Positive Psychology for Winter Blues



By Crystal Ramm, Central Community College Ord Learning Center Manager & Regional Coordinator

Winter is coming, and in some parts of Nebraska, snow has already made an unexpected and untimely appearance. There is nothing like trick-or-treating with mittens, stocking hats and snow boots to remind us that gorgeous fall weather is fleeting and winter is almost here!

Now, if you are anything like me, you love curling up on the couch with your favorite fuzzy blanket, snuggled in with family and friends, hot chocolate and a good movie. The slightest chill of fall in the air reminds me of my love for new adventures and cold-weather cooking. I LIVE to make beautiful messes in the kitchen; trying out the newest Pinterest sweet potato chili paired with savory cornbread and pumpkin spice…well, anything.

That said, pumpkin spice can only bring so much happiness. The early snow has also reminded me that it’s not only time to prepare for the cold, but also for winter blues.

Many people experience a little gloom and cold-weather funk now and then during the winter months. For some, these dark and dreary days are much more intense and can transform into Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is much more serious and can interfere with life in general.

If you are familiar with this seasonal phenomenon, you already know that winter blues can be helped by increased sunlight, eating healthy, spending time with family and friends, exercise (especially exercise), and if necessary, medical treatment.

In addition to those tools, I have added another weapon to my winter blues arsenal, called positive psychology. Positive Psychology focuses on happiness and well-being and is defined by its founder, Martin Seligman, as the ‘scientific study of optimal human functioning that aims to discover and promote the factors that allow individuals and communities to thrive’. Positive psychology includes individual creativity, resilience, strengths, courage, humor, flow, emotional intelligence and much more.


Four years ago, I was introduced to Positive Psychology as a participant in SynoVation Valley Leadership Academy, Ord, Nebraska’s very own leadership academy. This leadership program continues to change my life for the better and the practice of Positive Psychology, in particular, has benefited me greatly.

Here are six ways I use Positive Psychology to stay energized and ward off winter blues.


I’m as guilty as anyone of starting my morning off with a stream of negativity: “I look like a wild animal.” “I slept in again!” “I’m a terrible mother.” “I hate the cold!” “I suck at life”… you get my drift. Take a moment to REALLY listen to your thoughts. If they aren’t positive, flip them on their rear end! “I look creative and adventurous.” “I take great care of my kids.” “The snow is beautiful!” “I’m curious about what today might bring.” Try it out; you might be surprised at how much better you feel after putting a positive spin on life. Remember, whatever you say about yourself, to yourself, will become your truth, so say nice things.


Give Affirmation.

Give an authentic compliment to someone every day. Acknowledge your coworkers incredible graphic design skills, highlight what you love about your partner and TELL THEM. Express your gratitude to the coffee shop barista for his or her positive energy each morning. Call your best friend and explain how they rock at making people feel special. It doesn’t have to be big to be impactful. Don’t forget about yourself here, you’ve done something right today as well! Take a minute to give yourself some much-needed credit. Don’t disqualify compliments that you receive, either. Accept them, say thank you and smile!


Crucial Conversations.

I don’t know about you, but oftentimes I have the most important conversations with other people—inside of my own head, by myself. I alone write the story, read the story and believe the story. The ending of the story is not usually positive and suddenly I am following the story down a rabbit hole of negative thought. We come to extreme conclusions based on unwarranted assumptions about a person, a conversation, situation or an entire relationship. If you find yourself mulling over someone’s words, invite that person to join your conversation. Ask for clarity surrounding the “issue” and really listen to what that person has to say. Focus on what you want for the outcome of that relationship and go from there.


Find joy, laugh.

Having fun used to be simple, but somewhere between your job, parenting, paying the mortgage, another mass shooting, looming terrorism and winter blues, “fun” became more complicated. Surround yourself with friends and family. Play a game, paint, play Legos, watch a funny movie, go fishing, play laser tag, go ice-skating. Make a list of what makes you happy and commit to making those things happen more often!



Journaling can be a powerful way to focus on the positive and let go of the negative. Make a list of five to ten things you are grateful for every day. Write down any negative thoughts and either reframe them (make them positive) or shred them (literally…it’s freeing).



