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project

Information gleaned at FarmFest Forum that featured Mark Grabenstott, Director of Center for Regional Competitiveness, University of Missouri.
Mark Drabenstott is originally from Hector, Mn. and has spent 25 years working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City as an economist. He has been with the Center for Regional Competitiveness which is part of the Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) for the past several years. The following are points of interest he presented.

  1. We are all in a “Global Economic Olympics”.
  2. The athletes in these Olympics are like the region of Southern Minnesota, each region wants to "bring home the gold".
  3. Agriculture is a predominant industry in our region. However farmers – when economics are good – have a tendency to pay too much for land. And inflation is not a good thing for farmers.
  4. We need to think and act regionally. It is important to have regional partnerships with our neighboring counties or the next county over.
  5. Globalization has changed the rules of the races or contests. The rules have changed for products produced, services provided, and workers employed.
  6. Now, it takes more muscle to do things – so it is important to work together.
  7. In Minnesota, the top 10% of areas that attain the fastest economic growth are the ring of counties around the Metro area.
  8. We need to create “Eagen models” in rural Minnesota.
  9. It takes a critical mass to win the gold – to capture jobs and income which is created in our region. We are falling further and further behind.
  10. What does it take to win?
  11. Strategy-as a region we need to figure out what we do best. Examples: we have agriculture, but we also have the Mayo Clinic and the Hormel Institute. These two strengths can be merged to grow medicine. Part of the strategy is to prioritize the top three places to put our investments.
  12. Robust Regional Partnerships-build on what has worked. Renville County is ground zero in the cooperative movement. The entire region needs to work together – which is not a natural act. We need to have a Southern Minnesota Round Table.
  13. Focus on Innovation –how to produce better products
  14. Grow Entrepreneurs

Southern Minnesota Regional Competitiveness Project-a regional development strategy for 38 southern Minnesota counties

  1. The process will involve a number of partners – elected officials, business leaders, civic organizations, financial groups. Southeast and Southwest Initiative Funds will be involved.
  2. The effort will be to build and act on efforts already in place to think and act as one.
  3. The people in the 38 counties will determine the top areas in which to invest.
  4. The process will be on a dual tract. First of all there will be informed discussion about our economic future. The second tract will be a number crunching exercise to verify what we do best in regard to businesses, economy, and work force.
  5. There will be ten round table discussions held around the region. These will culminate with a Futures Summit in January of 2009.
  6. The Summit will come up with two economy menus for our region. One – a short term development menu and 5-10 year strategies. For instance- pharmaceutical therapies grown in crops are better than $6.00 corn. The extraction facilities to convert the raw product can result in a high paid work force to do this job. (Note: it costs 10 cents on a dollar to grow pharmaceuticals on a plant rather than in a factory. Pharmaceutical companies will look favorably on this endeavor.)
  7. The second involves the Farm Boom we are now experiencing. These land booms usually do not end well. At this time, our region can boast a net worth of Two Trillion dollars – if you add up every farmer’s balance sheet. What will farmers do with this wealth? Now, it is buried in the dirt. This net worth could be used to create venture capital to help our region win the Gold in this Global Race. Part of the strategy will be a plan for rural Minnesota to figure out how to invest this amazing windfall we are now experiencing.
  8. Possible examples of this planning. – A Branding Strategy for our region; building infrastructure; creating health care options; accessing investment capital; and building workforce. The region is losing population. We need to attract families from other states and from other countries.
  9. This planning will give rural Minnesota an opportunity to redefine our contract with the Metro Area.

EXAMPLE: an example of working together is that the city of Marshall EDA was approached by a neighboring smaller community for a loan. The loan was needed to attract a business to that small town. The people of Marshall were visionary enough to see that this business would help this town, but it would also help Marshall. They allowed the loan – with some criticism. Now both towns are winners.

Implementation of this Process–
Doing nothing is not an option. Whatever plans are made, must include measurable objectives and goals.Working together as a region means that we can grow as individual communities – but more important, we need to grow as a region. We must grow the pie. The best way for Hector to grow is to be a part of a larger pie that is growing. The same can be said for Nicollet or Truman. end.

Monday, August 04, 2008


I was watching late night television the other evening and happened on a show originally filmed in 1983. One of the entertainers performing was Merle Haggard who presented his latest hit by the title listed above. As I listened to the lyrics I was struck by the similarities with today. Simply substituting the name of one war for another and one president for another could bring this song up to 2008.
Evidently there was a strong feeling of bleakness in our country at that time-much like today. His words hint that patriotism was not very strong. In this respect, today’s conditions are different. We are patriotic, but we also have a cautious, even somber mood.
As we open our in-boxes each day and are bombarded with more messages of a dire nature, it might do us well to contemplate Haggard’s lyrics and remember they were written in the early 80’s. Were the good times really over?
Not on your life. We experienced prosperity for over two decades after that time frame. Some of our country’s strongest economic times have happened since then and I am confident there will be more in our future.

Are the Good Times Really Over? – by Merle Haggard (a reasonable facsimile of actual lyrics)

I wish a buck was still silver, back when the country was strong
Before the Viet Nam war came along

When a man could still work and still would
The best of the free life is behind us now
Are the good times really over for good?

Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?
With no kind of chance for the Flag and Liberty bell?
I wish a Ford and a Chevy could still last 10 years like they should.
Is the best of the free life behind us now?
Are the good times really over for good?

I wish a Coke was still cola and a joint was a bad place to be
Long before Nixon lied to us all on TV
Before microwave ovens, when a girl could still cook and still would.
Is the best of the free life behind us now, are the good times really over for good?

Stop rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell.
Stand up for the Flag and ring the Liberty bell.
Let’s make a Ford and a Chevy last ten years like they should.
The best of the free life is still to come,
The good times ain’t over for good. end