Listen: Against the Grain

MPR's Mainstreet Radio team presents a documentary entitled "Against the Grain," which collects conversations with rural Minnesotans about how they are adapting to the forces of economic change.

Against the Grain” profiles four areas of rural Minnesota…the mining and logging of the northeast, the northern lakes vacation area, farm country of the southwest, and the state's emerging industrial belt of the west/southwest.


1988 Northwest Broadcast News Association Award, award of merit in Documentary - Small Market category

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

That's pretty good. Outside of the mines even if mine doesn't start up. It looks pretty good. It won't be nothing. Like when one of my eyes were going big wages now that but I think will will make out already things. However, since I was real small, I always told my parents I think when I get big, I'm going to move to Northern Minnesota and be a Trapper. Well, I don't know if I'll be a trap or not. But I yeah, I can pretty much visualize loriann myself as growing old here. It's living here the rest of our lives as being able to give this land to our kids maybe in 20 years from now. I may be working for the guy that Farms a whole Township. I'll still be here in the country 20 years from now. I may be working for somebody else but I'll be on the farm the worst possible scenario I could offer is that we become a for this south suburb of Minneapolis and that's a fear and it's a legitimate fear as far as who wants it to happen. Nobody. You've got to have a small town this morning. We're all minnesotans struggling with Change change the threatens their ability to live where they want how they want. The forces behind the change are different in each region of the state in this program will visit four distinct. Rural Minnesota's the Northeast with its Mining and logging the Northern Lakes vacation area the farm country of the southwest and west and the southeast the state's emerging industrial belt. Experts say the population of rural Minnesota will continue to decline at a slow rate just as it has for the past 50 years. We'll meet people all over rural Minnesota who plan to stay where they are. We'll hear how they proposed to make a go of it in their hometowns and the difficult odds some of them face against the grain. The city of Babbitt's it's in an isolated clearing on the northeastern edge of Minnesota's Iron Range Duluth is 65 miles straight South the Canadian border is half that distance north. This is a relatively young town the trees lining residential streets are mostly slim and short but it's a town with a volatile history if the reserve Mining Company hadn't needed men to staff its operation here in the 1950s there would be no Babbitt now instead. There is no Reserve mining. After the reserve shut down two years ago put 85% of Babbitt's labor force out of work The Exodus of residents emptied two of the town's three schools. One of them now holds office has a library and this Senior Citizen Center. On a wintry afternoon a dozen men cluster around several pool tables they range in age from 55 to 75. All of them used to work for Reserve Howard hoard was laid off during a temporary closing in 1983. I'm on pension. I'm on Medicare plus my retirement from Reserve which Malta for 50 a month is not very much. I think we got shafted pretty good. They're great Armco. They're not as great as a people think they are. I'm Casteel was a co-owner of Reserve mining before the shutdown. While most of the working-age miners are gone from Babbitt now horde and many others who were nearing retirement have stayed they've stayed because they like it here. A lot of them have been around since the town was started in 1951. And while the town has shrunk from 3,000 residents to 2000 since the 1970 census those who remain have redoubled their efforts to keep Babbitt afloat mayor dawncole works with a local Development Group, which makes small business loans to high-risk clients. We've made 23, I think is right number loans. I just want us being 500 Beast being 10 5. I made all those loans to people who could not get money at a bank or financial institution, but we knew the people. We have one that's gone bankrupt on us. Unfortunately, but the bankers tell us you did better than we do, you know, and so I'm told that we made 50 jobs out of that which I think is quite impressive with such a small amount of money. At the Cason pool table plant on the edge of Babbitt a bandsaw operator bevels clear hard maple boards into bumper rails for Billiards cassen started up about four and a half years ago with one of those small development loans. Now. The company is the second largest manufacturer of Home pool tables in the country founder. Dave Casper says 1987 brought more sales and production than anyone expected 1987 projections were just under a thousand so far this year. We've already sold over 3,500 that rapid growth Casper says allowed the company to start bringing in large truck loads of raw materials, which meant a discount in shipping costs and bigger profits cast an employee's 11 full-time workers at present and that number may increase soon. We hope to grow well, we've grown over four hundred percent this year, but we like to think that maybe next year we can grow another 25% the Marcos real good right now. All the manufacturers are running three to four weeks late on deliveries. We are. Hopefully it'll stay there pool tables aren't the only success story in Babbitt since the reserve shut down. The city has landed Tire cycle a company that takes waste tires and reduces them to a rubber base easily used in manufacturing another new business Worrell are Incorporated produces exercise mats and similar products using rubber from Tyre cycle just down the road. There's talk in town that several larger firms a Furniture Company in an outfit that rebuilds locomotive engines may decide to locate and Babbitt and a recent study by a consulting firm suggested. It would be profitable to reopen Reserve mining on a limited scale still such options are mostly talked at least so far. Former Reserve worker Howard hoard displays a knock on wood optimism that is common in Babbitt the hope that a mining town can survive without a mine was pretty good outside of the minds even if mine doesn't