February 2012– Volume X, Number 2

Compiled and edited by Deb Miller Slipek and Ann Treacy


–Across the Field – USDA 150th anniversary





Across the Field: Happy 150th Anniversary to the United States Department of Agriculture


by Jane Leonar

This year let’s pause and recognize 150 years of service of the USDA to the American public.  Born in the midst of the Civil War, it has grown and adapted along with the country.  In an indirect way, it helped me find my career pathway. Many years ago I completed a master’s degree in mass communications at the University of Minnesota (when mass communications still meant radio, TV, newspapers and other print media….). For my thesis, I wrote about “The Agricultural Press and the Establishment of the United States Department of Agriculture.” It was a comparative analysis of the ag journals of the time before and after the creation of the USDA in May, 1862. My thesis showed how the ag journals helped set the agenda and purpose for the USDA — as an information dissemination agency — until it reached cabinet level status in the 1880s when it became more regulatory in nature.

A popular way in which USDA transmitted information to the American public were the great summaries of agriculture and rural life in the form of the USDA annual reports – government versions of agricultural journals — which evolved into annual USDA Yearbooks. My Dad, who worked at USDA in Washington in the 1960s, had collected all the annual reports and Yearbooks from the time in the 1840s that the forerunner of USDA was part of the Patent Office, to the present day.  Each is a time capsule. They are sort of the very first Kindle – an amazing collection of great stories and often, beautiful color engravings of animals, plants, machinery, and rural life. They captured my imagination as a child and formed an essential part of my master’s thesis.

I have a few of the Yearbooks myself in my library. I pull them out to get inspired and remember how important it is to write down and re-read our hopes, dreams, and accomplishments as a people over decades and centuries. Here’s an excerpt from the 100th anniversary Yearbook in 1962 (which was entitled, “After a Hundred Years”). There is a sense of generosity and abundance, drive and imagination flowing from the words. Perhaps they can inspire us today, after 150 years. Here’s Minnesota’s own Governor Orville Freeman, then-Secretary of Agriculture, writing in the Yearbook foreword:

“We have a responsibility to the future….If we are not foresighted, Americans will not have a proper place to live (which was the theme of the 1963 Yearbook). We need an expanded program of care and use that will insure best utilization of land, water, and forests to meet future needs; protect and expand our parks, seashores, wild acres, places of natural beauty…Planning is needed, and a determination to do this task properly.

“We have a duty to the American community….This duty…embraces education, public discussion, and reaching decisions on policy on the basis of participation by farmers and the nonfarm public. Out of them will develop social, political, and economic growth that will insure steady, even, universal progress. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind; as that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times”

“These goals are attainable. These responsibilities can be met. Not by farmers alone. Not by the Department of Agriculture –or, indeed, by the Government – alone. Not by one or a few of us. All of us. The time is not some time in the next hundred years. The time is now.”

Whew, quite the call to action, still ringing true 50 years later, to all us, now.

Check out 150th anniversary website at: http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome?navid=USDA150 It’s not quite as inspiring as the 1962 Yearbook – but they still have time to improve this new-fangled social media.


Minnesota DNR – Division of Parks and Trails Grants – millions of dollars in state and federal funding will be available in 2012 for building trails, acquiring park land, installing fishing piers and otherwise expanding outdoor recreation opportunities in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Division of Parks and Trails.  Applications are now being accepted for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, natural and scenic areas, local trail connections, federal recreational trails, regional trails, public boat accesses, clean vessel, boating infrastructure, fishing pier and shore fishing areas. These grants help local governments, organizations and individuals throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund projects ranging from natural area acquisition to trail connections to water-based recreational facilities.  For more details, see http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/grants/index.html or http://bit.ly/wWN4Xf

–The Healthy Communities/Healthy America Fund is offering funding to nonprofits for nutrition and healthy behavior education projects as well as diabetes management and education projects for free clinic patients.  Deadlines: Letter of Intent (required) due 2/20/2012;  application due 5/14/2012.  For an application and more information, http://tinyurl.com/6mbzz9x

–FY 2012 Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) Grants.  USDA Rural Development’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) provides assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to complete a variety of energy projects. Offering both loan guarantees and grants, the REAP program helps eligible applicants install renewable energy systems such as solar panels or anaerobic digesters, make energy efficiency improvements such as installing irrigation pumps or replacing ventilation systems, and conduct energy audits and feasibility studies.  The REAP program is comprised of the following components:

The Renewable Energy System and Energy Efficiency Improvement Guaranteed Loan and Grant Program provides financial assistance to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase, install, and construct renewable energy systems; make energy efficiency improvements; use renewable technologies that reduce energy consumption; and participate in energy audits, renewable energy development assistance, and feasibility studies. For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement grant applications and combination grant and guaranteed loan applications are due March 30, 2012.  For renewable energy system and energy efficiency improvement guaranteed loan only applications are accepted on a continuous basis up to June 29, 2012.

