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News from the week of October 9, 2002

Scholar: Ag products alone can not replace fossil fuels

By Nancy L. Torner

Center for Rural and Regional Studies

People are leaving the land and moving to cities as individual farms grow and yields per acre increase.

When visiting scholar Fridolin Krausmann made these statements recently in a presentation at Southwest State University in Marshall, he was talking about his native country, Austria, where farms are considerably smaller than in Southwest Minnesota.

However, the same scenario is playing out on both continents, and some of the sources of these changes are the same—the industrial revolution and new technology, Krausmann said.

"In the last 200 years (in Austria), output has increased by three, but the cost is a lot of energy," Krausmann said.

The industrialization process of agriculture is driven by fossil fuels, oil and gas and all the other technologies connected to it, he said.

"The result is, today we invest more energy in agriculture production than we get out of it," Krausmann said.

Krausmann, of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies of Austrian Universities in Vienna who is a fellow at SSU's Center for Rural and Regional Studies, is researching the interaction between natural and human systems through time. He is investigating at how different structural patterns and different population densities result in different land use systems and sustainability.

"I'm interested in how humans depend on nature—they need nature's resources, they exploit these resources and they alter nature. By altering nature, nature changes, and these changes again impact on the human system, on the society. It's a mutual development of societies and of ecosystems," Krausmann said.

With his strong understanding of the ways energy and materials like carbon and nitrogen flow through agricultural systems, Krausmann can teach others to understand their farm systems better, said Geoff Cunfer, SSU assistant professor, rural and regional studies.

"Those kinds of principals apply to any agricultural system you might want to look at," Cunfer said.

Austria is just an example of what has happened in most industrialized countries, Krausmann said. Before industrialization, cropland existed throughout the country. Today, it is concentrated in low, flat lands, where higher yields are possible.

On a national level, the amount of land used for farming has changed little even though the population has tripled. But on local levels, the picture is completely different.

"We have regional concentrations and regional separation," he said.

This illustrates why it is important to look not only at the national picture of farming but also at local and regional pictures, he said.

Tracy grant application discussion set Monday

A Small Cities Development grant application for the City of Tracy will be the subject of a public hearing Monday, Oct. 14, at Tracy City Hall.

The Tracy City Council will conduct the hearing, beginning at 6:35 p.m.

The city is seeking grant money for residential housing and commercial rehabilitation in a 10-block target area. The Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership is assisting the City of Tracy with its grant application, which is due Nov. 1. Grant awards will be announced next spring.

The target area identified in the grant application is bounded by South, Fifth, Rowland, and Center streets. Property owners within that district were surveyed last winter to determine interest in real estate renovation programs. If Tracy qualifies, the Small Cities grant program would provide money for one-third of a building's renovation costs. Low-interest loans would be available for the second third of repair costs, with the remaining one-third the owner's responsibility.

Lights & Beyond' grand opening is Friday & Saturday

Find out what the largest retail lighting showroom in Southwest Minnesota has to offer this weekend at the Lights & Beyond open house.

Owners Deb Schenkoske and Lori Hebig invite visitors to stop in and look around, register for door prizes, and enjoy some refreshments at their grand opening, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12.

The store, which opened August 27 in the former Tracy Bottling building, offers a large assortment of lighting fixtures and home décor. The lighting line includes chandeliers, floor and accent lamps, outdoor lights, vanity lights, and ceiling fans. The business also carries accessories such as mirrors and tables, and other decorative accent pieces.

Grand opening visitors have the opportunity to win several door prizes, including two Murray Feiss floor lamps valued at $350 and $298 and a Quorum ceiling fan valued at $300.

Lights & Beyond, located at 434 South Street in Tracy, is open Monday through Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Casey Jones trail group organizes, elects board

The Friends of the Casey Jones Trail Association was officially organized into non-profit corporation last week.

The group supports the construction of a 70-mile recreational trail between Walnut Grove and Split Rock Creek State Park southwest of Pipestone. A segment along abandoned railroad right-of-way between Slayton and Pipestone was designated as a state trail in 1967. Three other segments—from Walnut Grove to Lake Shetek State Park, from Pipestone to Split Rock Creek and the existing End-O-Line trail—were added to the trail's designation by the 2002 legislature.

The new Casey Jones Trail Association will develop plans and seek funding for the trail. Two parallel trails have been suggested. One trail would be paved for bikers and skaters. The other gravel or crushed limestone surface would be used by horseback riders and snowmobilers. Where ever possible, the trail would follow creek beds or existing right-of-way.

The new corporation will hold an annual meeting in January. At that time, members will elect a 12-member Board of Directors. Future annual meetings will be held between Feb. 1 and March 31 each year. The operating year for the corporation will be the calendar year and memberships will be for each calendar year.

Individuals or families may join as charter members, if they join by December 31, 2002. Membership dues are $20 for an individual or family and those that join as charter members will also have their dues paid for the 2003 year.

Anyone interested in joining may contact any of the Directors or send a check along with name, address and phone number to: Friends of the Casey Jones Trail, P.O. Box 57, Slayton, 56172.

For more information call the Murray County Office of Economic Development, 507-836-6023; the Pipestone Chamber of Commerce, 507-825-3316 or the Walnut Grove EDA, 507-859-2134.

Milroy kindergarten teacher is honored

Heidi Louwagie is the winner of Wal-Mart's Minnesota Teacher-of-the-Year Award.

The Milroy Public School kindergarten teacher was honored Tuesday morning in a short program at the school.

A letter of recommendation describes Louwagie as “an excellent kindergarten teacher who truly enjoys what she is doing.”

Theresa Welu wrote of Louwagie:

“Kind, considerate, and understanding are only a few of the words I could use to describe Heidi. She has taken my children as shy, nervous kids on the first day of school and turned them into confident, eager children ready for the first grade.”

Welu also credited the teacher with helping establish a farm safety education program and a drama club at the school. She has also been instrumental in launching a pre-school program at the Milroy School.

“The parents of children in Milroy feel very fortunate to have someone like Heidi guiding our children,” she said.

Each Wal-Mart store chooses a teacher-of-the-year. As the Marshall Wal-Mart's selection, Louwagie was awarded $500. She is now eligible for state competition. The state winner receives $5,000.

Ruth Vaugh, community involvement coordinator for the Marshall Wal-Mart, said that the “Wal-Mart family has made it a high priority to acknowledge and honor teachers. An educator helps mold, as well as educate, children.”

Firemen encourage home exit drills

The Tracy Volunteer Fire Department is observing National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 6-12.

On Wednesday, Oct. 9, firemen encourage everyone to participate in “Operation E.D.I.T.H.” (Exit Drill In The Home). Families are asked to participate in a home fire drill at 8 p.m. After completing the drill, the fire department asks that everyone turn on their front porch light so they will know the drill has been completed.

On Thursday, Oct. 10, the Tracy Fire Department Auxiliary is sponsoring their annual chili feed from 5-8 p.m. in the Fire Hall.

Throughout the week, the department is giving educational tours and demonstrations to students at St. Mary's and Tracy Elementary.

This year's theme, “Team Up for Fire Safety,” encourages fire departments to team up with community partners in order to spread the message that fire safety saves lives. The campaign focuses on safety lessons that can be learned by everyone: installing and testing smoke alarms listed by a qualified testing laboratory; practicing home escape plans; and hunting for home hazards.