If you feel stuck, take action and talk to someone. Hiring a leadership coach is a powerful way to consistently keep you in the positive and moving forward. My leadership coach is a wizard at leading me out of negativity loops and helping me re-write whatever “story” I am stuck in.

Winter blues or not, what are some ways you could incorporate positive psychology into your life?

You can find out more about SVLA here.



“The Moment you change your perception, is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body.” – Dr. Bruce Lipton



Crystal Ramm

Crystal Ramm

Manager and Regional Coordinator | Central Community College Ord Learning Center

Crystal Ramm is the Central Community College Ord Learning Center Manager and Regional Coordinator. She grew up in Valentine, Neb., and currently resides in Ord, Neb. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She believes that Connecting Young Nebraskans (CYN) is important because it gives Nebraskans an opportunity to connect with people. She is constantly inspired by members of her community so she is excited to represent Ord through CYN.




« Back to CYN Blog

Share Your Nebraska Pride—Be a Good Life Ambassador!



By Allison Hatch, Talent Attraction Coordinator at the Nebraska Department of Economic Development

The Department of Economic Development (DED) and our partners are launching an exciting new initiative this fall called the Good Life Ambassadors, to bring together citizens who identify as passionate community champions and want to share the good news about Nebraska. We recognize that Nebraska’s current residents are our most valuable resource, as well as our state’s best recruiters. The initiative will actively engage our citizens to join a network, which will undoubtedly include many young professionals across the state, to share pride in our state and promote Nebraska as a great place to live and work to their friends and family via social media.

Ambassadors will also have the opportunity connect directly with potential new residents who have questions about living and working in Nebraska. These outstanding Ambassadors will be supported by DED and its partners through the entire process, including being provided additional bragging points about our great state to ensure they feel confident giving potential new residents relevant and factual information.


Growing our State

I see the Good Life Ambassador initiative benefiting our state in multiple ways:

  • Ambassadors will share positive news about Nebraska with their friends and family, reaching a national audience via social media and broadening the state’s talent attraction efforts;
  • I hope many of the Ambassadors will volunteer to reach out directly to individuals who are interested in moving to Nebraska, providing a personal and authentic response to their questions and helping them realize the benefits of moving to the state, increasing their likeliness of moving to Nebraska;
  • I also hope that engaging Nebraskans in this effort to promote our state will help strengthen their own desire to stay here through an increased feeling of connectedness with other citizens and pride in all the positive Nebraska news that is shared; and
  • Occasional surveys will request feedback from the Ambassadors, which will improve the impact of talent attraction and retention initiatives in Nebraska. Read more about DED’s talent attraction and retention initiatives here!


Join us!

Anyone who is interested in becoming a Good Life Ambassador can sign up at nebraska.socialtoaster.com. Ambassadors will receive two or three emails each month encouraging them to share good news about Nebraska with their social networks including significant Nebraska accomplishments, interesting facts and personal responses to fun prompts.

In addition, we hope everyone uses #Nebraska to share quintessential Nebraska moments, fun adventures, good news or reasons why you love living, working or playing in Nebraska with your social networks. And, follow us @NebraskaGoodLife on Facebook and Instagram and @NebGoodLife on Twitter!


Our Partners

DED is grateful for the support of many partners as we launch this initiative. The Nebraska Talent Team (a group of talent-focused economic development and chambers of commerce professionals) and CYN Steering Team have been instrumental in guiding the design and promotion of the initiative. And now, we are all together leading the charge on recruiting our first Good Life Ambassadors – you!


Allison Hatch

Allison Hatch

Talent Attraction Coordinator | Nebraska Department of Economic Development
Join Allison on LinkedIn

Allison Hatch oversees a state strategy for attracting qualified talent for growing job opportunities. She is involved with coordinating an extensive communications and outreach effort that promotes Nebraska as welcoming and attracts a diverse group of talented individuals to the state to live and work; developing programs and fostering an environment that results in individuals remaining in the state; and serving as a catalyst for advancing ideas, partnerships and actions that create greater pathways to career opportunities for Nebraska’s current and future workforce.



« Back to CYN Blog

RFI Connects “Fierce” Rural Innovators From Japan and Nebraska


Article By: Katelyn Ideus, Director of Communications & Public Relations, Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska
Video By: Avery Sass, former RFI Communications Intern


Rural communities in the Great Plains face similar challenges to rural communities around the world. But, more importantly, we share a mindset of determination and impact with innovative counterparts also attacking these challenges head on.

We knew this.

But we confirmed it again with resounding certainty when we hosted entrepreneurs and community leaders from rural Japan on Oct. 27 and 28.

“The challenges in Japan are grand,” said Connie Reimers-Hild, associate executive director of the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska.


Japan faces:

It has a -.24% growth rate.
The total population is currently just over 127 million with 32% living in rural areas.

For comparison:
The U.S. has a .72% growth rate. Nebraska has a .69% growth rate.
Rural areas cover 97 percent of the land mass in the U.S. but only 19.3% of our population lives there.

The median age in Japan is 47, and 25% of its population is age 65 or older. Of note: A majority of the country’s population age 65 and older lives in rural areas—63%.

For comparison:
The median age in the U.S. is 38, and only 15% of our population is age 65 or older.

Rural Community Extinction
An influx of abandoned land and the possible extinction of rural communities 1,000 years old weighs heavily on the minds of the millennial generation charged with these areas’ survival.

“As an expert in this space, RFI has once again connected those fierce enough to acknowledge the grand challenges they face and do something about it,” Reimers-Hild said.

Japan Society, based in New York City, and Japan NPO Center, based in Tokyo, contacted RFI to participate in their two-year funded project, “Resilient and Vibrant Rural Communities in Japan and the U.S.” The project aims to inspire, connect and develop passionate and innovative leaders in both countries to find solutions for rural areas. The first phase was to immerse rural Japanese leaders in the rural U.S. and introduce them to American rural leaders.

Connecting is what we do, so we happily assisted. Following is who we were honored to meet.

Atsuhisa Emori, general manager of the Nippon Taberu Journal League, is taking on the producer-consumer “divide.” His network of Journals connects rural and urban residents over food and the stories behind the food, creating a joined community that works to solve challenges in the region and in society.

Kenji Hayashi left university to move to the rural community of Tsuwano, Shimane Prefecture, where he co-founded FoundingBase, a network designed to give young people meaning and purpose by connecting them to each other, ideas and rural opportunities. #IseeyouCYNers

Ryoko Sato is an assistant professor of law at the Ehime University Research Center for Regional Community Innovation and author of four books around community vitality. Universities in Japan aim to work regionally, so Sato connects university research and students to rural communities in the region to find solutions and motivate. She and RFI speak the same language, even though we technically don’t.

Tsuyoshi Sekihara is the founder of the Kamiechigo Yamazato Fan Club, a regional management organization (RMO) working around Joetsu, Niigata Prefecture, where 25 hamlets have existed for more than 1,000 years. Due to rapid depopulation and aging many of these hamlets are on the verge of extinction. The population of the area is currently 2,000, but it is estimated to drop to 400 by 2050.

Junichi Tamura is chief director of Next Commons Lab (NCL). He started NCL in Tono, Iwate Prefecture, in 2016 to identify and visualize local resources, create multi-sector partnerships, invite and nurture entrepreneurs and create local hubs. Today there are eight hubs. By 2020, Tamura wants 100 hubs in and beyond Japan. #GreatPlainsCommunitiesWelcome

Each of our visitors presented formally at our public forum entitled, “A Thriving Rural Future In Japan and the United States,” on Oct. 27. The forum was hosted in partnership with Japan Society and Japan NPO Center.


Watch The Forum


Sekihara opened with an important question: “What is the ideal community size?”

His analysis:

Tsuyoshi Sekihara, Kamiechigo Yamazato Fan Club

Hayashi then discussed the anxiety of young people who do not see as clear of a path to success in Japan as their parents and grandparents.

