ST. PAUL, Minn. (1/3/2011) —The year 2010 was a wild ride. We had spring and fall flooding in many parts of the state followed by ideal weather for harvesting and then record snowfalls in December. Commodity prices started the year calm and then a mid-year rally drove wheat, corn and soybean prices higher than most people expected. At the same time, federal spending grew to new levels as the projected Minnesota State budget deficit passed the $6 billion mark.
Many people wish for more stability in 2011. The truth is that we will never be able to control the weather, markets or world events, but there are a few things we can do to create stability for agriculture and our rural communities.
Stability starts with the young. Investing in youth is the surest way to build a stable platform for the future. My definition of investing includes more than just financial investments. It also includes putting your volunteer time into organizations focused on developing opportunities for young people--including 4-H and FFA.
Young people are the most important crop we grow in the country. Unfortunately, the latest census data confirms what many already knew. We are not growing as many young people in rural America and many of our young people are choosing to live elsewhere.
Minnesota is growing older and more urban. That demographic change highlights the need for rural communities to attract more young families - and the ideas, energy and enthusiasm they bring. The rural communities need to provide the jobs, the opportunities and the lifestyle that young families want to have a brighter future. Rural communities need strong leaders with the skills and foresight to position themselves as an attractive place for young adults to live.
Strong leaders do not appear out of thin air. Developing the leadership skills that make a difference takes time and effort. The University of Minnesota is committed to helping individuals develop leadership skills they can use to improve rural communities.
That commitment starts with 4-H and other youth opportunities. It continues with adult leadership programs such as the Minnesota Agriculture and Rural Leadership program (MARL), and the Red River Valley Emerging Leaders. We also offer specialized programs for organizations like the Association of Minnesota Counties and the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation District.
Leadership, knowledge and new discoveries will drive the future for the young and old. A strong land grant university can generate the knowledge and new discoveries that help individuals deal with volatile times.
During these volatile times, the University of Minnesota's commitment to providing the research, Extension and education is even more important than ever.
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Bev Durgan is the dean of University of Minnesota Extension and the director of Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station
Media Contact: Catherine Dehdashti, U of M Extension, (612) 625-0237, email@example.com