Blog Progress Report

Getting ready to port this blog server-side.  Been preparing for awhile, yet as you know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  My intentions are the best which means it’s turning out to be a pretty bumpy ride.  Fortunately, I’ve got a smart co-pilot working behind the scenes.  Until we navigate the minefield, a brief heads-up:

  • http://jcshepard.com is redirecting to a test site for the new blog theme.  It’s a work in progress.  If you follow one of my links directly there, I appologize for the inconvenience, but obviously you found your way back here for now!
  • I’m trying to do this while preparing for the American Planning Association’s National Planning Conference in Minneapolis.  Gonna be a fun time, but I’m also going to be spending more content time on that until we get the new theme up.

So enjoy the show, feel free to comment & enjoy your Spring.

-john shepard

Goose River flooding

I remember putting on my rubber barn boots & grabbing a shovel, heading down by the banks of the Goose River between Mayville and Portland, right there on North Dakota Highway 200 by the park.

Goose River flooding homes in Mayville, ND

 
Several homes and businesses have taken on water in Mayville as the Goose River spills out of its banks, according to the Traill County Sheriff’s Office.
Capt. Steve Hunt said the flooding began late morning and early afternoon Tuesday along Highway 200 at the bottom of a hill in Mayville.
The flooded buildings included a city shop, three businesses and four homes, he said.
“At least two of them have a foot of water on the main floor,” he said.
The city planned to shore up sandbags around its water plant, he said. 
 

Mike Nowatzki, Forum report  3/25/09 Forum newsroom
Posted by: floodblogger on 3/25/2009 at 8:59 AM |

The situation in the Red River Valley this year is a flash-back to 1997, when a late ice-storm slowed down the snowmelt saving Fargo from the Flood of the Century and dooming Grand Forks.  The Forum is reporting today:

About 3 inches of snow had fallen by 7 a.m. in the metro area, and the National Weather Service predicts 5 to 8 inches total from Fargo north to Grand Forks before the storm diminishes this evening.

I’m following flood info & river levels on Twitter, too.  Not much I can do from 200 miles away, but maybe it will put those old memories in perspective.  Be prepared out there.

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Edit: Steve Gunderson has posted a great photo album from the Goose River flooding at Mayville-Portland on his home page.  The photo below is a greenhouse we helped get going when I worked for Traill County.  The owner is a great guy, but maybe I should have worked harder with him to find a safer location.  Shoulda, coulda, woulda….

Kost Hydroponics, Mayville, ND, Flood 2009

Kost Hydroponics, Mayville, ND, Flood 2009

How China Sees the West

Strange Maps blog has an interesting post regarding the current cover illustration on The Economist news weekly:

The Economist is concerned about the present state of affairs, as they should be:

Although in public China’s leaders eschew triumphalism, there is a sense in Beijing that the reassertion of the Middle Kingdom’s global ascendancy is at hand.

I love The Economist and really miss reading the print copy every week (budget just can’t support that habit right now).  However, I’m tending to agree with some of the comments on Strange Maps site.  Perhaps a better title for the graphic (if not the article) would have been “How China Sees the West”.  I certainly would have at least stuck a skyscraper at Vancouver, BC (Canada), but they didn’t ask me.

Already a big idea has spread far beyond China: that geopolitics is now a bipolar affair, with America and China the only two that matter. Thus in London next month the real business will not be the G20 meeting but the “G2” summit between Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao.

There is alot about China I don’t pretend to understand.  Although I think The Economist may be oversimplifying their graphic design, their ultimate point is well to consider.

Far from oozing self-confidence, China is witnessing a fierce debate both about its economic system and the sort of great power it wants to be—and it is a debate the government does not like. This year the regime curtailed even the perfunctory annual meeting of its parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), preferring to confine discussion to back-rooms and obscure internet forums. Liberals calling for greater openness are being dealt with in the time-honoured repressive fashion. But China’s leaders also face rumblings of discontent from leftist nationalists, who see the downturn as a chance to halt market-oriented reforms at home, and for China to assert itself more stridently abroad…

Wikipedia lists about 60 cities in China with a population of over 1,000,000 people—that’s urbanized population, administrative population (similar to our metropolitan areas?) is much larger.  Can you name more than 2?

I’m not sure I can.

Bodies of Water

Stream Trout general fishing season opens in Minnesota 18 April 2009. Until then, we have time to study the maps, tie our flies and dream our boyhood dreams of bodies of moving water….

http://tauntedbywaters.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/the-mark-of-a-true-fishing-scribe-bikini-tops/

Preparation

The National Weather Service is predicting major flooding in eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota:

Flood Risk High and Flooding Imminent for the Red River of the North Basin; Above Average Risk for Upper Midwest and from the lower Great Lakes to Illinois and part of New England

I grew up in and around Fargo, and lived in the Red River Valley during the Flood of 1997. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen a city of 50,000 people completely evacuated. My community had our own crisis to deal with that year, yet we opened our homes to those who had lost theirs. The guy who stayed with me had nothing left but the clothes on his back—everything in his home, his car, everything gone.