“We bring young people together, not with the intention to have them to choose to move to a rural area, but to create motivation and meaning,” he said while discussing his startup, FoundingBase, which you can check out on Facebook. “Any young person we work with who says they want a challenge, that’s when we suggest they start something in a rural area.”

Sato explained how her students work closely with communities to create businesses and organizations to help the communities survive. In one community with 350 residents her students participated in multiple components — festivals, a vision-making workshop, the renovation of child care home and delivery of food to the elderly. In another community they created a student-run farmers market, which connects them to farmers face-to-face. The market has started to include high school students as well.

Tamura presented about his entrepreneurial network of Next Commons Lab, which intends to break down barriers and create a niche for communities.

“Rather than living in silos, we can co-solve problems,” Tamura said.

He also presented his vision for the future:

Junichi Tamura, Next Commons Lab, The Future

Emori presented last, leading with the ratio “98:2.” In 1970 there were 10 million farmers in Japan. Today, there are less than 4 million farmers, creating a 98 percent consumer to 2 percent producer ratio.

To bring producers and consumers together more purposefully, Taberu Journal magazines feature local producers and the printed magazines are accompanied by samples of the producers’ food items. The league also hosts in-person events to get consumers and producers face-to-face, and there are private Facebook groups to keep these connections going.

Emori, Taberu Journal League

Atsuhisa Emori presents the model of the Nippon Taberu Journal League as well as one of the printed editions.

Prior to the public forum, the group was formally welcomed to the University of Nebraska by Susan Fritz, Ph.D, Executive Vice President and Provost.

From left: Betty Borden, Japan Society; Kazuho Tsuchiya, Japan NPO Center; Susan Fritz, University of Nebraska; Fumiko Miyamoto, Japan Society; Shinji Nagase, Japan NPO Center.

The Tour

There is a reason that the Rural Futures Institute is located in the state of Nebraska. It is so we can take visitors to where the American rural innovators live and work.

On Saturday, RFI’s Reimers-Hild, Theresa Klein and I hosted the group at the Kimmel Education and Research Center and Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. Richard P. Kimmel & Laurine Kimmel Charitable Foundation, Inc., President Ernie Weyeneth welcomed the group, and Nebraska Extension Educators Deb Weitzenkamp and Rex Nelson shared their work with youth entrepreneurship, technology and community vitality.

An ensuing discussion focused on what was needed in addition to job creation to create attractive rural communities for young people. Hayashi explained how a neighboring rural community in Japan attracted a factory but then realized that factory jobs were not enough to recruit young people to their community.

Tamura shared his experience of the importance of recognizing your community’s niche asset and storytelling around it. His community of Tono, Iwate Prefecture, is well known for hop farming, but this has actually dropped by 75 percent since its peak decades ago. To resurrect Tono, Tamura and his fellow residents envisioned their community 50 years into the future and created assets to represent their vision. Then they designed projects to actualize it. They intend to become the brewing capital of Japan. See more on Facebook.

At 40 degrees and windy, we decided it was the perfect Nebraska day for a hayrack ride around the orchard. Blankets were shared. Bonding was accomplished.

Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard

The group before the ride around Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard begins! (Not too cold yet!)

With our group of 15 seated cozily side by side on hay bales, the tractor slowly wove through the Kimmel Orchard and Vineyard. Since 1925, the orchard has drawn visitors from across the country and the world. Orchard manager Vaughn Hammond, was peppered with questions from the group about revenue, size and production.

After the ride, and a bit of shopping, next up was Nemaha County Hospital in Auburn, Neb.

Nemaha County Hospital

Nemaha County Hospital CEO Marty Fattig takes the group on a tour.

This hospital is best known for being one of the first to incorporate an electronic medical record, and it is the only hospital in Nebraska to be ISO-certified. It has also won the national “Most-Wired Hospital” award 10 of the last 11 years. Our guide was hospital CEO Marty Fattig, who also serves as a RFI Community Innovation Fellow.

Sekihara shared that in Japan, rural people have a higher health status than urban people, but Fattig explained that the opposite is true in the U.S. and that his hospital is working diligently on well-being initiatives. Fattig also shared the rural hospital closure rate—82 rural hospitals have closed in the U.S. since 2010.