start up you've got this let's try cycle out here and girl are rubber and there's a couple computer outfits that are talking about coming in. There won't be nothing. Like when one of my eyes were going big wages now, but I think will will make out alright a thing. It's about a 20 minute drive from Babbitt North to Ely on Highway 21 an observant out-of-towner driving. This route will see an occasional Eagle possibly a moose or mink along the road and a million pine trees that seem taller and denser as the highway continues North Ali is a town built on several Hills with streets one could sled down in winter. In fact sledding is important here. This is the home of Arctic Adventure will Steiger led the 1986 expedition to the North Pole in the back room of a modest Shop off Main Street a pair of Eskimo style mukluks take shape on Nancy Schwartz's sewing machine. The machine is industrial-strength the heavy elk hide souls and uppers make for hard going the shop belongs to Patty Steiger who learn to make mukluks from Indians and Canada while on an expedition with her former husband you want to always have flexibility in your Footwear and the mukluks are completely flexible. They don't inhibit your circulation. The reason that you by your name brand winter boots in a size too big so you can wiggle your toes. So with amok like you don't have that problem. You can get your size and wear them just comfortably that way sneakers mukluks have gained a sort of notoriety around Ely local Sportsman and loggers have taken to wearing them in the woods and fishermen say they can spend a whole day out on the ice without getting cold Patti Stanger will also be making the mukluks for whilst eagers upcoming Antarctica Expeditions. And that kind of word gets around her company Steiger designs has been approached by a number of exclusive stores who want to Market her mukluks. I'll explain to them. I cannot guarantee you delivery and I cannot take anybody on until I can guarantee delivery. We'd like to keep it in perspective, but I do want to grow I want to see the company grow steadily and stably. I don't want to jump off the deep end like some businesses do while Steiger hopes her company will eventually become a large employer. She says ely's economy has improved in recent years because of its entrepreneurial diversity the surrounding Wilderness. She says attracts a breed of independent and creative business Minds which are in needed supplement to the Region's existing Industries on the Southwest edge of the range Timber is dominant Leonard Hill is cutting Aspen today in the woods ten miles south of Grand Rapids. He's quick and careful about his work is heavy chain saw carves a neat wedge about knee high and one side of a tree then rips a deep slice into the other side. There's only one direction the tree can fall. Just a hundred or so yards through the woods Leonard's brother. Dwayne is putting the felled trees in order first ripping off branches with a chainsaw then skidding the logs into Stacks the size of box cars. The two brothers are their own operation Leonard Hill says clearing the forest from this 27 acre plot will provide them work for the rest of the winter in one day Dwayne and I working together on Assad. We can possibly cut and limb 6-quart a Balsam to seven chord a day and that's ready for the truck when we got the skidder and we don't have to use a saw we can do 12 to 15 quart a day. Maybe a little better. Mike many of the Region's thousand-plus logging outfits the hill Brothers ship their wood to the Bland and paper mill in Grand Rapids here. The logs are chopped into pulp which is mold with other ingredients and rolled into paper. Mostly the glossy type one season magazines. If you've ever picked up a copy of Sports Illustrated or an Eddie Bauer catalog, he's probably handled Bland and paper Blandon is big and getting bigger expansion which began here at the paper company in August. We'll add 80 percent to our current production capacity. It's a been skis manager of corporate Communications and public affairs for Blandon paper will go from making approximately 280,000 tons of paper per year now to about 500,000 tons of paper after the expansion starts up in late 1989. So this is substantial increase in production capacity will mean that we will consume a lot more wood wood that comes primarily from within a 50 to 70 mile radius of Grand Rapids. The modernization of blendin's papermaking operation will also make about 40 jobs at the plant obsolete but sowinski says at least a hundred additional logging jobs will be supported by the increased need for would there's also the matter of the modernization process itself the construction phase of the project, which essentially we're in now and will last for another two years will involve at Peak eight to nine hundred employees and will have on an average I suppose about four to five hundred employees during that 18 to 22 month period and those people will be hired from this region primarily. Back in the woods Dwayne and Leonard Hill or taking a coffee break in the small green fishing shack. They've dragged through the trees a tiny fire in the stove makes it warm enough for bare hands Dwayne. The older of the two says he's glad about the blandin expansion. He'd like to take on a third man at the same time. He's cautious about predicting growth in the timber industry. A lot of guys won't go into it, you know because the money isn't there. If you follow me, you know a man working for the mines isn't going to go work for a logger for half of what he was getting into minds and have to work twice as hard, you know, what the hill brothers and most other Northeast minnesotans agree on is that the economic base of the region must remain in the mines a decade ago taconite was reaching its peak some 15,000 men and women across the range were pulling shifts collecting large paychecks living on the Boom. Today only 48 hundred miners remain working in streamlined operations that seemed to be slowly regaining ground. Al zidane is managing editor of the Hibbing Tribune and a long time range Observer. He says diversity is necessary for a healthy economy. But mining is still the heart of the range just for instance. We have an extremely successful electronics company called Hibbing Electronics it employs about 400 people