–The Energy Audit and Renewable Energy Development Assistance Grant Program provides grant assistance to entities that will assist agriculture producers and small rural businesses by conducting energy audits and providing information on renewable energy development assistance. For energy audits and renewable energy development assistance applications are due February 21, 2012.

— The Feasibility Studies Grant Program assists financially applicants that need to complete a feasibility study, which are required in applications for many of USDA’s and other government agencies’ energy programs.  For renewable energy system feasibility study applications are due March 30, 2012.

For more information go to: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/BCP_Reap.html

Or contact Minnesota’s USDA Rural Development’s office can be accessed at: http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/MNHome.html

–Scotts Miracle-Gro is awarding grants for Community Garden and Green Space Development to nonprofit organizations working to create edible gardens, flower gardens, and public green spaces in their neighborhoods and communities.  Deadline to apply is 2/24/2012.  To learn more about this opportunity http://tinyurl.com/72m6yf7

–Dollar General Literacy Foundation is accepting applications for adult and family literacy and summer reading grants to nonprofits, schools and public libraries in states where Dollar General operates.  Deadline is 2/28/2012.  http://tinyurl.com/6v7sysn

The East Central Regional Arts Council (ECRAC) McKnight Fellowship program is an annual competitive grant designed to provide financial support to recognize, reward, and encourage outstanding professional artists. Applications are encouraged from artists in all disciplines.  Funding for this program is provided by The McKnight Foundation. The next ECRAC Fellowship opportunity for artists will be March 1, 2012. Two $7,000 ECAC-McKnight Fellowships will be awarded. http://tinyurl.com/75g8yz5

— National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Program.  The Our Town Program provides support for planning, design, and arts engagement activities seeking to improve communities’ quality of life, encourage creative activity, create community identity and a sense of place, and revitalize local economies. Proposed projects will demonstrate the potential to achieve the Livability: American communities are strengthened through the arts outcome, including activities that enhance the livability of the community and catalyze a persuasive vision for enhanced community vibrancy; support local artists, design professionals, and arts organizations by integrating design and the arts into the fabric of civic life; reflect or strengthen a unique community identity and sense of place; and capitalize on existing local assets. Deadline is March 1, 2012.  For more information go to: http://arts.gov/grants/apply/OurTown/index.html

  The Northland Foundation is partnering with the Minneapolis-based Valspar Foundation to provide free paint and coating products for community restoration and beautification projects. Approximately 8-10 projects located within the seven counties of northeastern Minnesota are expected to receive grants this year. Since 1998, the Northland Foundation and Valspar Foundation together have awarded more than 6,300 gallons of paint to 182 projects throughout this region.  Grants through the Valspar Foundation’s “Minnesota Beautiful” program are available to communities and nonprofit organizations. Applications and more information are available on the Northland Foundation website. http://tinyurl.com/7rpenxs Completed applications are due by March 5, 2012.  Awardees will be notified at the end of March, paint orders will be ready for pick up in May, and projects must be completed by November 1, 2012.

Awards are decided based on visual impact, public benefit, volunteer participation and support, intended use, and benefit to the needy. Projects that may qualify for a grant include historic buildings, senior citizen centers, community centers, public buildings and parks, murals, or other visual impact projects. Projects that do not qualify include churches, city maintenance, privately owned facilities, or schools (with the exception of mural projects).  If individuals have questions or need to request a hard copy of the application, call the Northland Foundation at (218) 723-4040 or 1-800-433-4045 or email Jan Amys, Program Associate. jan@northlandfdn.org

–MetLife Foundation and the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) are partnering for the eleventh year to recognize, sustain and share the work of innovative partnerships between community groups and police to promote neighborhood safety and revitalization.  Awards will honor partnerships that exhibit tangible accomplishments.  Deadline is 3/11/2012.  http://tinyurl.com/yf7gp5p

–The United States Tennis Association (USTA) awards grants to nonprofits that support efforts in tennis and education to help disadvantaged, at-risk youth and people with disabilities for programs designed to improve health, build character and strive for academic excellence.  Deadline to apply is 3/15/2012.  http://tinyurl.com/7on9hzq