The second stop in Auburn was BCom Solutions with CEO Brent Comstock who shared details about his company’s international success and his recent efforts through the Rural Impact Hub.

BCom Solutions

Brent Comstock presents about his company, BCom Solutions, and the Rural Impact Hub in Auburn, Neb.

The group was particularly interested in the goals of the hub, which currently hosts a monthly speaker series and a monthly workshop series. The audience is not just entrepreneurs, but families and residents of the area as well, which the group found unique.

Ideally, Comstock said, he would like to create a network of hubs doing this work throughout rural America and beyond. Currently, he is in conversations with 12 communities in the U.S. Tamura and the Emori were particularly energized by this given their experience in creating networked rural areas in Japan.

The immersion wrapped up with a homecoming football game at Peru State College (PSC) thanks to PSC Professor and RFI Faculty Fellow Kyle Ryan. #PeruState150


Taking in an American football game at Peru State College

With Gratitude

Thank you to Japan Society and Japan NPO Center for giving us this opportunity.

We are proud of everyone who led our group in discussion, and we sincerely appreciate how welcoming everyone was—literally, our guests said every single person they met in Nebraska was genuine and generous.

We can confidently say that the first goal of the project is already met. Everyone involved is inspired to move forward in partnership. On behalf of the Rural Futures Institute, we are motivated and incredibly energized by the passion and ideas brought forward by this impressive group of rural game changers from Japan.

It was an important introduction to our ongoing work together, and we look forward to many more opportunities to engage in action-oriented conversations for the sake of rural people and places worldwide.

NCRCRD Webinars

The North Central Regional Center for Rural Development periodically sponsors or facilitates webinars to help connect rural development researchers and Extension professionals with each other and with stakeholder groups. The NCRCRD sponsored webinars are free and there is no registration.  All webinars are scheduled for Eastern Time.

To participate in the webinars go to: http://ncrcrd.adobeconnect.com/ncrcrd – log in as a Guest and Enter Room.


Building Community Capacity Through Strategic Planning

February 9, 2016  |  2:00 PM Eastern Time

To evaluate the extent to which Extension’s strategic planning practices vary across and within states, researchers from University of Illinois Extension and Ohio State University Extension conducted a series of investigative procedures to determine how, and with what groups, strategic planning is currently being executed; what procedures or components of procedures are being used, and if they are being used similarly throughout Extension; how outcomes are being measured; how data are collected, documented and shared; what materials are being used to facilitate strategic planning; and how to strengthen Extension’s role in empowering communities and organizations through strategic planning processes. Join us to learn what is happening and discuss ideas and directions for “what should be next” in strategic planning tools.

Anne H. Silvis, University of Illinois Extension, serves as Assistant Dean and Program Leader for Community and Economic Development. Anne’s work focuses on program development, planning, and helping communities and organizations manage conflict.

Becky Nesbitt, Ohio State University Extension, serves as an Assistant Professor and Educator in Community Development. Becky works with a variety of community organizations, elected officials, nonprofits, and businesses to help develop strategies to build capacity, improve effectiveness, and envision sustainability through organizational and leadership development.


Tribal Community Development Projects in the Great Lakes Regions

February 25, 2016  |  1:00 PM Eastern Time

Learn how Extension can do a better job in working with their Native communities and as concerned citizen’s involve the population in a more meaningful and creative way? This initiative provided three levels of training on community development; analysis, planning, and implementation. 

  • Lessons learned
  • Across state relationship
  • Next steps-report back to tribes and findings
  • Implementation in communities
  • How we are evaluating implementation from training perspective and our own implementation

Emily Proctor, MSW, BASW, earned her degrees from the Michigan State University- School of Social Work.  She is a citizen of the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Harbor Springs, MI, and serves as a Tribal Extension Educator, Greening Michigan Institute for Michigan Tribal Communities, with her home office located in Emmet County, Michigan State University Extension.  As the Tribal Extension  Educator her projects include the development and delivery of educational programs in the areas of Tribal Governance, Gerontology, Diversity, and youth leadership.  She currently is a board member of the Michigan Indian Education Council.  She has also worked as a Child Protective Services Worker, as an associate Child welfare commissioner and was elected for the third time to be the Speaker of the Annual Community for her Tribal Nation. She enjoys making quilts as a way to contribute to her community.

Dawn Newman, MA, BS, joined University of Minnesota Extension as the regional director serving Northwest Minnesota in 2004. As a liaison for American Indian and Tribal Partnerships and Co-Chair of the American Indian Task Force, Dawn has helped to bring Extension volunteer and family programs to Minnesota’s American Indian Tribes. A trained facilitator, Dawn has convened community groups to identify needs for undeserved audiences through listening sessions, focus groups, appreciative inquiry, focused conversations and dialogues.

Brian Gauthier, BS earned his degree from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. After graduation he came home to Lac du Flambeau where currently he serves as the Community, Natural Resources, and Economic Development Educator and Department Head for the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension on the Lac du Flambeau Reservation. Brian also is the coordinator of Cooperative Extension’s Native American Taskforce covering. Brian’s programming focuses on natural resource education, organizational development and community planning. He is currently leading a strategic planning initiative for the Lac du Flambeau Tribe.


Visit http://ncrcrd.msu.edu/ncrcrd/webinars for more information.

Global Teacher Fellowship Program

RTGF-LOGO-2011Applications for Rural Trust’s 2016 Global Teacher Fellowship Program are due January 30, 2016

The application deadline is quickly approaching!


Up to 25 fellowships will be awarded in 2016 to support the professional and personal development of rural teachers. The awards (up to $5,000 for individual teachers and $10,000 for a team of two or more teachers) support teachers’ participation in self-designed summer learning experiences and a two-day place-based learning institute in the fall.

This fellowship is a stand-alone grant not meant to supplement other grant funds for larger projects.

Teachers are encouraged to center their learning in an international travel and study experience, out of which they develop interdisciplinary, place-based learning curricula aligned with their specific state and local content standards.

Eligibility: Any K–12 teacher working full-time and teaching at least 60% time in a rural community can apply for the fellowship. Counselors, media specialists and other school personnel working in a teaching setting for at least 60% of their paid work time may also apply. Each applicant much have 4 years teaching experience by the fellowship start date.

The Rural Trust defines a rural community by National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) locale codes: 32 (Town, Distant); 33 (Town, Remote); 41 (Rural, Fringe); 42 (Rural, Distant); or 43 (Rural, Remote). If your school is listed in one of these locale codes, you are eligible to apply. If your school or district is REAP eligible, you may also apply. For more details on eligibility,see the FAQs page.

Visit the Rural Trust’s Global Teacher Fellowship website at
for additional details and application information.

Conference Panels at NCTA

EntrePanelDr. Scott Mickelsen, associate dean at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture, introduced presenters and moderated several local sessions at the 2015 Rural Futures Conference held Oct. 22 on the NCTA campus and at Nebraska Innovation Campus in Lincoln.

A panel of rural entrepreneurs included, from left, Mickelsen, Ken Rahjes, Elwood, owner of Authentic Ag, Inc., and editor of electronic news organization AgView.net,; Sarah Pinet, goat dairy owner and national award-winning cheesemaker of Victory Hill Farm, Scottsbluff; and Barry Fox, co-owner of several enterprises at Broken Bow, including Kinkaider Brewing Company, Diamond Express Car Wash, and Cobblestone Hotel and Suites.  The panel discussed positive aspects and challenges of starting a small business and energizing others in rural areas.

HStrio.editDr. Scott Mickelsen also hosted a discussion on agricultural workforce development with representatives of three high schools associated with NCTA’s dual credit programs. They included, from left, Dustin Favinger, counselor at Cozad Public Schools, Cindy Burton, counselor with Cambridge Public Schools, and Dean Tickle, superintendent with Elm Creek Public Schools.

