A Park For All Seasons

Friends of Way Park - Fri, 08/07/2020 - 9:44pm
Way Park is the heart of a vibrant neighborhood on the west side of Northfield. It features:  the ROMP musical playground  playground equipment and swings pre-school equipment  a half basketball court  picnic and grilling areas  a walking path  a warming hut and ice rink (seasonal)  a small baseball/kickball diamond (seasonal)  a large open field perfect for pick up soccer games, kite flying, Michelle
Categories: Organizations

Rice Co. Deputies assist in apprehension of gun-pointing suspect

KYMN Radio - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 2:00pm
This morning at about 8:30, Rice County Deputies were dispatched to the area of 30th Street and Hazelwood Avenue in Webster Township on a 911 hang up call. In a press release, Sgt. Justin Hunt reports that while responding to the call, Scott County Deputies located a vehicle parked at 3050 Hazelwood Avenue that was

Library Board Meeting

City of Northfield Calendar - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:32pm
Event date: June 10, 2020
Event Time: 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM
Northfield, MN 55057

Over 150 years later, First Nat’l officially Merchants; LGA, Taxpayer tolerance will play role in 2021 City budget; Nfld City offices gradually opens; Part of Sakatah trail closes; Nfld Shares grant applications

KYMN Radio - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:02pm
5-26-20 PM News The press release was just issued this morning, it’s official, First National Bank of Northfield, started over 150 years ago, is now Merchants Bank.  There were a lot of emotions on local social media as an era rich in history ended. First National Bank’s history lives on through the Northfield Historical Society

Dr. Matt Hillmann

KYMN Radio - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 9:50am
Northfield School Superintendent Dr. Matt Hillmann previews tonight’s School Board meeting agenda.  The meeting will be streamed live via a link on the school district website.


Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 7:20am
I took care of my fallen friend (tree) on Memorial Day. I sawed her limbs. I broke off her branches. I crushed up her twigs. There were twigs everywhere. I held in my hands her stump, which weighed more than it looked. I piled her logs, which were more in number than it appeared. I […]
Categories: Citizens

'Everybody respected him': pastor remembered for compassion, embrace

Northfield News - Tue, 05/26/2020 - 7:09am
Craig Breimhorst never intended to become a minister. But maybe some things are just meant to be.
Categories: Local News

A Tribute to the Fallen

My Musical Family - Joy Riggs - Mon, 05/25/2020 - 6:06pm
Today at 3 p.m., my dad and my middle child both played Taps, 175 miles apart. It was a long-distance duet, of sorts; my dad played outside the apartment building where he and my mom live in Alexandria, for a physically distanced crowd of about 20 friends and neighbors, and Sebastian played from our front porch in Northfield, for the enjoyment of Steve, Elias, me, and anyone else in the neighborhood who happened to hear it.

Sebastian playing from our porch in Northfield, MN
My mom and dad in Alexandria, MNDad and Sebastian were not the only ones playing Taps today. In fact, I'd guess it resounded from more places than usual this year. Due to COVID-19, CBS News "On the Road" correspondent Steve Hartman teamed up with retired U.S. Air Force bugler Jari Villanueva to encourage people across the country to perform the bugle call at 3 p.m. today from their porches, front lawns, driveways, wherever they could maintain a safe distance from listeners in an event called "Taps Across America" (those of you who have attended the four-day Vintage Band Festival likely have heard Villanueva perform here in Northfield with one of his bands).

The annual National Moment of Remembrance asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day, to pause for one minute to remember those who have died in military service to the United States.

My dad plays Taps every year, although he usually does it at the local cemetery. Performing in Memorial Day services was also an annual tradition for his paternal grandfather, G. Oliver Riggs. G. Oliver's father, Jasper Riggs, fought in the Civil War with the 45th Illinois Infantry, and I'm sure that influenced G. Oliver's feeling about the importance of having his bands participate.

Toward the end of my great-grandfather's life, many of his St. Cloud Municipal Band boys enlisted in World War II. Today, as Sebastian played his trumpet, I thought about the ones who never returned. I learned a bit about three of them when I was doing research for my book, Crackerjack Bands and Hometown Boosters: The Story of a Minnesota Music Man.

I had originally included information about the men in Chapter 26 of the book, but it was cut for space, so I'm including the cut material here:

In early January 1945, G. Oliver learned of the deaths of two of his former band members. Both young men had been pallbearers at Islea's funeral. The first, Robert A. Johnson, was a flight officer in the Army Air Corps. He was one of six Army fliers killed on January 8 after two B-26 bombers crashed in routine flight in Texas. He had been a gifted football player and an enthusiastic hunter. He was about to turn 21. 

The second was Henry Strobel, a second lieutenant with the 861st Bomber Squadron, 493rd Bomber. The 22-year-old Strobel died after he was shot down over Belgium on Jan. 10. He was awarded the purple heart and was buried in Normandy, France. 

The day after Strobel's death was announced, on Jan. 31, 1945, the St. Cloud Times-Journal printed an editorial about the losses suffered in the war. It estimated that more than 100 men from St. Cloud had died, and more than 200 from Stearns County, and it predicted that the total would rise significantly by Memorial Day:

"It is hard for one to find words to express what we feel in our hearts. Not only the debt we owe to those who died for us, but to their mothers and fathers, their wives, and other next of kin. These their 'next of kin' have given the most. When we think of what the absence of these 'honored dead' means in the hundreds of homes in Central Minnesota, how selfish and wicked are the complaints we hear about the war because they cannot get all the cigarets and gas they need. Because of food rationing and speed regulations. Let us be fair about these complaints. We do not hear so many as casualty lists are mounting daily by the thousands on the western front and in the Pacific. Complaints are disappearing because in every neighborhood there live the mothers, fathers and wives, who in every waking hour are concerned about the safety of those boys who are in fighting zones and on combat missions in the air and on the seven seas."

One week later, another name was added to the honor roll: Sgt. John Opitz, who played alto horn in G. Oliver's first St. Cloud boys band. He was attached to the paratrooper division and had served in Africa, Italy, southern France, and Belgium. He was killed in action in Germany.

More than 300,000 men and women from Minnesota served in World War II, and nearly 8,000 of them died. Today, I think of them, and their families, and I am sad and grateful.
Categories: Citizens

Updated list of historically significant buildings removes library, adds former bank

Northfield News - Mon, 05/25/2020 - 3:41pm
The city of Northfield will soon apply to update the list of its buildings considered historically significant by the National Register of Historic Places — a move that’s set to see the Northfield National Bank Building recognized and the Northfield…
Categories: Local News

New Publication: Athens 415: The City in Crisis

Rob Hardy - Rough Draft - Mon, 05/25/2020 - 12:55pm
Clara Shaw Hardy. Athens 415: The City in Crisis. With translations by Robert B. Hardy. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2020. 
Publisher's description: On a summer night in 415 BCE, unknown persons systematically mutilated most of the domestic “herms”—guardian statues of the god Hermes—in Athens. The reaction was immediate and extreme:  the Athenians feared a terrifying conspiracy was underway against the city and its large fleet—and possibly against democracy itself.   The city established a board of investigators, which led to informants, accusations, and flight by many of the accused.  Ultimately, dozens were exiled or executed, their property confiscated.
This dramatic period offers the opportunity to observe the city in crisis. Sequential events allow us to see the workings of the major institutions of the city (assembly, council, law courts, and theater, as well as public and private religion). Remarkably, the primary sources for these tumultuous months name conspirators and informants from a very wide range of status-groups: citizens, women, slaves, and free residents. Thus the incident provides a particularly effective entry-point into a full multifaceted view of the way Athens worked in the late fifth century.Designed for classroom use, Athens 415 is no potted history, but rather a source-based presentation of ancient urban life ideal for the study of a people and their institutions and beliefs.  Original texts—all translated by poet Robert B. Hardy—are presented along with thoughtful discussion and analyses by Clara Shaw Hardy in an engaging narrative that draws students into Athens’ crisis.
Order Athens 415 from Content Bookstore
Categories: Citizens

Online Memorial Day ceremony honors those who served

Northfield News - Mon, 05/25/2020 - 9:12am
Although this year’s Memorial Day service was moved online due to COVID-19, local veterans were still able to clearly outline the main message of the day: Honoring those who have died in service of the country.
Categories: Local News

Memorial Day Service 2020

KYMN Radio - Mon, 05/25/2020 - 8:30am
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Northfield American Legion Post 84 and VFW Post 4393 will not hold live Memorial Day services from Veterans Memorial Park this year.  However, a video taped service made for the occasion is available for public viewing.  The audio will be aired on KYMN Radio, 95.1 FM and AM 1080,

Fine Tune archive #324 around – again 2020.24.05

KYMN Radio - Sun, 05/24/2020 - 7:15pm
An archived edition of the show this week – originally aired 29 May, 2016… featuring songs describing all sorts of ways to get or be ‘around’: Fine Tune 05-29-16 #324 Al Casey / Jivin’ Around Dean Martin & Helen O’Connell / We Never Talk Much, We Just Sit Around Bill Haley & His Comets /

Deaf community impacted by face masks, social distancing

Northfield News - Sun, 05/24/2020 - 5:30pm
As Minnesotans everywhere continue to adjust to the “new normal” that is wearing face masks and practicing safe social distances, members of the community are facing additional obstacles to this way of life.
Categories: Local News

Casos de COVID-19 aumentan en el condado de Rice

KYMN Radio - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 5:04pm
Los casos de COVID-19 siguen aumentando en el condado de Rice y es muy importante seguir con las precauciones.

Republicans endorse Moravchik in 20B; 20A convention delayed

Northfield News - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 4:47pm
At an endorsing convention held online Thursday, local Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed retired police officer and teacher Joe Moravchik for state legislature in District 20B.
Categories: Local News

SHAC sees success with transition to telehealth

Carletonian - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 10:01am

Like many campus offices, Student Health and Counseling (SHAC) has faced a difficult reality this spring amid the collective transition online. For SHAC, in-person appointments and services are no longer an option. With its on-campus clinic closed for the term, SHAC has leveraged telehealth tools to continue to offer the majority of its standard services remotely.

Marit Lysne, director of SHAC, said that the clinic’s transition to telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic has largely been successful. “This is a challenging situation for everyone, which is why it was so important to SHAC and to the college that we continue to provide these services to students even though they had to leave the state,” she explained. “We’ve been able to do that.”

According to Lysne, SHAC continues to offer medical, psychiatric and counseling care, with appointments conducted via video call. Medication management services are available through SHAC’s psychiatric consultant, and the 24/7/365 phone line for mental health emergencies remains in operation. SHAC’s two meditation offerings—”Time to Meditate” and KORU—shifted online this term.

The clinic is not offering its typical group therapy programs this spring, Lysne said, apart from a group co-facilitated with the Gender and Sexuality Center with a focus on LGBTQ issues. SHAC usually runs two or three group therapy programs per term.

Lysne said that student utilization of counseling and psychiatry services has generally been consistent with what SHAC sees during a normal term. Use of medical services has decreased somewhat, Lysne reported, but she believes this is due to students opting to seek care in their local communities for acute issues like an illness or rash. 

Students are continuing to schedule appointments with SHAC to address more private medical issues, such as conversations about birth control, Lysne added. The clinic is also using secure messaging to answer students’ medical questions and direct them to care in their local communities.

All of SHAC’s full-time staff members, as well as two graduate student practicum counselors, are working as usual this spring, Lysne reported. These clinicians went through training during Spring Break to prepare for telehealth care. SHAC’s temporary staff members—who work on a part-time basis during periods of highest demand—are not working at the clinic this term.

Flipping SHAC’s entire model of care on short notice was a work-intensive effort, Lysne said, but she is pleased with the results. “Most students that we’re working with are saying this feels very similar,” she added.

Angela Yackel, a nurse practitioner at SHAC, spoke to the process of adapting to telehealth, which she said has been positive overall. “I miss my in-person visits with students, but have felt really fortunate to be able to continue to connect with students via telehealth services,” said Yackel. “The visits I’ve had have gone really smoothly and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the level of care I’m able to provide this way.” 

Lysne said that the switch to telehealth may even be an advantage for some students who find it more convenient or manageable to seek care from home rather than coming into the clinic. Thinking beyond SHAC’s services, the rise of telehealth during the pandemic is an asset to students in rural areas, she added. These students can now access care remotely that might otherwise be a few hours’ drive away.

At the same time, telehealth has come with several extra challenges for SHAC. One of those is state licensure regulations, which place limits on the care that providers can offer to out-of-state clients. Under normal circumstances, SHAC clinicians—all of whom are licensed by Minnesota boards—do not face this issue, since students are residing on Carleton’s campus. With students now spread out geographically, SHAC has had to adapt, Lysne said—but the regulations have not prevented students from accessing care.

In light of the pandemic, many states have adopted temporary policies to reduce barriers for care across state lines. For some states, this might mean that an out-of-state clinician can provide care for a period of 90 days, Lysne said. Others are asking providers to submit an application for approval before they can serve students residing there. 

“No matter where a student is, we have that initial appointment with them,” she explained. “Everybody gets to be seen. What we do then is we assess where they are, how they’re doing, risk levels, what their needs are, what they’re looking for.”

If the student is interested in long-term care, SHAC examines the licensing regulations by consulting online guides and information from state boards. So far, licensure “hasn’t proved to be a big hurdle,” according to Lysne, with most of the new state policies proving to be workable.

“If there were a challenge with it, what we would do is we would still offer initial care, and what we call bridging,” she explained. “We would help a student get in to find somebody in their local community, and we would make sure that we were continuing to provide them care until they were able to secure that.” 

SHAC has also adopted new security and confidentiality practices specific to telehealth. Before beginning appointments, students are asked to read a document explaining the new protocols.

The precautions include telling students to wear earbuds and asking them to show the clinician the room they are calling from, to ensure that they are alone and able to speak freely and safely, Lysne said. SHAC also asks students for an emergency contact number to help the clinic respond appropriately if a student experiences a crisis situation.

According to Lysne, SHAC therapists are “processing with a lot of students the frustration and challenges that come with remote learning,” as well as the new realities of quarantine. These issues include stress, loneliness and disconnection, which may put some students at increased risk of depression. Conversations have also focused on familial dynamics and environmental changes for students who have moved back home, Lysne added.

In addition to offering its standard services, SHAC is also involved in the College’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lysne said she encourages students both on- and off-campus to fill out a Community Concern Form (CCF) if they have developed COVID-19 symptoms, are awaiting a test result or have tested positive. 

Filling out a CCF—or contacting SHAC directly—would prompt a support response from several offices, including SHAC, according to Lysne. Clinicians would provide advice on seeking care, isolating and monitoring symptoms. 

Carleton has not reported any cases of COVID-19 among students residing on campus.

SHAC is also involved with several campus committees doing work related to the pandemic, Lysne said, including the Infectious Disease Team, which is focused on long-term planning and response.

Lysne wants students to know that SHAC is here for them even remotely. “We want to be of service, and across the board all of our services are available, so please, utilize us,” she said.

The post SHAC sees success with transition to telehealth appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

A look back at 100 years of Carleton student representation

Carletonian - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:56am

This year’s CSA elections revealed a decline in student involvement. According to the 2020 CSA Executive Report, voter turnout has been steadily decreasing since 2017, from 67% then to only 49% of students participating in the winter 2020 elections. During this spring’s CSA Senate elections, nine of twelve positions went uncontested, and the vote drew a mere 21% of Carleton voters. 

To mark the 100th anniversary of student representation at Carleton, we looked deep into the Carletonian archives and found that representatives have long been frustrated with student apathy. The “major difficulty in establishing a meaningful student government,” wrote CSA presidential candidate Mick Parrott ’62, “is the lack of an interested and informed student body.” Since 1920, Carleton students have been complaining about their government system and working to perfect it—or, at least, writing scathing Carletonian op-eds about it. 

Students created the Alma Mater Association (AMA) in 1920 to foster a “proper predominating college spirit,” according to the Carletonian, and to unite Carleton students into a single organized voice that could have authority over social events and other matters they considered outside of administrative purview.  

Elected members of the original AMA included a President, one male and one female Vice President, and two cheerleaders—usually men, in charge of invigorating crowds at sporting events and pep rallies. Their responsibilities were primarily social, including the “promotion of sportsmanship at college games, prevention of indiscriminate hazing of freshmen, definition of proper college spirit at college parties, and entertainment of visitors at all college entertainments,” founding member John Wingate ’21 stated at the meeting that launched AMA.  

Within a decade, students, complaining of the AMA’s failure “to arouse the interest of the students” and to “bring forth a representative expression of the student body,” abolished the association in favor of an organization with stronger executive power and a greater focus on discussing and resolving the issues that mattered most to students. In the fall of 1931, the first Carleton Student Association (CSA) convened, whose basic constitution and representative format we follow today. Broadly, CSA refers to the collective student body; CSA Senate members are its elected representatives. As describe on the current CSA website: “As an enrolled Carleton student, you are automatically a member of CSA.”

The original CSA constitution stated that its purpose was “to provide means for student discussion of any subject which pertains to student life at Carleton, and to provide the machinery to carry on the necessary activities of the student body.” Amendments had to be introduced at a “regular meeting of the association” and published in two issues of the Carletonian before they were voted upon.

Today, the CSA Senate has 25 positions, including office liaisons and class representatives—but at its founding, students could only run for President, Vice President, and Treasurer. Typically, at least two students ran for CSA President, but those aiming for Treasurer or Vice President often ran unopposed.  

Kirbyjon Caldwell ’75, candidate for CSA Vice President, kept his Carletonian platform brief: “Since I am running unopposed for CSA Vice President and there is a slight paper shortage, I see little reason for presenting a platform at this time. Take care of yourselves.”  

This pithy column was not the only amusing part of Carleton elections that decade. According to the Carleton website, when all ballots were counted in 1977, Joe Fabeetz—an imaginary candidate—had won the CSA Senate election with 1,012 write-in votes. 

In the early years, CSA positions were almost exclusively held by men. The first female president, Corinne Leino ’26, was elected to the AMA in 1925, but only a handful of women followed in her footsteps and pursued positions other than secretary. In 1967, that all changed when the first elections were held for the Dorm Senate, a system of representatives based on residence halls, which at the time were separated by gender. That meant there were designated spots in the Senate for women to speak on behalf of their East-side dorm communities.

Student apathy has been an issue over the course of the 100-year history of representation at Carleton, as evidenced by this assessment of the 1970 crop of Senate candidates as “the most lackluster group.” / Source: Carleton Archives.

Throughout CSA’s early years, its authority was undermined by the Men’s and Women’s Leagues, which held sway over many aspects of social life at Carleton and had a greater presence in students’ daily lives than CSA. In 1941, CSA faced termination when some students felt that their governing system was ineffective in the shadow of the more popular Leagues. Herbert Lefler ’42 attributed CSA’s shortcomings to the “apathy of the student body.” He wrote in his presidential campaign letter that “there are reasons for this apathy and that once the disease is cured, the basic ills of our student government will likewise be cured.”

Students nearly moved to dissolve the organization and rely solely on the Leagues to represent their voices. Instead, CSA was saved when they amended 13 articles of its constitution, which incorporated the Men’s and Women’s League presidents into the Executive Council and redefined the duties of the Vice-President. 

After the “student government crisis” of 1941, CSA regained its footing. CSA President William Cheek ’39 introduced a mandatory “chapel meeting,” where students came to hear each candidate’s platform, ensuring that the CSA election was not just a popularity contest.  Running was almost a full-time job, that included canvassing, collecting dorm contacts, and hanging posters. 

“So you want to know what it’s like to campaign for student body president,” said candidate Ted Bergstrom ’62 to a Carletonian reporter. “Well,” he began, “it’s enjoyable, stimulating and doggone tiring. I’ve given up on sleep and studying almost entirely.” 

The times when students seemed to be most dialed into their own government was when it was mired in controversy, as it was through much of the 1970s. 

The most notable incident happened in 1972, when CSA President Dick Helde ’73 was accused of skewing the election in his favor by gaming the preferential voting system, bringing some of the same issues surrounding the rapidly unfolding Watergate scandal to Carleton. Helde’s opponents said that his campaign told voters to cast only one vote for him instead of ranking their choices, which he denied. 

Dick Helde’ 73 was at the center of a conflict that cast a shadow of mistrust on CSA for years. / Source: Carleton Archives

Many students petitioned for a recall of the vote, but as CSA president, the decision of whether to accept or reject the petition was ultimately in Helde’s hands. He did not recall the vote, but a precedent of mistrust was set for years to come. 

The Helde incident sparked a chain of student concerns surrounding the lack of availability and transparency of the Senate.

In 1989, a Carletonian article headlined “CSA Senate ignores student opinion” cited a Senate decision that barely passed (in a 10-8 vote), to allow for a student referendum on the institution of S/Cr/NC.  “Clearly the eight senators who voted not to allow a student body referendum were not representing our desire to express our opinion,” Seth Brown ’91 wrote.  

The same article criticized the Senate for choosing not to fund the feminist journal Breaking Ground even though “670 signatures supporting the journal were collected in one week.”

The Budget Committee, which guides Senate in allocating CSA funds, became further steeped in controversy when they declined to increase funding for another student organization: the Student Organization for Unity and Liberation (SOUL).  Due to a lack of communication between the two groups, SOUL signed a contract to bring a speaker to campus and were not allocated the additional money to cover a rise in speaker price. 

Michelle Coffey ’91 and Karen Crawford ’89, executive board members of SOUL, replied with a sharply worded Carletonian article that asked, “will the nature of the CSA’s relationship with its charter organizations be one of mutual cooperation and trust, or one of mutual fear and loathing?” 

Students attend a CSA committee meeting in 1995. / Source: Carleton Archives

CSA has had its fair share of struggles with constituent apathy during its 100-year history, as well as periods of high involvement. Today, all CSA platforms and elections are available online, but they remain dependent on a certain level of student engagement. As Alan Hall ’41 wrote in an opinion piece in the May 24, 1940 Carletonian, “there’s something even worse than biting the hand that feeds you; that is paying no attention to a hand which might feed you and then wondering why you starve. The CSA is such a hand.”

Current CSA President Andrew Farias ’21 said that the main thing students need to remember is that “we are all in the Carleton Student Association. Even if it may not seem like it, it’s something that we’re all involved in.” While voter turnout is a valuable gauge of student interest, he noted that filling out a ballot is not the only way to stay engaged. 

“Whether it’s sitting on CSA Senate, or attending a meeting, or reading the meeting minutes, or just liking a post on Facebook or Instagram,” Farias said, student involvement is essential to sustaining the presence of CSA in years to come.

The post A look back at 100 years of Carleton student representation appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

Supply chain breakdown and economic downturn hurt Northfield-area farmers

Carletonian - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:40am

COVID-19 has created a bleak economic outlook for Rice County farmers. The pandemic has paralyzed the global economy and disrupted critical supply chains, preventing farm products from seamlessly reaching consumers. Coming at the heel of a year when American farmers suffered from President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, the virus has prolonged a period of economic uncertainty for this key demographic. Farmers in Southeastern Minnesota are certainly feeling the pressure. 

 Earlier this month, future prices for commodities like corn and soybeans dropped by 13.5% and 6.8% respectively, according to the University of Illinois. This economic data affected the decisions farmers made during the planting season that recently came to a finish.

“It affected our decisions a little bit,” said David Estrem, a farmer in Nerstrand, Minnesota, who raises hogs and grows corn and soybeans. “We were more conscious of over planting due to the lower prices, and also because of just how difficult it is to borrow money in this economic climate.”

The national lockdown has shuttered restaurants, hotels, and schools across the United States, leaving farmers without key purchasers of their goods. 60% of domestically produced bacon, for example, is purchased by restaurants. 

For farming families like the Estrems, the closure of food services was already making life difficult. Then, even more bad news came in early April: decisions made by plant operators across the Midwest to shutdown their pork processing facilities due to positive COVID-19 tests among employees. 

Some pork processors, like the Smithfield plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, remained shutdown through May, while others continued to operate, albeit at a significantly lower production level due to social distancing measures. At full capacity, pork processing plants require workers to be in close proximity to one another, which prompted fears the plants could become hotbeds for virus transmission.

Suddenly, processing plants are no longer taking in as many hogs, either because they are closed or unable to keep up with supply while maintaining social distance. This has forced farmers to leave tens of thousands of their livestock on feedlots across America. 

Hogs can grow up to 375 pounds before plants’ machinery is no longer adequate to process them. When a hog grows above this threshold, it faces euthanasia, as it is no longer economically feasible to continue feeding hogs farmers know won’t be accepted to a processing plant. Farms can only afford to house so many hogs, and they are expensive to feed.

“It’s impacted us tremendously,” said Estrem, referring to the recent chaos surrounding pork processing. “We’re growing the hogs a lot heavier than we want.” 

Earlier this month, the Star Tribune reported 10,000 pigs were being euthanized each day in the state of Minnesota.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to not have to euthanize any hogs at this point,” said Estrem. Over the last month, the Estrems have sent their hogs to locker plants (small local processors who carve up ham or pork and sell it directly to individual customers).

Not every farmer has been able to use their connections like the Estrems. Locker plants, after all, are not always a viable option. According to Estrem, they are typically booked up to two months in advance. Now, they are operating overtime to help farmers who cannot get their hogs to market soon enough.

David Estrem’s farm in Nerstrand, Minnesota.

Along with these issues comes a massive amount of food waste. According to The New York Times, many farmers are donating some of their surplus commodities to food banks, but there is only so much perishable food that can be refrigerated in these limited spaces.

“People are going hungry for no reason,” Estrem says. The disruption in the supply chain frustrates him not only because it has put his own economic interests in jeopardy, but because as a farmer he boasts: “We take pride in feeding America.”

The prospects for dairy farmers are grim as well. Bob Duban, a Denison farmer who produces dairy, said his family hasn’t dumped any milk — but he worries about what might come next. Prior to the pandemic, the dairy market was nearing saturation, with dairy farmers already exiting the market to begin with.

“The low dairy prices now make it tough for farmers to pay their land rent,” noted Duban. The prices Duban is getting for milk are about nine dollars under the cost of production per one hundred pounds, he noted.  “Dairy has been affected with low prices for the past three years now, but especially with COVID-19, many farmers have been forced to eliminate a fourth of their production, while some people have culled 25% of their herds just to cut back.”

Dairy Farmers of America, the country’s largest dairy cooperative, estimated in April that farmers are dumping as much as 3.7 million gallons of milk a day. Cows need to be milked multiple times per day, whether there are buyers in line or not.

As far as Duban recalls, he has not experienced an episode so ravaging to American agriculture since the economic recession of the early 1980s, “when the product values were down, the interest rates were so tremendously high and the banks were foreclosing on people.”

The pandemic has not directly affected the Duban’s planting decisions, but it has for neighboring farmers. “Normally they would be planting half corn and half soybeans, but a lot of them are planting more beans now,” Duban said. “Not necessarily because they will sell better, but because soybeans don’t have fertilizer costs.” Minnesota is the third largest exporter of soybeans and the fourth-largest exporter of corn in the United States.

Since the pandemic has kept Americans at home with their automobiles off the roads, domestic demand for ethanol, a key component of fuel-efficient gasoline, has plummeted. According to the Minnesota Corn Grower’s Association, the majority of the corn farmers sold last year (34.5%) went to ethanol producers. If stay-at home orders are reintroduced this summer, farmers could really begin to feel the economic repercussions. 

To provide farmers with some aid, the Trump administration initiated a $19 billion dollar package to benefit farmers impacted by the pandemic. Of that total, three billion is slated to go towards a mass government purchase of dairy, while the other $16 billion will be directly distributed to farmers in need. But, as David Estrem put it: “These payments are only a band-aid.”

At the time of their interviews, the federal government was yet to directly provide the Estrems or the Duban family with any economic assistance. The last time they received payment from the government was when the Trump Administration rolled out a relief package for farmers impacted by tariffs from the trade war with China. 

At the state level, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed a bill into action on May 19 preventing farm foreclosures until December 1. This legislation will extend the deadline of the Farmer-Lender Mediation Act, which stipulates that any creditor foreclosing on agricultural debt of $15,000 or more has to provide legal notice of their right to a neutral state mediator. 

The aim is to provide a level of stability for farmers severely impacted by the pandemic, who normally only have 90 days to reach an agreement with their creditors.

Denis Espinoza, a retired hay producer in Northfield with many contacts in agriculture, believes that the government still has a long way to go in providing help.

“They should be able to control the prices, see who is making the money in this situation, and address why it’s not getting to the farmer, because the farmers are the ones who need prices to get better on their end, so they can keep producing,” said Espinoza. 

Although economic conditions for local farmers are contingent on the events which will unfold in the next couple months, much of the damage has already been done. The next step will likely include further cooperation from the government through either stimulus payments or the granting of increased flexibility to farmers making payments on loans and rent. 

In the long run, farmers may need to rethink their distribution and production methods if another wave of the virus emerges or pandemics similar to COVID-19 become more common down the road.

“There’s a lot of farmers going out of business, and it’s going to be a long recovery,” said Espinoza. “It’s not going to be easy.”

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Categories: Colleges

Local uncharted waters report feeling overshadowed

Carletonian - Sat, 05/23/2020 - 9:25am

LOCATION UNKNOWN— A local river, which has never been explored by a single soul, reported Sunday feeling “overshadowed.” 

The river has existed since before even the first humans, but nobody has ever dipped a toe into its temperate waves, let alone included it on a single map. It lies some 50 miles from the nearest town, which seems like it would be close enough that someone would have stumbled upon it at some point. But in fact, the river has never been traversed. Though likely glimpsed by passersby, nobody, in all of human history, has ever been curious about what its waters belie. 

“I don’t know, I just, being uncharted was kind of my thing,” said the uncharted waters. “It’s literally my whole name, because since no one’s ever discovered me, they never named me. I am uncharted waters. You hear me? That’s who I am, and I’m proud of it.”

“This coronavirus pandemic is changing the world, yeah, I get it,” continued the uncharted waters. “But would it kill people to speak a little more precisely? Must they use such metaphorical language? ‘Uncharted waters,’ really? I mean, they’re not living in the water. The virus is spreading among people on land. Do people not realize that? I am uncharted waters. If the whole world, everyone’s entire collective existence, becomes ‘uncharted waters,’ then what am I? Just some fucking creek?”

The uncharted waters seemed as if to look inward, equal parts morose and afraid. 

The uncharted waters noted that they take less issue with the phrasing itself than with its ubiquity. “What really gets me isn’t that they’re using the phrase. Pre-pandemic, it has always been something of a ‘saying.’ I get that. But every day? I mean, literally, every few minutes, someone somewhere remarks contemplatively upon the ‘uncharted waters’ their family, or their corporation, or their youth softball league is navigating. I’m not even kidding, the other day, two dudes walked right by me, and I heard one of them saying to the other: ‘These are uncharted waters, Jeffrey.’ I was like—helloooo, I’m RIGHT HERE!” 

The uncharted waters grew visibly upset, and then shook their head and sat up straight, seeming to rein in their emotions. 

“I don’t even care,” said the uncharted waters with a scoff. “I just think it’s kind of ironic, is all.” 

At press time, nearby uncharted territory reported similar feelings.

The post Local uncharted waters report feeling overshadowed appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges
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