and those 400 people learn. What about six seven eight dollars an hour right on the edge of our town. We have Hibbing taconite one of the six taconite Mill still running on the Range it employs about 800 people at about twenty seven dollars an hour. I think you can see the difference zidane is one of a growing number of Rangers or beginning to look to the mines for more than taconite at the Department of Natural Resources minerals division in Hibbing a search for Treasure is our way geologist Hank Dahlberg stands at a bench in a brightly lit room splitting apart. What appear to be tubes of rock? The DNR has a huge library of drill cores here specimens of Stone from experimental drill holes all over the Northeast and all Brig and his colleagues are taking a new look at this old rock. We realize now that we are you find iron ore there's a good chance to find gold or silver or Cobalt and other places where nickel and copper is no known to occur in certain rock types. We know that is platinum and Palladium and with that in the back of our mind, we started to study these deal course again, but now for this specific minerals and we analyze them and we started to find this Metals as with more traditional treasure hunts. This one depends on a map actually a number of maps. Don't break points to one that shows where a series of experimental holes were drilled by company looking for nickel in the 1960s. He's encouraged. He says by the fact that valuable minerals are showing up in drill cores from more than a single site that is important that you can prove that the area as a whole has potential but it is not one isolated accidental occurrence because it will not make a mind you need enough material that you can mine. It is a matter indeed of beginning somewhere and then time will show that you are in the right area. And because just across the border they finding all these goodies in Canada. We have no reason to believe that God has been so Distributed the wells. So an evenly across the border Canada's success notwithstanding exploitation of any new minerals in Minnesota is at least a few years away. And when and if it comes will almost certainly never approach the level of production or employment found in the taconite industry DNR minerals operations manager Roger Johnson quotes a studies showing that taconite could be mined at current levels for another 150 to 200 years if the demand is there and if the range can be competitive we feel tack night will continue to be mined Minnesota still produces at least two-thirds of the domestic Supply. We have the availability. We got the capital expenditures in the plants. We've got the labor but it's a it's a global issue and it's tied strictly to the steel industry and what happens in the steel industry is going to obviously affect the iron ore industry people come up to me and say, you know, what's the future of the Iron Range you And what's going well our future is iron mining Hibbing Tribune editor Al zidane. There are still six mines operating and there are still five thousand people employed and those 5,000 people still learn about the highest blue-collar wage being paid anywhere in the country. They're at the top of the steelworkers scale. So they that's a real nice base upon which to base the rest of your economy. I and some other young fellows would go to the park Rapids area and we would spend one week each Summer started going to a resort. I got to know the fellow real well and it's kind of like you almost you kind of idolize this guy. That's what I want to do later in life. There's there's the thing for me in my mind little thing and I told Mary before we were married that someday we were going to have a resort and of course she just laughed about that and she says no way and we're here Karma didn't marry bjerke came North 17 years ago with their five children to take over a small Resort. They made a decision to leave their dairy farm in South Dakota for a new life at Wolf Lake Resort East to Bemidji the Bjork. He's built a new Lodge and added a swimming pool in several cabins to make Wolf Lake Resort into one of the larger mom-and-pop facilities in the area. A glossy color brochure of the resort is full of Summer scenes grinning families with stringers heavy with fish a young mother helping a toddler learn to float three Beauties sunning on a diving raft the beer Keys work hard but say the resort business isn't going to make any one rich every bit of money made goes right back into keeping up with the changing tastes of tourists. They definitely want more and more nicer facilities like the newer cabins that we put in or completely remodeled their almost booked for all of next year. The ones where we have openings are the smaller older units at the people just don't want anymore, you know, pretty soon. We're going to have to have dishwashers and all of the unit's I mean people want it that way. It's not the old it's not the old fishing camp type thing that people are still running with fishing camps and thinking it's a modern up-to-date Resort in that was that was for back in the 50s and 60s. We're in a different area. Now people aren't content to for example double beds are no longer. Alright Brothers don't sleep with each other sisters don't sleep with each other their you know, their standard of living is just gotten to be so much more their expectations are so much higher the beer Keys who had the Bemidji area Resort Association say Resort owners who aren't willing to upgrade their resorts are going under 10 years ago 65 Resorts belong to the local chamber. Now, there are about 40. We see him struggling and then eventually they're gone. There was 13 resorts on this Lake. I don't know how many years ago 20 years ago, and we're down to three now and we are the only active one the other Just they don't advertise, you know, it's just mainly for whoever drops in or family relatives. So forth people have been coming over last year's so and both these people retired, you know, one of them this one down here what T70 some so really we don't have anyone on the lake to help promote the lake see it's us all by ourselves Gary and Don award run Rainbow Resort on Turtle River Lake ten miles north of Bemidji a short gravel driveway leads to the new mobile home where the couple lives the older cabins the makeup the resort are scattered down the hill below them most within shouting distance of the lake. Donna Works in town at a grocery store to supplement their seasonal Resort income. We got eight cabins. 