Research News: Research Fair, NU FEWS & More

Latest Research News is ready to read online

Click the link below and start enjoying this issue of Research News from UNL’s Office of Research and Economic Development.
Read the full newsletter online »

Research Fair is Nov. 10-11

The fall UNL Research Fair Nov. 10-11 features sessions on enhancing research collaborations and competitiveness, information on state economic development programs and the grand opening events for the new regional Research Data Center, along with celebrations of faculty and postdoc achievements. Full Article »

NU FEWS aims to engage faculty campuswide

Generating new ideas and identifying interdisciplinary research teams focused on research at the intersection of food, energy and water systems is the goal of NU FEWS, a new campuswide initiative. Full Article »

Research Fair offers opportunities to celebrate, share ideas

November is suddenly upon us and with it comes my favorite week of the year fall UNL Research Fair week. Our Fall Research Fair starts Nov. 10 with the Faculty Recognition Breakfast, where I have the pleasure of bragging about your accomplishments. Following the breakfast we have two days of topics and speakers that offer something for everyone. Full Article »

Webinar: Characterizing Food Retail in Rural Northeast Michigan

The MSU Center for Regional Food Systems and the Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition (based in Omaha, NE) have been conducting research into rural food access issues in Northeast Michigan (lower peninsula).  The area of the study is approximately 15 counties and runs  from Clare north on Highway 127 to the Mackinac Bridge, with the southern boundary running from Clare east to Tawas City.   We are finishing the report for this project soon.

We are planning a webinar on Tuesday November 24th from 2-3 pm EST to share a summary of our findings:

Characterizing food retail in rural northeast Michigan: Opportunities to improve healthy food access 

Courtney Pinard with the Gretchen Swanson Center in Omaha Nebraska, Chris Bardenhagen (MSU CSUS graduate student) and myself will be presenting and responding to questions. We will have the report completed and available through a website link by the time of the webinar.

If you are interested in participating in this webinar please RSVP at the link below.  We will be using Zoom technology for the webinar and will send you more information to connect to the webinar after you have RSVP’d.

RSVP Here »


CIRD Issues Request for Proposals

Funding and Design Assistance Available for Rural Communities

Citizen’s Institute on Rural DesignTM Issue Request for Proposals

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

View PDF

New York, NY— The Citizens’ Institute on Rural DesignTM (CIRD) has issued a request for proposals to rural communities interested in applying for funding to host a community design workshop in either 2016 or 2017.

The Citizens’ Institute on Rural DesignTM is a National Endowment for the Arts leadership initiative in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Project for Public Spaces, Inc., along with the Orton Family Foundation. CIRD provides communities access to the resources they need to convert their own good ideas into reality.

CIRD offers annual competitive funding to six small towns or rural communities to host a two-and-ahalf day community development and design workshop. With assistance from a wide range of design, planning, and creative placemaking professionals, the workshops are intended to bring together local leaders from non-profits, community organizations, and government agencies to develop actionable solutions to the communities’ pressing development challenges. The communities will receive additional support through webinars, conference calls, and web-based resources on www.rural-design.org.

Design and development challenges include but are not limited to the following: Main Street revitalization, managing and shaping community growth, the design of community-supportive transportation systems, preservation of natural and historic landscapes and buildings, protecting working agricultural lands, and maximizing the role of arts and culture as an economic driver for local and regional economies. Since 1991 CIRD has convened more than 70 workshops in all regions of the country, empowering residents to leverage local assets today in order to build better places to live, work, and play in the future.

The deadline for submitting a proposal is Tuesday January 12, 2016 at 11:00 pm EST.

Successful applicants will receive a $10,000 stipend (that must be matched one-to-one) in addition to in-kind professional design expertise and technical assistance valued at $35,000. The Request for Proposals is posted on the CIRD website: www.rural-design.org/request-for-proposals. Selected communities will be announced in March of 2016 and workshops will be held during the fall of 2016 through spring of 2017. CIRD staff will also offer two pre-application assistance webinars to answer questions and guide interested applicants in assembling their proposals. The first is scheduled for Tuesday November 10th, and the second will take place on Thursday, December 10th. Both calls will begin at 3:00 pm EST and last approximately one hour. Participation in each call is free but registration is required. To register visit: www.rural-design.org/application-assistance


Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the National Endowment for the Arts and the agency is celebrating this milestone with events and activities through September 2016. Go to www.arts.gov/50th to enjoy art stories from around the nation, peruse Facts & Figures, and check out the anniversary calendar.