Fargo got lucky that year when Grand Forks did not. This year that luck may have run out. However, the better part of luck is preparation, as Red River Farm Network radio team report:

Prepping for the Flood — Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is taking action to prepare for flooding in the Red River Valley. The State Emergency Operations Center has been partially activated. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture has also activated its internal Incident Command Team to help farmers protect themselves and their property from flood-related damage. Field staff are also contacting grain elevators, crop protection suppliers and food processing companies.

And the good people of the Red River Valley are busy preparing.

The Red Cross is partnering with the Salvation Army to provide meals to the many volunteers creating sandbags at “Sandbag Central” in Fargo. Pictured here is what’s known as a “Spider”.This photo is available for media distribution. Please credit Claire Sale/American Red Cross.  For more information on this disaster, please visit the Red Cross Disaster Online Newsroom

Here at jcshepard.com we’re busy preparing, too. A big move is coming up as I try to move from wordpress.com to a hosted wordpress.org account. This winter I’ve been testing out different features in preparation and HOPE all will go smoothly.

Be Prepared.

When is a Farm a Farm?

Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions

We all know what a farm is.  A small white cottage with a big red barn out back, one or two silos and grain bins, cows & horses grazing contentedly in a fenced pasture.  Maybe a chicken coop, hog wallow and a machine shed.

That was my grandpa’s farm 50 years ago and it looks alot different today.  In the 21st Center, when exactly is a Farm a FARM?  How many chickens have to be in that coop?  How many cows in the barn?  How about the over-sized vegetable garden supplying the Farmer’s Market in town?  Or the place gone dormant with the fields resting in CRP?  Does a 4-H or Scout project count if it sells well at the County Fair? 

It’s a complicated question, as discussed (here, here, here and here) when we looked at the US Dept of Agriculture’s Census of Agriculture returns.  Currently, USDA considers a farm as any place with $1,000 in sales, or the potential for $1,000 in sales.  This is more than an academic question, as our understanding of many issues in the rural economy depend on how we define our units.

The Economic Research Service at USDA released a report today, Exploring Alternative Farm Definitions, that looks at how we classify agricultural operations for ag statistics and programs.

Abstract
Meeting agricultural policy and statistical goals requires a definition of U.S. agriculture’s basic unit, the farm. However, these goals can be at odds with one another. USDA defines “farm” very broadly to comprehensively measure agricultural activity. Consequently, most establishments classifi ed as farms in the United States produce very little, while most production occurs on a small number of much larger operations. While desirable for obtaining comprehensive national coverage, measurement and analysis based on the current definition can provide misleading characterizations of farms and farm structure in the United States. Additionally, more stringent requirements have been proposed for farms to qualify for Federal agricultural program benefits. This analysis outlines the structure of U.S. farms, discusses the current farm definition, evaluates several potential criteria that have been proposed to defi ne target farms more precisely, and examines how these criteria affect both statistical coverage and program eligibility.

Keywords
: Agricultural statistics, Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS), farm businesses, farm definition, program eligibility

Politicians, ag economists and other interested parties are unlikely to agree on a single “best” defnition of farm, rural, or economy.  I try to take all of their numbers with a degree of skepticism.  Sometimes it’s just as important to understand the data behind the data—to know the metadata—as it is to understand the meaning of the data itself.

Our Irish Elders

In 1849, Thomas William Maloy married Anna Kenny, somewhere in County Roscommon, Ireland.  They soon departed Eire’s green shores for a better life in America, settling on a small farm in Upstate New York.

The Maloys—along with untold other Irish ancestors known and unknown—left all they knew and loved for the great unknown.  Thomas & Anna were certainly pushed by the Great Famine, when the population of Ireland declined by 20-25%.  However, all took a great risk to move forward to give their descendents—I and my family—a chance at a better life.

They left behind the clans who’d been together a thousand years
With music and the memories ringing in their ears
They brought with them tradition and the will to work and die
In the land known for freedom, soil and sky

The Elders, 1849

We have been very fortunate that Maloys still in New York recorded the facts and stories of Thomas and his brother and their children.  We know they came from County Roscommon via Canada.  We know that writers say the Molloy name in Connacht is typically derived from “O Maoil Aodha, ‘descendant of the devoteee of (St) Aodh’, from maol, literally ‘bald’, a reference to the distinctive tonsure sported by early Irish monks.”  We know that no Maloys were left by the time our American family went looking in the old country, although that hasn’t stopped us from continuing the quest to better understand where we come from.

So, this St. Patrick’s Day, as we lift a Guinness and sing Danny Boy, save a quiet moment to remember our Elders, the one’s who gave so much when we deserve so little.

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