9528801 finished good nice large bait gas. Some food, it's just a good place to relax good people. We don't have any hired help. We do it all ourselves. So we deliberately try to keep it within our own means. So I think there's sold their resort once but God had back when the new owners defaulted on their payments. Donna said they had to work hard to get the business built back up and now they're going to hold onto it. Once the resort is paid for then this payment we've been putting out will be income and we will be at the age then we can slow down we can if we don't want to run out all these cabins, you know or work as hard that's our plans is to use this Resort as a retirement and it will take care of us and I like the efficient. I don't get to go fishing very much. So the wards run to of Minnesota's 1200 Resorts every year tourism officials estimate another 35 go out of Business yet tourism continues to grow as an industry survey taken by the state tourism office indicated that 1987 was the best year ever, especially for the large upscale resorts, Joe Agee who until recently directed The State Office of tourism in Brainerd says, the industry is changing the same way retail sales are changing. We have seen retail sales actually go up, but it's gone to the larger shopping centers the larger communities the small communities and the small shops are dying or dead and you're going to see I believe the same thing happened in tourism where those larger communities those larger facilities are going to continue to grow and the mom-and-pop operations continue to continue to decline. Good afternoon. Cragen's Lodge and Conference Center. May I help you? It's been another big year. It's Reagan's lodging Conference Center on Gull Lake outside of Brainerd under Dutch. Cragen says, it just keeps getting better. It's hard to keep. Your Enthusiasm down when you're on a roll and we are on a roll in any way you measure it our guests seem happier with us are gross is higher the Staffing is better the people working for us are happier and better trained gosh, it's hard to turn off the water faucet the spicket when everything's going great and I didn't want to up the neighbors or your business his father bought the property on the south end of Gull Lake in 1941 Reagan says it was a family operation I was a ripe old 8 years of age I was in charge of the worms minnows and all the frogs I could catch I had the bait department when Dutch Craig and took over the resort in 1957. It had a dozen cottages and a six unit Motel. He's been building and expanding ever since. The year-round Convention Center, which sprawls along a half mile of pricey Gull Lake Shoreline has 220 rooms most with fireplace wet bar and balcony work is just being completed on a sports dome that will offer indoor volleyball basketball tennis in a running track for guests. 45,000 people stated cragen's Lodge last year. Reagan says most of them were there for a convention or meeting the countries who stay further than than easy driving distance from the home. They're not bothered by their secretaries to come on back and slip back the office do a little work or handle a little problem. So we found a couple hours drive three hours drive from the Twin Cities is a real Advantage because it isolates people from their environment. So we sell that idea. We hope successfully two groups that you really need to be away from the metropolitan area to have a successful conference Minnesota's North Woods has Really relied on its god-given attributes to attract visitors Lakes trees loons fish but there's a growing sense that in today's high stakes high profile tourism competition nature isn't enough what everyone up here needs to realize is that it is the multitude of things that's going to bring people in in the future rather than the lakes and the trees like we had before everybody has lakes and trees Wisconsin has lakes and trees Michigan has lakes and trees Lorelai craft is one of a dozen founding mothers of a homegrown homemade attraction in the Park Rapids area that has quickly become one of Minnesota's big tourist destinations. Everybody said we were totally crazy and we told the bank would get maybe 20,000 people a year while the result of it is as we get over a hundred thousand people a year. We have 90 people employed we have about 300 people that sell their hand crafts at the Village of the Smoky Hills and we have Put a shot in the arm for tourism and tourism was dying around here for lack of a major attraction. The village of the Smoky Hills is tucked in the woods 10 miles west of Park Rapids. Although it's just a step away from the highway daydreaming motorist who Overlook the small sign could easily go right by visitors pay an admission fee and then spend more money inside The Village at the shops bakeries and restaurants last year the village took in over a million dollars and is now expanded to a retail Shop in Detroit Lakes. We've gone from being those crazy women to being almost respectable and just three years, which is really great. You know, they see what we have done for a poverty area and we have done it without smoke stacks and Acid Rain tour buses full of paying customers arrive last summer Village of the Smoky Hills had another banner year with 110,000 visitors some of the people who spend their vacation in northern Minnesota like it's so much they move. Are the 1980 census showed a substantial population increase four counties in north central, Minnesota 33 percent growth rate and Hubbard County 21% in Cass County 19.8% of Crow Wing County. 