Live from MRA: making ideas happen


by Ben Lilliston | August 11, 2009 • “When people love something, they take care of it together.” This was the message of Minnesota Secretary of State, and IATP founder, Mark Ritchie at the Midwest Rural Assembly this morning as he linked together community pride, patriotism and rural revitalization.

Think Forward is a blog written by staff of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy covering sustainability as it intersects with food, rural development, international trade, the environment and public health. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy promotes resilient family farms, rural communities and ecosystems around the world through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

For rural communities, Ritchie talked about the importance of marrying short-term and long-term goals. He hearkened back to the farm crisis of the 1980s, where there was a need to address foreclosures and farmer suicides in the short-term, but also a long-term vision to plant the seeds for renewable energy in the form of wind farms and ethanol plants.

In facing current challenges, Ritchie emphasized that government officials are often more accessible and more interested in partnerships than many citizens recognize. He encouraged participants to reach out to government officials, particularly the USDA, and tell them what you need.

“In nearly every small community in Minnesota, you can find common interests,” said Ritchie. He pointed out how in meetings with an Indian tribe in northern Minnesota and the Chamber of Commerce in the Twin Cities, he heard participants define civic participation as a love of country and community.

“They defined patriotism as love—so strong that we need to take care of what we loved,” said Ritchie. “We say it and we share the responsbility of taking care of each other. It may be the land, community or family. If we can demonstrate this type of patriotism, we can help become a healing force for our society.”

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