–The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) is offering grants to community coalitions working to prevent and reduce substance use among youth.  Deadline to apply is 3/22/2012.  http://tinyurl.com/7dtl5kl

–HUD is offering Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grants to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), local governments, nonprofits, tribal entities, and for-profit developers that apply jointly with a public entity.  These grants support those communities that have undergone a local planning process and are ready to implement their transformation plan to redevelop the neighborhood.  Deadline: 4/1/2012.  http://tinyurl.com/6vezkob

–The East Central Arts Council (ECRAC), serving Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, and Pine counties, has the following funding available with application due dates of April 1, 2012.

– Small Grants for Organizations – Grants of up to $500 for organizations to sponsor an art project.  A 1:1 match is required for this grant. Grant application materials for this program are online at: http://www.ecrac.org/grants/small-grant-project

Art and Cultural Heritage Fund Grants for organizations and individuals – Up to $15,000 for organizations or $2,500 for individual artists for art activities with high artistic merit, ability, and need.   Outcome evaluation and a community component are required. Grant application materials for this program are online at: (organizations)  http://tinyurl.com/7ykb7we and (individuals) http://tinyurl.com/7npxbn3

-Art in Our Schools – Grants of up to $1,000 for schools to sponsor a special art activity. Grant application materials for this program are online at: http://tinyurl.com/7no45r2

-Individual Artist Grants – Grants of up to $1,000 for artist project grants.

Grant application materials for this program are online at: http://tinyurl.com/72wamg3

ECRAC grant workshop offering information on ECRAC grant applications, grant reviews, and grant funding procedures will be held March 22 held in partnership with Braham Community Education. This is in preparation for the upcoming art grant application deadlines. Application forms and information will be available at the seminar. To register contact the ECRAC office at 320-396-2337 or info@ecrac.org.

Grants for specialty crop growers from the MN Department of Agriculture.  The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has received $700,000 in federal funding to help promote and enhance the specialty crop industry. Fruit, vegetable and other specialty crop farmers can apply for Specialty Crop Block Grants to help them compete in today’s marketplace.  Grant projects may include outreach to increase consumers’ nutritional knowledge about specialty crops, assistance in the development of good agricultural practices, investment into specialty crop research, development of new and improved seed varieties, and pest and disease control.

Growers of fruits, vegetables, culinary herbs and spices, medicinal plants, tree nuts, flowers, and nursery plants are eligible to apply. MDA will accept grant applications through April 20, 2012.  Questions regarding the grant program or the application process can be directed to David Weinand at 651/201-6646 or email David.Weinand@state.mn.us.   A list of eligible and ineligible commodities can be found at: www.ams.usda.gov/scbgp  A grant manual is available on the MDA website at: http://tinyurl.com/6otykzq


A Risky Proposition: Crop Insurance and Climate Change.  A webinar will be held from 11 – 12noon CST on February 21 hosted by IATP.  For more information and to register go to: http://tinyurl.com/7aprr6m

— Housing Assistance Council (HAC) will host a webinar presentation on February 21 about how President Obama’s budget will impact rural housing programs.  To register, http://tinyurl.com/6txr4xq

–Novogradac & Company is offering a LIHTC Webinar Series.  On February 29, 2012 they will offer “LIHTC 101: The Basics” from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Pacific Time.  To register, http://tinyurl.com/73oxrvx

— Join us for the MNREM Broadband for Business Webinar Series

Business Texting
Reserve your Webinar seat now at: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/310152262

There are 4.2 billion texters worldwide. We’ll talk about how you can use texting to reach potential customers and to communicate with employees. It’s fast and efficient but needs to be channeled to be useful.

Title:     Business Texting
Date:    Thursday, March 1, 2012
Time:    12:00 PM – 1:00 PM CST

–The 2012 Nonprofit Technology & Communications Conference, presented by MCN and MAP for Nonprofits, is the place to go to stay up to speed with tools and trends now and looking into the future. It will be held Friday, March 16th in Minneapolis.  Participants will dive into nonprofit strategies for everything from mobile marketing to cloud computing, from digital inclusion to website design, and much more. The conference will offer more breakout sessions than ever before, for all roles and levels of experience, http://tinyurl.com/7rawqvn

Multicultural Forum on Workplace Diversity: A Time For Innovationwill be held on March 20-22 at the University of St. Thomas. 
This conference is for professionals who manage a diverse workforce, work in a diverse environment, are responsible for diversity within organizations of all sizes, or who deal with a diverse clientele. http://tinyurl.com/83qpjlm

The Symposium on Small Towns, hosted by the Center for Small Towns (CST), will be held on the University of Minnesota, Morris campus June 13-14, 2012. Hold the date and watch for more info.

