June- July 2011 – Volume IX, Numbers 6&7

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek & Ann Treacy, with minor assistance from volunteer Jane Leonard






Across the Field – Inspirations from July 4, 1776 — by guest writer, Jane Leonard

As of this writing, Minnesota State Government has been officially shut down for about 96 hours. As a Minnesotan growing up during the years of our state’s civic exceptionalism and innovation (when legislators and other leaders in different political parties still believed that the promise and progress of our state depended on all of us, no matter what political leanings, working and investing together), I am at a loss of words in how dysfunctional we have become.

I still firmly believe in the power of a democratic government to carry out the common good. But after 235 years of American government and 153 years of Minnesota government, I think we have forgotten why our founders willingly sacrificed so much for us. On this July 4, 2011, here’s a little reminder and hopefully some inspiration from those who began the great experiment in democracy:

— from the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, July 4, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these, are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. –That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the consent of the governed….And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protections of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.”

Wow! We mutually pledge –TO EACH OTHER — our lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor, TO INSTITUTE A GOVERNMENT that secures our rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. We currently have no state government in Minnesota. We need to once again dig deep into our conscience and pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor to commit again to the creation and support of an exceptional government – our government, our state, our country – a government that represents the best of each of us working together to secure the fair, decent, impressive Minnesota (and America) of which we and our ancestors can be proud.

In the meantime, communities across Minnesota are doing great things despite the shutdown challenges and the folks at InCommons, MinnPost, and the Minnesota State Fair have continued to organize preparations for the third annual Minnesota Community Pride Showcase at the Minnesota State Fair. There’s still time to enter your community in the Showcase contest (deadline is July 11).

Showcase Your Community Pride at the Minnesota State Fair September 3!

The Minnesota Community Pride Showcase with InCommons recognizes communities statewide for their efforts to move beyond current economic and civic challenges with creative and proactive community and economic development innovations. The Showcase is designed to reward, inspire, showcase and share the collaborative innovations going on in Minnesota towns and neighborhoods to improve quality of life. Sharing these best practices—with neighbors and across America—is also equally important. You need to enter to share……

Enter by July 11 at 5 p.m. CDT. http://www.incommons.org/en-us/MCPS

Tell us about your work to improve Minnesota towns and neighborhoods. Thirty entrants will be selected to display their work in-person at Minnesota Community Pride Day on September 3 in Carousel Park at the Minnesota State Fair, and plaques and $500 cash awards will be distributed by the Minnesota State Fair. The day’s festivities from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. will feature great live music, performances and opportunities to hear from and engage with state newsmakers. Join us for some inspiring conversations about the ways your fellow Minnesotans are working to improve community life.


–State Farm Grants.  State Farm focuses on three areas in the grants that it funds: safety, community development and education. In the Community Development category, State Farm indicates that “We believe communities are the foundation and lifeblood of society and we are committed to help maintain the vibrancy and culture of our neighborhoods. We demonstrate this commitment by supporting programs that focus in these areas”

* Affordable Housing
* 1st Time Homeowners
* Community Revitalization
* Economic Development

Charitable donations are awarded to nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations under Section 501(c)(3) of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code, educational institutions, governmental entities, and Canadian charitable organizations.

The State Farm grant cycle is from January 2 through August 15. For more information see:   http://www.statefarm.com/aboutus/community/grants/company/company.asp

–Funds Available for Value-Added Producer Grants.  Applications are being accepted for grants to provide economic assistance to independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives and agricultural producer groups through the Value-Added Producer Grant Program.  Minnesota farmers and ranchers have been awarded almost $13 million in Value-Added grants since 2003. Application deadline is August 29, 2011. For further details about eligibility rules and application procedures, see the June 28, 2011, Federal Register.

Value-Added Producer Grants may be used for feasibility studies or business plans, working capital for marketing value-added agricultural products and for farm-based renewable energy projects. Eligible applicants include independent producers, farmer and rancher cooperatives, and agricultural producer groups. Value-added products are created when a producer increases the consumer value of an agricultural commodity in the production or processing stage.

Examples of previous Value-Added grants in Minnesota include the processing and marketing of organic beef, design and packaging of milk products, developing new markets for pork products, marketing new health food snacks, introducing new varieties of apples, wind farms, ethanol and biodiesel plants and marketing compost products.

To learn more about Value-Added Producer Grants, contact a Rural Development specialist in your region.

Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grants Available.   USDA is accepting grant applications to assist small, socially disadvantaged agricultural producers and cooperatives in rural areas to spur job creation. Almost $3.5 million in grants are available through USDA Rural Development’s Small, Socially Disadvantaged Producer Grant Program (SSDPG). Applications for SSDPGs are due August 15, 2011. Application materials may be obtained at the Rural Development website or by contacting an area office. For additional information, see the June 29, 2011, Federal Register.

Funding is available to cooperatives or associations of cooperatives where at least 75 percent of the governing board or membership are small, socially disadvantaged producers. Grants can be used for product improvements, business plan development or economic development activities. The maximum grant award per applicant is $200,000.

–The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Administration for Children and Families (ACF) http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/ocs_food.html is accepting applications for grants through discretionary funds for Community Economic Development (CED). Funds will be awarded to Community Development Corporations that engage in job creation and business development activities targeting low- and moderate-income individuals. This year, funding will be prioritized for organizations that are participating in the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative. The deadline to apply is July 11, 2011. Detailed information and application materials are available through the HHS website. http://tinyurl.com/6yhyszn

The Rural Utilities Service of the Department of Agriculture has announced its Revolving Fund Program application window for Fiscal Year 2011. Application deadline: 7/25/2011. The available funding for the program is $496,000. To read the full announcement, see: http://tinyurl.com/67vpvdd.  The Revolving Fund Program has been established to assist rural communities with water or wastewater systems. Qualified private, nonprofit organizations, which are selected for funding, will receive RFP grant funds to establish a lending program for eligible entities. You may obtain application guides and materials here: http://www.usda.gov/rus/water/index.htm.

Best Buy Community Grants Program.  Funds youth programs in company communities.  Deadline: Grant application process opened July 1 and closes on August 1, 2011. See:  http://tinyurl.com/24x7hca


The 2011 Nonprofit Essentials Conference is a great way to grow your practical management skills. In this day-long conference, you will participate in valuable large group discussions, attend your choice of sixteen skill-building breakout sessions, hear an inspiring keynote speech and network with your peers.  Join the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits and the University of St. Thomas on July 20 in Minneapolis for this affordable and informative event. Visit the conference website for more information and to register.

MAP TechWorks, a program of MAP for Nonprofits, is offering free learning opportunities to help you get and keep your organization on track. Insider Insights on Managing a Successful Website Redesign will be held on August 16.  Two nonprofit and web development insiders will walk participants through a field-tested approach to redesigning a website on budget and on time. Learn the tips, tricks and areas of risk to be aware of to make your project a success. To learn more about MAP TechWorks and its technology learning and support opportunities, visit MAPTechWorks.org.

The Willmar Area Community Foundation (WACF), along with the Southwest Initiative Foundation and Bremer Bank, will conduct a one-day workshop entitled “Finding Funding–An Overview of the Grant Seeking and Grantwriting Process.” This workshop will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, August 11 at the Conference Center on the Ridgewater College Campus in Willmar. Executive directors, board and staff members, and volunteers from nonprofit organizations as well as other individuals interested in learning how to write grants or brush up on their grant skills are encouraged to attend this workshop.

In the afternoon, a panel of funders will speak on their respective funding priorities and application processes.

Panelists include Susan Lorenz, Director of Programs with the Central Minnesota Community Foundation in St. Cloud; Nancy Fasching, Program Officer for the Southwest Initiative Foundation in Hutchinson; Lue Her, Program Officer with The Otto Bremer Foundation, and Sheila Carrington, Program Officer at the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota.

Cost is $59 per person and includes refreshments, lunch and workshop materials. A $10 “early bird” discount will be given to those registering before Friday, August 5th. Register through the Central Minnesota Community Foundation’s website at www.communitygiving.org.  Nonprofits with specific questions should contact Susan Lorenz at slorenz@communitygiving.org.

— SAVE THE DATE:  Governor Dayton’s Job Summit 2011 will be held October 24-25 in St. Paul.  This will be the 16th Annual Development Conference.

The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Annual Conference is scheduled for October 6-7, 2011, at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Visit  the MCN website to learn more http://tinyurl.com/3puy5cz


For those interested in learning more about public health issues at their own pace – free and online, the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health offers dozens of online courses listed at http://www.sph.umn.edu/ce/trainings/online.asp

These courses include (among many others):

* Community Healthcare Disaster Planning in Minnesota

* Culture and Health Literacy: Beyond Access

* Environmental Justice

* Health Promotion and Adult Education

* Issues and Trends in Occupational Health and Safety

* What is Public Health?