17.5% Aitkin County 21% Itasca County University of Minnesota. Sociologists. Randy Cantrell said most of the newcomers were retirees moving North to turn Lake cabins into year-round homes or buying property in areas where they vacationed Harry and patmore are out in their workshop putting the finishing touches on several Walnut music boxes. They're making them for their granddaughters will be Installing the movements and throwing a lid on here sighing this off for a lid and lift it up and good morals left their Coon Rapids home behind two years ago to retire to their like Place perched High Above Kappa. Kona Lake there Cedar sided home is about a half hour southeast of Bemidji. It's a popular spot for area Birds feeders of various shapes and sizes surround the house a satellite dish stands off to one side. Harry likes his football a concrete sidewalk leads up to the house. It's decorated with the handprints and Footprints of the Moors children and grandchildren a permanent Gallery created in the wet cement. Harry and Pat say their days are full working on their Hobbies studying conversational Spanish for an upcoming trip to Mexico finishing off the inside of their house. The main response was you want to return North you're out of your mind, you know, you'll never be able to handle Winters up there. It was a concern. But no longer doesn't you know, I don't have to go anywhere, but I want to always Throw Another Log on the Fire and we do whatever we want to do around here. We liked it more and more and more as we came up. We didn't want to stay in the cities. I knew that. busyness We just we just love it up here sociologists say they don't think retirees will continue to move to Northern Minnesota in the numbers. They did in the 70s like most of rural Minnesota. The northern part of the state is expected to continue losing population slowly. We've been considering putting her house right back in here. We have a 200 foot setback from the river which is a state requirement. We have a big swamp in the center of the property are a piece of Lowell. And so we kind of want to stay away from that as far as our septic system and everything goes but if we can if we can fit it in between the river here with our 200 foot setback and the Low Land over there. We kind of like to put her house here just clear enough trees out to kind of set the house and in between there and have enough space for a garden in a little yard. Another be about it Lorien. Ken Bauman are surveying their 34 acre tract of land on the Big Fork River West of International Falls. Koochiching County has agreed to turn over the land of the couple in 10 years if they'll move. Up here build a house and pay taxes. It's all part of the bedstead program an effort to populate the county and reduce the amount of tax forfeited land patterned after the original Homestead Act. The Bauman's are the first couple to be accepted into the program. We're looking for people that want to come here and want to make their life here and they want to contribute to our economies. And in return. We have a lot of land lien Gloria hervey in a group of their neighbors came up with the bedstead concept. They were looking for a solution to declining enrollments at the rural Elementary School of we like it up here. But yet if we don't find a few neighbors to share it with us, we're not going to have the tax base to plow our roads. We're not going to have a tax base to keep the schools open so on and so forth and there again, we will have to leave also if we don't get a few people to share it with us jobs are hard to find in this remote Northern Minnesota county that borders Canada the community has only partially recovered from a Boise Cascade plant shut down three years ago. the put 500 people out of work back far enough nice and quiet if you listen, you can't hear anything. This is another reason why we like it just There's nothing you know, it's just so quiet and peaceful. One of the things we are looking forward to it's far enough off the main road to be out of the way, but it's not an inconvenient distance kind of law rebounder in their mid-20s. They've saved enough money to build a small house without going into debt. They hope to start work on it this summer Ken has a machinist and contracts to make everything from metal casting to wooden Christmas toys. He says he and Lord can make things in their shop and home and ship them out remind open a custom machine shop. So yeah, I can pretty much visualize Lori and myself as growing old here. It's living here the rest of our lives as being able to give this land to our kids maybe John Deere picks the door to combines bigger than this. This happens to be a size. A size that panels are operating Don Schmidt surveys the Machinery on his farm near Milroy a few miles east of Marshall in Southwestern Minnesota. He owns and operates the farm together with his twin brother Ron. They grow corn and soybeans on their own 400 Acres Nan 560 Acres that they rent from Neighbors the Schmidt's who were 33 bought this farm from their father in 1974. Our biggest investment is the combine and we bought that in what 1980 1980 and so you're looking at a sizable investment at that time. I think you are looking at roughly what $60,000 so that's a sizable investment when we talk about living off depreciation when five six years from now when we have to replace that combine and it's costing 80 to a hundred thousand that's You run back then you're back into a debt load. You can't handle anymore. So most of the Schmidt's Machinery is at least 10 years old some much older Don says they do a lot of their own repair work and put off purchases of new equipment for as long as they can looking around you can see we want make the front page of successful farming with our Shopper Machine Shed, but it gets by and we kind of stay that way we're conservative by Nature. I think Don and Ron Schmidt like many Minnesota Farmers had a good year in 1987. Grain prices were up the crop yields were the best ever still the brothers say fully a third of their farm income. The last couple of years has come from government price support payments. Those payments are scheduled for gradual cuts. The next three years and Ron Schmidt says that makes him nervous you hate to say it. Everybody wants a government out of the out of Agriculture. But right now that's what supporting you if they cut their programs. Next few years and the prices don't go up like they're supposed to to make up the difference. You're going to be back probably in the shape of your word three years ago. A lot of farmers are going to be in trouble again. Including it's going to be tough on us to the Schmidt's Farm in the heart of Minnesota. Zag belt agriculture is the state's number one industry and it's important in most parts of the state but in the ACT belt which encompasses Southwestern Minnesota and moves North