Photo by Corey Rich/Aurora Photos Climbers Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson recently completed the first ever free ascent of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall. This means they climbed, for a total of 19 days, using ropes only to stop a fall, not to aid the climb. Here, Caldwell climbs at night. Hands are less sweaty and climbing shoes less stretchy at night, which helps. The Dawn Wall is “considered the longest, hardest free climb in the world,” according to the story in Outside Magazine.


The tidy maps in the “State of Rural Minnesota” report – delivered to a state House committee January 15 –  give a glimpse of the diversity and complexity of rural, small city, and urban counties in the North Star State.

Minnesota is complicated. But then again, so are most — make that all — states in the Union. Multiply the Minnesota report by 50, and you start to get a sense of just how big and complex rural America is as a set of geographic regions and an intellectual concept.

One map of note in the Minnesota report is the change in distribution of people of color. Rural areas have smaller populations, of course, so small changes in population that might not register for a city are statistically more pronounced in rural areas.

 This map shows the percent of change in people of color. The north central portion of the state had less change, but generally more diversity, because of Native America populations. Although some of the highest growth in people-of-color population was in the suburbs surrounding the Twin Cities in the south, “numerous western and southern counties saw dramatic growth with the in-migration of Latinos, Laations, Somalis, Sudanese, Hmong and other groups,” the report says.

Don Davis at the Forum News Service has more discussion around the report, which was presented to the House Greater Minnesota Economic and Workforce Development Policy Committee.


Farm Aid will hold a Texas drought summit on Thursday, January 29, in San Antonio, just before the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. The summit will discuss long-term responses to chronic drought that plagues sectors of American agriculture.

“Persistent drought is becoming the new normal for many farmers and ranchers across the country — especially those in the South and the West,” said Joel Morton, Farm Aid’s farm advocate, in a press release. “Farm Aid has a long history of delivering immediate help to farmers in need, but as weather extremes become more common, the solution lies in increasing the resilience of family farms.”

Farm Aid will provide travel support and scholarships for farmer and rancher attendees. Find out more here.


Frontier Communications, a cable company that serves primarily small cities and rural communities across the nation, has launched a $10 million competition to find “America’s Best Communities.” Just to make sure they have your attention, Frontier and its partners have also added country musician Vince Gill as an ambassador to help get out word on the competition.

Gill was part of a presentation Thursday held at the Country Music Hall of Fame announcing his involvement in the contest. He shared the stage with the heads of Frontier Communications and two other backers of the contest, DISH Network and CoBank.

The competition will award prizes of $1 million to $3 million to the top three winners. