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.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


One time money is good, but if it can be leveraged to extend its value and lifetime-so much the better. That is exactly what Minnesota Valley Action Council (MVAC) is doing. MVAC has received stimulus money to provide cars to low income citizens who need reliable transportation so they can get to work and keep their jobs. Executive Director John Woodwick explained at a recent meeting how his agency can accept these dollars, buy the cars and keep using the money for over 100 years.
The funds allocated enabled MVAC to purchase over ten 2009 Ford Fusion cars. They were able to negotiate a fleet discount and paid between $12 to $13,000 for the cars. Upon meeting income and other guidelines, these cars will be leased to citizens needing reliable transportation to keep their jobs. The lease rate will be $165 per month and after five years, the cars will be put up for sale at a projected price of $3,500. The lease holders will be given the opportunity to purchase these cars.
MVAC staff will be working with leasers to make sure the cars are maintained and insured etc. Income from the leases and the eventual purchase will be placed in a revolving loan fund and used in the future for purchasing more vehicles. The key to making this work is that people are empowered to work and to keep on working because they have reliable transportation. end


Nicollet County has a land mass of 298,528 acres. Of that total, 234,169 acres are cropland. Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Management areas cover 4,509.30 acres. Conservation programs are being utilized by landowners in Nicollet County. Among the various programs are Conservation Reserve Program – 1,350.3 acres; Continuous Conservation Reserve Program – 2,916.9 acres; Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program – 1,107 acres; Reinvest in Minnesota – 1,988.6 acres; Reinvest in Minnesota/ Wetlands Reserve Program – 105.4 acres; Wetlands Reserve Program – 1,185.6 acres. This makes a total of 8,653.8 acres or about 3.7% of the crop land acres enrolled in conservation programs. (Sources: Farm Service Agency, Board of Soil and Water Conservation, Natural Resources Conservation Service, United States Fish and Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources)end

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Contrary to pundits concerning the Cash for Clunkers program having a detrimental effect on car donations to non-profits; it just ain’t so. At least not for the MVAC Wheel Get There Program. MVAC staff report that during the August Clunker program time frame they received MORE donations than the comparable month one year previous. However, the availability of good used car parts may be affected. end

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Agriculture has undergone many changes in the past decades, but none so great as in the dairy industry. Nicollet County Extension Educator, Wayne Shoper says that in 1985, the state of Minnesota had 28,000 dairy farms. Today there are 5,000. “It is a much more dramatic picture, if you do the math and figure out that this decrease means three dairy farms going out of business every day of the year since 1985.” Shoper said.

There is more to the picture than farms. All of these farms needed partners such as feed salesmen, dairy nutritionists, veterinarians, milk truck drivers, artificial insemination technicians, equipment suppliers, seed stock suppliers, and repair services – just to name a few. Dairy farms are little communities and they used inputs from small towns and regional suppliers.

There are many reasons for these farms going out of business and those will be left for a different post. The loss of all these farms and supporting players is detrimental to rural Minnesota. Nicollet County has seen our share of smaller dairy farms disappear. The industry has become concentrated and Nicollet County is fortunate to have some larger dairies.

The most recent addition is the Davis Family New Sweden Dairy.It is a unique operation because it has the Davis Dairy partnering with the University of Minnesota and a Dairy Training Center is located on site. It offers an opportunity for students studying to be veterinarians to be “right there” when cattle are calving. This hands on experience is something that can’t be learned in a text book or by taking a class online. It is truly an exciting facility and Nicollet County is pleased to be the home for this combination working dairy and training center. end


More than $600,000 pumped into the local economy
The Minnesota Valley Action Council was able to help 384 youth obtain and keep jobs this past summer. This number is more than twice the number helped last year. All of this is due to additional stimulus dollars coming from the federal government. These youth worked at 218 different work sites in the nine county area. They were paid $7.25 per hour and the funds came from the federal government. These youth received the money through a process set up by MVAC. Upon proof of satisfactory work weeks and hours, the funds were deposited directly into a savings account in the youth’s name.

More than just a job.
This procedure accomplished a dual goal. Not only did the youth learn about appropriate work traits (i.e. getting to work on time, following orders); but they learned about the value of using a savings institution and the idea that earnings can be a way to accomplish larger goals like saving for college or down payments on vehicles. MVAC staff helped the youth connect with a bank and/or apply for opening accounts. Many of the youth had never had a savings or checking account and many of their parents were in similar situations.

Future Rib Fest contestant?
These youth were placed in businesses throughout the nine county area. Some of the Nicollet County businesses were: Pop’s Auto Body, Wakefield Pork, Scholarship America, Good Samaritan Homes, Ace Hardware, Kids Corner, and Playing Possum Antiques. One youth learned to cook at Ron’s Café in Nicollet. Even though his job was to wash dishes, he quickly learned from the owner of the café about food preparation and became so skilled at preparing ribs, the café found many new patrons during their Rib Night specials.

Permanent jobs this fall
Some of the youth ended their jobs and returned to school. Some of them earned credits toward their graduation through the program. But the good news is that as a result of this summer youth program, 54 entered the work force in unsubsidized jobs. Kudos to MVAC staff for the excellent work this summer. And thank you’s need to go to our elected representatives for continued funding of these programs. Each youth sent thank you letters to legislators, congressmen and to President Obama to indicate their thanks. end