–The Minnesota e-Health Summit is June 13-14 in Brooklyn Park http://tinyurl.com/868md4v

–The 2012 Minnesota Rural Health Conference is June 25-26 in Duluth. http://tinyurl.com/27bdm7a


–Become a 2012-13 College Health Corps VISTA Host Site!

Minnesota Campus Compact is pleased to invite MNCC member campuses and community-based organizations to apply for a College Health Corps AmeriCorps*VISTA for the 2012-13 program year. VISTAs are national service members who dedicate one year toward alleviating poverty in the United States. The College Health Corps VISTAs are dedicated to increasing health care access and health education for low-income Minnesotans. The deadline for submitting a Host Site Application is February 17, 2012 at 4:30 pm. VISTAs will start their service in June 2012.  For more information, see the Request for Proposals. http://tinyurl.com/7ye35l9 With questions, contact Julie Plaut.

–Upper Midwest Civic Engagement Summit Call for Proposals.  The Minnesota Campus Compact annual summit and awards ceremony on Tuesday, June 5 at Macalester College will precede the first Upper Midwest Civic Engagement Summit presented in conjunction with Iowa Campus Compact and Wisconsin Campus Compact. Please consider submitting a proposal–and encouraging colleagues, student leaders, and partners to submit proposals–in one of four session categories:  Skill-Building, Issue-Focused, Big-Picture, or Poster Sessions.  For details or to submit an online proposal, see the Request for Conference Session Proposals. http://tinyurl.com/7djka92 Proposals are due by February 24.  Please contact Julie Plaut with any questions–and with information about any outstanding alumni you’d suggest be invited to share their perspectives on the lasting impact of civic engagement during a keynote panel.

Annually the Ash Center at Harvard University solicits applications from U.S. government entities at the federal, state and local level who want to showcase their policy or program innovations. If you work for a government entity and want the rest of the country (and the world) to know about something innovative that you are doing, please consider applying. Or if, as is the case with many on this listserv, you do not work for a government entity but work with one or many, maybe there is one that stands out as doing something innovative. Please send this notice to them and encourage them to apply.  The award notice and application forms can be found at:

www.innovationsaward.harvard.eduApplications are due Thursday, March 1, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. PDT.

— THE BUSH FOUNDATION has announced deadlines for the 2012-13 Bush Fellowship Program is open to U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are at least 24 years old and who have lived for at least one year in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, or the twenty-three Native nations that share the same geography.  The program provides an opportunity for individuals to increase their capacity for and improve their  practice of leadership while working to solve tough problems in their communities.  Deadlines for 2012 are 3/2/2012 or 5/4/2012 or 7/9/2012.  To learn more about this program, http://tinyurl.com/7vh8z92

–The Environmental Initiative Awards annually honor innovative projects that have achieved extraordinary environmental results by harnessing the power of partnership. From large statewide efforts to small-scale locally based projects, many of Minnesota’s most innovative environmental efforts have succeeded as a result of collaboration.

Nominations for the 2012 Environmental Initiative Awards are open and will be accepted for innovative environmental projects based on collaboration and partnership through Friday, March 2. Self-nominations are welcome. Click http://tinyurl.com/8ymjucx for more information on guidelines and eligibility. New this year, each person who submits a nomination will receive one free ticket to attend the awards ceremony and dinner on Thursday, May 24.

CURA’s Introduction to Program Evaluation. http://tinyurl.com/6smm2vd CURA is offering scholarships to nonprofits who want to attend the two-day workshop on March 26 and 27 in conjunction with the Minnesota Evaluation Studies Institute (MESI) Spring Conference. http://tinyurl.com/7bbgfza Details on how to apply for the scholarship are available the Minnesota Evaluation Studies website. http://tinyurl.com/7u75f5n

— Extension MIRC Workshops available statewide (FREE!)  It is essential that businesses and communities have an effective presence on the Internet. Yet over half the businesses in Minnesota cannot be found on the Internet. This means potential customers cannot find them.  The University of Minnesota Extension is changing this through the Minnesota Intelligent Rural Communities program. We offer a pair of free workshops to any business or community group outside the Twin Cities metro willing to host them. These workshops have been offered nearly 200 times throughout the state and are well received.  To arrange these workshops or for questions, please contact: Hans Muessig, Program Director, hmuessig@umn.edu or 763-360-0993. For more information please go to the Extension MIRC website. http://tinyurl.com/6r4kyld