Facilities participating in the Summer Health Care Intern Program are accepting student applications. http://tinyurl.com/czlb4k

Call for Papers – Small Business and Entrepreneurship During an Economic Recovery.  The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, and the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation invite the submission of papers for Small Business and Entrepreneurship During an Economic Recovery, a conference that will take place November 9–10, 2011, in Washington, D.C., at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. The deadline to submit an abstract is July 8, 2011.

Federal, state, and local governments have recently enacted numerous policies and programs in support of small businesses. Financial institutions and others are increasingly being called upon to provide capital to small firms—from main street shops to nascent high-growth companies. These efforts recognize the particular hardships that small businesses have faced during the economic downturn and since, as well as the important role they can play in the current economic recovery. Given the pivotal nature of this time, conference organizers are interested in exploring critical aspects of the capital and assistance needs of small businesses and entrepreneurs.  For details about conference topics and how to submit an abstract, please review the complete call for papers. http://tinyurl.com/3kar2dj  Conference organizers will notify applicants by the middle of August.

Enter the 2011 Tekne Awards.  Minnesota entrepreneurs have begun filling up Minnesota High Tech Association’s inbox with applications for the 2011 Tekne Awards.  The Tekne’s include several categories that honor those who play a significant role in discovering new technologies that educate, improve lives and impact the future of people all over the world.  The nomination and application process can be completed entirely onlinehttp://tekneawards.org/ Applications must be submitted by July 15.

— Replace T12 fluorescents before incentives disappear.  T12 fluorescents, the thicker, less-efficient fluorescent tube lights, are being phased out by the federal government and will become harder to purchase by mid-2012. Businesses and organizations should replace any T12s in their facilities before that happens.  Already, some Minnesota utilities are planning to discontinue rebates http://tinyurl.com/627f7ru for replacing T12s with the more-efficient T8 or T5 fluorescents. Xcel Energy, for instance, will end T12 retrofit rebates after 2012 but is offering a 50% bonus rebate to commercial customers that replace T12s before March 31, 2012.  If you have questions or need help, contact Energy Smart at (651) 292-4653.


Minnesota Milestones 2011Minnesota Milestones began in 1991 in the belief that a shared vision, clear goals and measurement of results would lead to a better future for Minnesota. The report uses 60 progress indicators to determine whether the state is achieving 19 publicly determined goals. Milestones is a product of the Minnesota State Demographic Center, a division of the Minnesota Department of Administration.  Goals are grouped in four broad areas: People, Community and Democracy, Economy and Environment.  >From Milestones’ Executive Summary:

“The 2000s have been a challenging decade for Minnesota and the nation. The combination of a serious recession, high unemployment rates and a turbulent housing market has heightened citizens’ worries about the future. In the face of these adversities, legislators recently decided it was time to resurrect Minnesota Milestones, a goal-setting project initiated in the early 1990s. This is the second update of Milestones since 2002.

The results show a mixed picture.  While there has been good progress in some areas, the majority of indicators show either no real change or change in a negative direction.  In particular, economic and environmental indicators reveal few favorable trends.

There are many government accountability measures and many indicators projects. Most state agencies now have performance goals and measure progress toward these objectives.

Accountability Minnesota http://www.accountability.state.mn.us/ provides performance indicators for Executive Branch agencies of Minnesota state government.

Among projects with a more general scope, the most notable is the Wilder Foundation’s Minnesota Compass (http://www.mncompass.org/), which will produce regular updates on a wide variety of statewide indicators and provide more detail by geography and groups of interest. Minnesota Compass is the expansion of an existing indicator project focused on the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Milestones, originally developed by Minnesota Planning, is distinctive because the goals were established through grass-roots participation of citizens who attended public meetings to talk about their vision of Minnesota’s future.

Milestones measures progress toward broad societal goals, rather than through more narrowly-defined performance measures. Achieving these goals requires the combined efforts of government, businesses, nonprofit organizations and individual citizens.”  To learn more, and to access the 60 progress indicators for Minnesota Milestones 2011, see: http://www.demography.state.mn.us/milestones2011/

  In 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency joined together in the Partnership for Sustainable Communities to help communities nationwide improve access to affordable housing, increase transportation options, and lower transportation costs while protecting the environment.

The Partnership for Sustainable Communities works to coordinate federal housing, transportation, water, and other infrastructure investments to make neighborhoods more prosperous, allow people to live closer to jobs, save households time and money, and reduce pollution. The partnership agencies incorporate six principles of livability into federal funding programs, policies, and future legislative proposals:

Provide more transportation choices.
Develop safe, reliable, and economical transportation choices to decrease household transportation costs, reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil, improve air quality, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote public health.