through the Red River Valley farming is not just a major industry. It's practically the only industry the farm crisis has left a permanent Mark here the landscape still consists mainly of contoured fields dotted with farmhouses and their protective Groves of trees. Now many of those farm houses are abandoned Farms are fewer and larger. It's become next to impossible for modest scale Farmers like the Schmidt's to survive on their farm income alone. Ron Schmidt says he and his brother each draw just a thousand. There's a month from the farm operation for their families living expenses. That isn't enough. My wife's got a job in town and danis doesn't have a job in town. But she does bacon does out bake cakes and stuff on the outside for an outside income. But if you look on the average young farmer our age, that's farman either. The the wife is really active in the farm operation and in the Hogs and really into it or the his wife has a job in town it, you know that never used to be in the past either and I foresee that continuing and working in town. Yes, but we think of our career as in farming and we see no other future for us and it's with that gumption and determination that were still around and we're going to stay around. I don't know a Schmidt Ron's wife works full-time with the countryside Council a rural citizens. Based in Marshall. She says Spirits are higher in Southwestern Minnesota. And there were a couple of years ago partly because Farmers incomes are up but also she says because expectations are down we've accepted that things aren't going to be as good as they were in the late 70s that we aren't going to be having enjoying the kind of incomes. We were then and I've seen that a lot many families have Have I tightened their budgets and their resources and there's I think there's an optimism that we're going to make it. We probably don't need all the luxuries that that we could easily get used to. Yeah, I'm Roger haglund and farm north east of Moorhead. We're Farm proximately Nineteen Hundred Acres. We're a sugar beets wheat barley. Well, I've lived here all my life since 1934 my folks moved on this farm and I was two months old in the Red River Valley farming is just as important as in Southwestern Minnesota, but here the dominant crops are sugar beets wheat barley and sunflowers and the Flatland allows larger Machinery to cover more ground more efficiently, which means bigger Farms Roger Headlands Nineteen Hundred Acre Farm is enormous by Southern Minnesota standards, but not here probably slightly above average. There are a lot of farms that are larger probably the largest that I would know of would be around 10,000 acres hagglund is one of 1800 sugar beet Growers who collectively own American Crystal Sugar Company of Moorhead sugar beets have been a problem. Edible crop in recent years the prices that farmers like Headland get are propped up by government quotas and tariffs placed on imported sugar. Hagelin plants beats on just a third of his land but the crop brings in two thirds of his income still driving around his farm in an eight year old pickup. Hagelin says sugar is not making him Rich if you take into account his investments in machinery and in the American Crystal Co-op as sure a fairly good grocery turn, but when you get down to the bottom line, it's It's not all that great but haglund does admit he's in a solid financial position his appears to be a farm of the future large efficient and profitable. Our overall situation is fairly secure. I would say we we are quite secure barring a you know, a weather disaster. Now, I feel quite comfortable that will be able to continue and as times get getting better. It's going to improve so overall we had a real good year and it's you know, I don't think will match it next year. It's as I visit with people I say what do we do for an encore next year and everybody kind of Chuckles because we don't know what we're going to do to match what we did last year Mother Nature has a lot to do with how good our yields are going to be. When go out and apply the best management that we know how and then we're at the mercy of the weather Roger King stream raises Hogs corn and soybeans on a 280 Acre Farm near Olivia in Renville County about a hundred miles west of the Twin Cities. I came home. I grew up on this farm and I spent 10 years in business after I got out of college and I came home in 1981. And so we're in our this is a we went to our seventh Harvest this fall and it's a lot of fun. I'm a now chose the best time to come home farming but it's a good as any other business King's dream says 1987 was the best he's had in his seven years of farming. Thanks largely to the high price of hogs. His Hogs brought as much as sixty two dollars per hundred pounds last year, but with more Farmers raising more Hogs to get in on the good profits the prices dropped and could fall below $40 in 1988. That is a big swing. But again, that's the nature of the hog business and it's been that way and I guess I think it'll continue to be that way for a long time to come Kingston who is 37 is a midscale farmer who's confident that he'll be around for a long time many of the farmers who've gone bankrupt in recent years are those who expanded their operations in the late 70s and early 80's when land values and crop prices. We're soaring with no end in sight when the bottom fell out of land in commodity prices. Those farmers were crushed under the weight of their debts an estimated. One-third of Minnesota. Farmers are still at risk King stream never got into a serious debt problem. I was conservative from the start kind of have the attitude if I can't pay for it with cash. I don't need it. Kingston has helped by his side job as a seed salesman, which he says brings in about 1/4 of his income. He says the shift toward large and corporate farms and the death of modest size Farms like his is not inevitable. We in America have believed the Biggers better. I don't think that's really true. And I think some of that's going to come back and haunt us. I think there are places in agriculture with that may come back to haunt us but he a single individual running his own farming operation if he can become efficient at what he does. He's there and he can stay there and nobody can push him around Roger Kingston Farms on some of the best agricultural land in the country. Renville county is blessed with rich soil and more consistent rainfall than farmers. Get just an hour west of here quite rightly. Most of the County's economy is tied to farming. There's very little that isn't you know what I'm saying? I'll say 80 80 percent maybe even more than that. We'd normally gross around 200 million a year in Gross agricultural sales from Renfield from Renville County. Then Tom Booker is the County's Agricultural Extension agent in Olivia. He says farm incomes in the county were the highest in years in 1987. But Booker says, it's not time to celebrate with crop prices and government payments both expected to fall 88. We should probably still hanging there in 89 we could be looking at another another crunch another Well, we are recommending right now. If you had if the farmer had a profitable year in 87 here use that to pay down debt don't expand use it to pay down debt and to get the interest down so that when 89 comes you're better equipped to handle it at the interest won't be such a big factor in the operating expenses. Despite the good farming year in 1987. Clearly all is not well in Renville County. Unofficial Census Data says more than a thousand people are about five percent of the County's population have moved away since 1980. Only Olivia. The county seat has a healthy retail Base by all accounts. The other eight towns in the county are struggling their main streets are dying. Hector is a town of about a thousand people in eastern Renville County 15 miles from Olivia. It's the home of to high-tech companies one that makes telephone components and the other a TV cable company together the two companies employ more than 300 people here that makes Hector relative success story among farming communities, but Kurt Sampson who is CEO of both companies communication systems and North American Communications says the growth of industry in Hector has just kept the town's head above water even with all of that activity in a town of a thousand. All we did was stay even or a little bit less in our population over the last three decades Kurt Sampson was born and raised in Hector. He bought the telephone parts company in 1970 so that the company and he and his family could stay in his hometown. I do not like traffic. I think it's a huge. Waste of time to see all these people lined up on the freeways in the streets is sitting there trying to get to work when it takes me a minute to get to work and Samson's companies. Now earn revenues of about 50 million dollars a year and pump Millions into the area's economy. But Samson says if you want to know about the real health of Hector's economy look not at his company's but at the businesses that his company's have replaced Hardware grocery Furniture clothing power company local office and an International Harvester dealership, and then there's one other building downtown a relatively good sized building where we have a box Factory and that was the John Deere dealership. So, you know six businesses that used to be retail businesses are now buildings, which we have operations in so kind of demonstrates that you know, basically, I think those buildings would be empty because they were all vacant only move into him. So The pattern is similar throughout Minnesota zag belt fewer Farmers buying less of everything and going to the larger county seats to buy what they do need so smaller farming communities must scrambled create manufacturing jobs a few like Hector's succeed. Most do not it's puzzling to me how how quickly crisis of this kind can be declared to be all over. I realize that's the conventional wisdom. It is true. All Grupo of Worthington is a writer on Rural issues and former newspaper editor. He says what's being called by some a recovery in agriculture is like every Farm recovery since World War Two that is not a true recovery. I've used the analogy and I think it Bears repeating of the man who falls under the wheels of a train and loses his right leg and somehow miraculously survives and The amputated stump somehow heels and one day he goes home from the hospital and the doctors say, ah, wonderful success. The man has recovered and indeed he has recovered but the sad and incontrovertible fact is that he is still nevertheless missing a leg barring some fundamental change in the economy experts agree that in the coming decades. There will be fewer and fewer people in Western Minnesota the state sag belt, but those who've lived in the country for Generations say they won't give up easily Ron and Don Schmidt twin brothers and farmers of Milroy. Once you live on the farm and you start farming even a year or two and you get it into your blood. It's pretty hard to leave unless you have to it'd be really tough for me to go to the city and get a job right now. You can do it you'd adapt but it's a different way of life in 20 years from now. I'm Be working for the guy that Farms a whole Township instead of my neighbor's my seven neighbors here. There may be one big farmer in myself and my six other neighbors will be working for you or it may be a big Corporation. I'll still be here in the country 20 years from now. I may be working for somebody else, but I'll be on the final. We kind of do things the old-fashioned way here. Is he? That's eight year old chatter that was made December 29th. 1979. We like to say it has character you want to taste Alan Ellingson is the proprietor of the zumbro cheese Martin's embroider a community of 2100 about a half an hour Northwest of Rochester on Highway 52. He's been running the tiny shop for 15 years. Most of what he sells comes from the Cheese plant just a couple hundred yards down the road the Mid-America dairyman. Co-op drone has had a cheese factory since I don't know when but way back they have over the years developed a reputation for producing excellent cheese. And when I opened up I inherited a lot of very fine customers that came just for this embroidery cheese, and there's some of them are still coming. This is a receiving area of the plant all the milk comes here. First. Robert Holley is plant manager at the Mid-America Co-op and some broader. We have about a hundred and twenty five full-time. And we also employ some part-time people know. We not only make cheese at the plan for the process the way we