Students and businesses interested in taking part in the SciTechsperience internship program can now complete online applications at MHTA.org.  SciTechsperience is Minnesota’s paid internship opportunity for students studying in STEM fields.  It is a new MHTA program made possible by funding through the Minnesota Science & Technology Authority.  SciTechsperience is a key economic development initiative aimed at expanding Minnesota’s talented STEM workforce by providing hands-on experience for talented college students.  The idea is to keep those students living and working in Minnesota once they graduate in order to strengthen and advance the state’s knowledge-based economy.  Qualified businesses can receive a dollar for dollar match up to 50% of an intern’s wages for a maximum of $2,500.  There are other eligibility requirements students and businesses should check out before they apply to take part in the program.  You can read them and complete the applications at MHTA’s SciTechsperience program page.

— Host a Common Cents Dialogue!  The Citizens League, in partnership with the Bush Foundation, is hosting community conversations around the state and online to share information about budgetary challenges and to ask citizens: What values and priorities are important to solving Minnesota’s budget challenges?  They are eager to engage students and young people in free, interactive, nonpartisan workshops focused on state budget balancing or tax reform. Findings will be posted online at: www.citizing.org/projects/commoncents and presented to the Governor and state legislators.  For more information, contact Lindsey Alexander at lindsey@citizing.org or 651-329-1328. Hosts will have responsibility for meeting logistics and recruiting participants.


BoardSource, http://www.boardsource.org/ based in Washington, DC, has many online resources for board development including publications, http://www.boardsource.org/Bookstore.asp a resource center http://www.boardsource.org/Knowledge.asp and a series of webinars http://www.boardsource.org/Workshops.asp?ID=42 starting in January with Creating Change in Your Board through Self-Assessment. http://www.boardsource.org/Bookstore.asp?Item=1361

RAC Launches New Online Health Information Technology Toolkitproviding health information technology (HIT) resources to rural health care providers is the purpose of a new online toolkit from the Rural Assistance Center (RAC). A pilot program developed through RAC and the National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center), the toolkit is designed to help rural providers find HIT resources directed at them. http://tinyurl.com/6usd5zo

Maintaining a Civil Conversation.  Learn some effective ways to keep the discourse moving in a positive direction, even when faced with polarizing issues. For tips on encouraging authentic participation from Ken Snyder of PlaceMatters go to:


The Housing Assistance Council’s most recent issue of Rural Voices has several articles on affordable housing for low-income senior citizens.  The articles highlight the work being done to provide access to safe housing for seniors, as well as efforts to improve quality of life and increase longevity of the elderly population.  For a free copy of the issue, http://tinyurl.com/794sfl8

–The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has launched a new website.  You can find a 15-year archive of Joint Center research papers and reports on the site, as well as information about student programs, public events and news article.  They are offering a Brown Bag lunch lecture series featuring leaders in housing and community development.  To go to the site, http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/

–The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy has published a report “Active Transportation Beyond Urban Centers” which shows that in large and small rural cores of 2,500 to 50,000 residents, the share of total trips made on foot or by bike is only 20 percent below the rate for larger urban cores, and when it comes to work trips, rural areas fall right in line with the national rates of biking and walking to work.  To read the report, http://tinyurl.com/88ucs24

–The Center for Housing Policy has released a new brief titled More than a Roof: Case studies of public housing agency initiatives to increase residents’ economic security.  Despite budget shortfalls, these agencies are continuing their efforts to use subsidized housing as a platform for economic security and opportunity by implementing programs that combine housing assistance with support for increased earnings and opportunities to build assets.  To get a free copy of the brief, http://tinyurl.com/72ehqqw

–The Aspen Institute manages an information and action network focused on Rural Family Economic Success (RuFES) called the RuFES Action Network.  The network is for individuals and organizations that work in some way to help low-income working families get ahead in rural communities.  To learn more about the network and sign up, http://tinyurl.com/7v2o97c

–HUD has published the results of a study called End of Participation in Assisted Housing: What Can We Learn About Aging in Place? The agency undertook the study to learn more about the demographics of elderly residents the agency assists, the ages at which these residents leave assisted housing, and the strategies that could enhance elderly households’ ability to live safely and comfortably in HUD-assisted housing for as long as possible.  To read the study, http://tinyurl.com/6o46ase