Promote equitable, affordable housing.
Expand location- and energy-efficient housing choices for people of all ages, incomes, races, and ethnicities to increase mobility and lower the combined cost of housing and transportation.

Enhance economic competitiveness.
Improve economic competitiveness through reliable and timely access to employment centers, educational opportunities, services and other basic needs by workers, as well as expanded business access to markets.

Support existing communities.
Target federal funding toward existing communities through strategies like transit-oriented, mixed-use development and land recycling-to increase community revitalization and the efficiency of public works investments and safeguard rural landscapes.

Coordinate and leverage federal policies and investment.
Align federal policies and funding to remove barriers to collaboration, leverage funding, and increase the accountability and effectiveness of all levels of government to plan for future growth, including making smart energy choices such as locally generated renewable energy.

Value communities and neighborhoods.
Enhance the unique characteristics of all communities by investing in healthy, safe, and walkable neighborhoods-rural, urban, or suburban.

See the Partnership’s web site for information about its publications, grants available, other resources, and opportunities to get involved at http://www.sustainablecommunities.gov/

  Interested in tracking volunteer efforts for your agency or organization? The OurVolts online tool (with a free plan option for a small number of volunteer hours, and others for a monthly or annual fee) may be useful for you.

According to the web site https://www.ourvolts.com/   OurVolts can help with:

Transparency: Volunteers, administrators and the public see the total contributions.

Report: View a graphical display of total hours, top 10 volunteers – by site or groups of sites.

Connect: Find volunteers and projects in your area to connect with your community.

Incentives: Use visible milestones to motivate volunteers & create friendly, constructive competition.

Integrate: Add time tracking into your existing site or social network – graphs, too.

Track: Log hours and activities at project sites – see how your work adds up.

Empower: See how individual participation adds up to real results visible to the community.

Collaborate: Share data with local governments and other organizations – help with grant writing

— Those who are interested in new developments in Minnesota’s solar industry will find the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs) web site: http://bit.ly/kI6YMh

of interest. At this site you can:

* Access an interactive map of Minnesota solar and small wind installers  

* Learn about several Minnesota solar manufacturers

* Be introduced to the Make Mine Solar bulk buy program (for solar hot water and solar hot air) for home and business owners in the Twin Cities.

Volunteers wanted: Adopt a Highway, Adopt-a-River, Citizen Stream Monitoring, and Citizen Lake Monitoring!  Here are several opportunities for those who want to volunteer to do more to protect Minnesota’s environment:

The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) is looking for volunteers for its Adopt a Highway program, a public service campaign where community groups, churches, businesses and individuals pick up litter along Minnesota highways.

In the 21 years since its introduction, the program has saved the state of Minnesota millions of dollars. Adopt a Highway volunteers pick up 26,000 tons of litter per year along Minnesota highways, which saves Mn/DOT an estimated $5 million annually.

There are more than 12,000 miles of state highway in Minnesota of which 9,800 miles are adopted. Currently, there are an estimated 4,500 statewide groups and 45,000 volunteers registered.  To find out how to get involved in Mn/DOT’s Adopt a Highway program, visit: www.dot.state.mn.us/adopt or call Ernest Lloyd at 651/366-3564.

In a recent press release at http://bit.ly/ks11z0 the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is encouraging people to join the Adopt-a-River program for the spring cleaning of public waters. To date, the Adopt-a-River program has helped over 82,000 volunteers collect nearly 6 million pounds of trash and clean 10,000 miles of shoreline. For more information about how to help clean Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, wetlands, ditches or ravines public waters, visit: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/adoptriver/index.html or send an e-mail to adoptariver.dnr@state.mn.us

The MPCA is currently recruiting volunteers for the Citizen Stream Monitoring Program and Citizen Lake Monitoring Program.  Volunteers are asked to take readings of water clarity at a designated site every week from April through October.  The readings are taken using equipment provided by the MPCA.  Training is provided, so volunteers do not need special experience or expertise.  Lake volunteers must have access to a boat to do their monitoring, but a boat is not necessary for the stream program.

To learn more about becoming a volunteer, call Laurie Sovell (for the streams program) or Johanna Schussler (for the lakes program) at the MPCA at 651/757-2227 or toll-free at 800/657-3864.  More information is available at: http://www.pca.state.mn.us/cmp

AMBER WAVES, June 2011, VOL. 9, NO. 2.  Amber Waves presents the broad scope of USDA ERS’s research and analysis. The magazine covers the economics of agriculture, food and nutrition, the food industry, trade, rural America, and farm-related environmental topics. Available on the Internet and in print, Amber Waves is issued in print four times a year (March, June, September, and December). The Internet edition, or “eZine,” includes links to web-only resources, such as podcasts and additional articles. See: http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/June11/

HousingPolicy.org has a toolkit on its website with information about the housing needs of older adults who want to live in a residential environment. The toolkit explores the challenges facing older adults and strategies that enable more households to remain in their homes and communities as they age. A webinar is included that introduces the 3-part toolkit. To learn more, go to http://www.housingpolicy.org/toolbox/older_adults.html.

Mapping Food Deserts. USDA has a website that provides an overview of low-income neighborhoods with high concentrations of people who are far from a supermarket or large grocery store. To learn more, go to: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Data/FoodDesert/.

–The Rural Policy Research Institute and released a report called “Rethinking Federal Investments in Rural Transportation: Rural Considerations Regarding Reauthorization of the Surface Transportation Act”. The report shows that a variety of transportation investments – including transit, vanpools, walking and biking paths, roads and highways – are critical to the economic development and well-being of our nation’s smaller communities and rural areas. To get a copy, go to: http://www.rupri.org/Forms/RUPRI_Transportation_April2011.pdf.

The Housing Assistance Council published a special edition of Rural Voices that highlights rural housing programs (USDA RD Sections 502 & 523) that work. Articles focus on expanding homeownership, promoting affordability, creating jobs and stabilizing families and communities. To download a copy click here: http://www.ruralhome.org/storage/documents/sped2011.pdf.

–The USDA’s Economic Research Service has released a report called Federal Tax Policies and Low-Income Rural Households. The authors analyze the increasing use of refundable tax credits targeted to low- and moderate-income households in the Federal individual income tax and determine their implications for rural America. The analysis finds that expansions to both the refundable and nonrefundable portions of the Earned Income and Child Tax credits have provided a major source of income support for low-income workers and their families. This is especially true in the South, where the rural poor are concentrated. To get a copy, go to: http://www.ers.usda.gov/Publications/EIB76/EIB76.pdf.

Introducing Indian Country Currents, your information gateway to building vibrant economies in Indian Country. The Minneapolis Fed has launched a web site for individuals and organizations engaged in economic development in Native communities. It features articles and reports, partner directories, an event calendar, tribal legal infrastructure training resources, Indian Business Alliance information, models and tools to enhance tribes’ development strategies, and more.  To view go to:  www.minneapolisfed.org/indiancountry.

--What are the Risks in Today's Farmland Market?  Farmland is a bellwether to the financial health of the U.S. 
farm sector, accounting for 85 percent of U.S. farm assets. Sparked by surging grain prices, U.S. farmland values 
soared to record highs at the end of 2010. The double-digit gains in cropland values outpaced the rise in cash rents, 
leading observers to question the sustainability of such high land values and suggest that other 
factors, such as low interest rates, are driving current farmland values. In the latest issue of The Main Street 
Economist, Jason Henderson and Brian Briggeman explore the risks in today's farm real estate market and analyze 
whether the recent surge in farmland values is sustainable. Find the article at: http://tinyurl.com/3hry28s 

Rural America Benefits from Use of the Federal Tax Code for Income Support.  The Federal tax code increasingly has been used to achieve social and other policy objectives, primarily through the expanded use of tax credits. A larger share of rural taxpayers benefits from Federal tax policies because they have historically had lower incomes and higher poverty rates than urban households. The earned income and child tax credits have provided a substantial boost in income to low-and middle-income rural taxpayers and have reduced the rural poverty rate. See: http://tinyurl.com/3pfx9bv

Public Research Yields High Returns… Measured in More than Dollars.  Aggregate public investments in agricultural research can yield high returns and spur growth in agricultural productivity Standard economic approaches may be difficult to apply to evaluations of some research benefits and may not help in gauging important steps necessary to positive research outcomes. In these more difficult cases, economic reasoning can provide qualitative analysis even when quantitative estimates of benefits are intractable. See: http://tinyurl.com/42gj38a

MyMoney.gov: MyMoney.gov is the U.S. government’s Web site dedicated to teaching the basics about financial education. The redesigned, interactive site offers information from 20 federal agencies and bureaus about planning for life events that have financial implications, such as buying a home, balancing your checkbook, or planning for retirement. The site also provides money management tools, including financial calculators and worksheets. http://www.mymoney.gov/