This weekend the Center for Rural Affairs holds its annual “gathering,” with an agenda as casual as its title. The event in Kearney , Nebraska, marks the 33rd year for the center, and spokesman John Crabtree says the Center’s grown a lot in its missions and programs. Crabtree says 2006 is generally recognized as a crucial year to change some public policy — the direction for rural communities throughout rural America. With a new farm bill coming in about a year, it’s a chance to have a broad debate on the vision of a future for rural America.
Saturday’s “teach-in” workshops include topics like wills and estate planning. “It’s more than just how do you keep the tax man at bay,” Crabtree explains, it’s about how their assets will affect their lives as they grow older, and their children. But it’s also about the community. People can invest in their community to help create the kind of future they’d like to see, and make their vision a reality. He says a lot of the teach-ins are like that, helping people to improve their own lives and also the communities they live in.
Another workshop is about the continually increasing cost of land. “How is that impacting the next generation of farmers?” Crabtree says the Center looks at whether we’re creating opportunities for the next generation of farmers and ranchers, and whether the increasing land values are destroying the opportunity for the next generation that wants to live and work on the land.
The public-policy, information-gathering and advocacy work of the Center extends far beyond the borders of Nebraska, though the group’s headquarters and its conference this weekend are in that state. City people come from Omaha, Crabtree says, from Lincoln and Scottsbluff and Colorado and Kansas and Wyoming and Iowa. He anticipates an “average” crowd of maybe 300 for the annual gathering.