also dice cheese for pizza industry the Mid-America plant uses more than a million pounds of milk every day. Most of it comes from Southeastern Minnesota dairy farms to the extent that this part of the state has an indigenous industry. It is dairy but a growing proportion of jobs in the area are in manufacturing and services, Georgia Donahue is a rural sociologist at the University of Minnesota Southeast is probably the best second best developmental area in the state outside of the Twin Cities, and that's because it does have employment possibilities that are growing in an area such as Chester the other thing is it's a closest area to markets in the country and traditionally location has been very important in locating firms. In order to South of the Twin Cities is developing much better because of the airport and everything else south of the Twin Cities rather than North in contrast to Southwestern Minnesota. The southeast is gaining rather than losing population. The region is dotted with small cities boasting healthy and varied economies besides Rochester. There are towns like Mankato Faribault, Northfield Owatonna, Albert, Lea and Winona. It's these towns with populations of 15,000 to 50,000 that act as engines driving. This area's economy and make the southeast less dependent on swings and major industries like Agriculture and Mining its unemployment rates are consistently lower than other rural areas. Rural sociologist. Randy Cantrell says, it's these small cities that allow Southeastern minnesotans to stay close to home the population moving out of out of the rural areas in those counties tends to gravitate to those cities rather than toward the Twin Cities or at least not in the same numbers. Whereas if you're out in Nobles County or Rock County and you know what's available to you is going to be the Twin Cities in Winona County people looking for jobs tend to gravitate to Winona. Tom Stark is president of Winona State University. It's a little known that this little community of Wenonah is a national center for the manufacturing of composite materials Winona State is currently planning a four-year engineering curriculum in advanced Composites, which are Plastics combined with fibrous components for strength Stark says the university is trying to create a leading role for itself in the burgeoning Composites industry Composites are are very much in demand in the space industry in the airline industry in Recreation materials, like canoes Is like the one you looked at outside so solo Flatwater Marathon racing here. It's made for one person. One person only strictly racing at the Winona Canoe Company production manager. Mark Walters says composite build canoes have advantages over conventional wood or aluminum boats being a high-tech manufacturer our biggest emphasis on the weight of a Camille. We build sophisticated ultra-lightweight canoes can use ranging from 20 to 23 pounds up to 65 67 pounds. So we have quite a variety of constructions and laminates to use in our biggest thing is weight of the Keel Winona canoes began about a decade ago producing an average of one boat every week. Now the Homegrown business employs 26 people puts out a hundred boats a week and ships them to customers and dealers worldwide. Wenonah canoes is one of the town's most visible users of Composites, but it's just one of ten one The companies that use the materials make them or Supply the composite industry Chamber of Commerce officials. Say those companies employ nearly 2,000 people here Winona State University president Tom Stark. We were in the Iron Age and the Bronze Age and we went into the Industrial Age and we got into the computer age and many people that I visit with say the 81 of the ages that were moving into right now is the age of the Composites Winona's aggressive effort to move into the future is characteristic of Southeastern Minnesota towns Owatonna, which is 40 miles west of Rochester has long been an entrepreneurial breeding ground Owatonna is Chamber of Commerce president Ted ring Hoffer. There's over 40 Industries in Owatonna that our national companies 11 of which are doing business on an international basis. So for a community of 19,000 population, that's pretty good feather in her hat Owatonna is industrial park is filled. With the manufacturing plants of thriving homegrown businesses companies making products as diverse as violins process glass fitness equipment and class rings. Jerry Wenger is principal owner of Wenger Corporation a musical equipment company that employs 230 Owatonna pne's Winger says his father started the business out of his basement following the lead of other local entrepreneurs in a small town like Owatonna. You can walk down the street and see all these companies growing and you see these people that are starting to say, you know, these these people, you know, really, I don't know that they know any more than I do maybe maybe out of think about this once you get over the fear of getting started and get on with it. It just starts to happen. And the main thing is getting the first step and getting going on whatever it is you want to do and you see a better way of doing it and getting on with that and you know, etana. There is there's a lot less fear to do that with the growth of Owatonna and other Southeastern Minnesota towns experts now talk of the seven-county metro area eventually becoming a Metro Corridor extending from st. Cloud to Rochester Owatonna ins for their part C mon interested in being part of that Carolyn. Allen is publisher of the local newspaper the Owatonna people's press the worst possible scenario I could offer is that we become a for this south suburb of Minneapolis, which is probably highly unlikely, but I have I've heard that disguises, you know as they move into Lakeville as as the metro area moves into Lakeville and start developing it would then be Northfield in Faribault than Owatonna and that's a fear and it's a legitimate fear as far as who wants it to happen. Nobody. You've got to have a small town this more community. Against the Grain was written and produced by the Main Street radio team life anger. John B1. And Rachel re be the engineer was Randy Johnson editorial assistants from Rich dieteman and Sarah Mayer. I'm Rachel reavie.


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