USDA Rural Development administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. Rural Development has an active portfolio of more than $176 billion in loans and loan guarantees. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America. Visit the USDA at www.rd.usda.gov.


Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design, and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. Founded in 1975, PPS has completed projects in over 2,500 communities and all 50 US states. PPS has become an internationally recognized center for resources, tools, and inspiration about placemaking. Visit PPS at www.pps.org


With its Community Heart & Soul™ method, the Orton Family Foundation empowers people to shape the future of their communities by improving local decision-making, creating a shared sense of belonging and ultimately strengthening the social, cultural and economic vibrancy of communities. The Foundation assists the residents of small cities and towns in the use of the Community Heart & Soul™ method, a barn-raising approach to community planning and development that invites residents to shape the future of their communities in ways that uphold the unique character of each place. For more information visit www.orton.org.

Scottsbluff Star Herald: Ricketts speaks on Impact of Rural Communitites

Ricketts Speaks on Impact of Rural Communities

Source: starherald.com
Posted: Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Written By: Maggy Lehmicke, Nebraska News Service


LINCOLN — Governor Pete Ricketts told several hundred people attending the Rural Futures Institute conference on Friday about the importance of rural communities for Nebraska’s economic growth.

“Agriculture is our largest industry,” Ricketts said. “We grow things and we make things. That’s what we do.”

According to Ricketts, 25 percent of Nebraska’s economy is agriculture.

“If you look at the last recession in 2008, Nebraska weathered that quite well compared to other states,” he said. “That was in large part because agriculture had done so well.”

Ricketts said agriculture is what is going to drive future economic growth in Nebraska. Because people are demanding a higher standard of living, he said, Nebraska’s agriculture industry is experiencing growth.

“We are ideally situated, right here in Nebraska, to be able to take advantage of that trend,” he said.

There is a growing focus on quality of life, Ricketts said. This involves access to healthcare, shopping, restaurants and well-paying jobs. He said finding solutions to the challenge of providing those things requires local communities to work with the state to develop local solutions.

The focus on higher quality of life means there is a need to create more jobs in rural communities, Ricketts said. With manufacturing being the second largest industry in Nebraska, he said there needs to be a focus on how to develop that workforce.

“Manufacturing allows us to create jobs all across our state, not just in Lincoln and Omaha,” Ricketts said. “Great Nebraska companies are creating jobs in our small towns and rural communities.”

Ricketts said the economic growth of the state is drawing young people in, but there still needs to be more education about the importance of agriculture throughout the state.

“We’ve got to do a better job of educating our urban consumers about where food comes from,” he said. “Even here in Lincoln we’ve got a lot of people that take it for granted.”

Ricketts said humanizing the face of agriculture is not just important on a local level, but on a national and international level as well.

“In Europe, the perception is we’re all big corporate farms,” he said. However, between 97 and 99 percent of Nebraska farms are family owned, he said.

To expand opportunities and grow Nebraska’s economy, Ricketts said we have to shift our eyes abroad.

“Ninety-nine percent of the world’s consumers lie outside our borders,” he said.

Today, Japan is the third largest trading partner and largest direct foreign investor in the state, Ricketts said. Approximately 20 percent of Nebraska’s beef exports and 50 percent of pork exports go to Japan, he said.

“Japanese diets are changing,” he said. “The opportunity to expand is huge.”

Ricketts said China currently blocks beef exports from Nebraska. Building a relationship with China would mean helping with China’s food security and opening doors for Nebraska manufacturers to sell in Chinese markets and to Chinese producers, he said.

“If you think about those rising standards of living, those are going to be in Asia,” Ricketts said. “We’ve got to do a better job of presenting ourselves to the rest of the world.”

Ricketts said looking at Nebraska’s future means looking at the rest of the world.

“We’ve got to continue to be innovative because the world will change,” he said. “But the opportunities are limitless.”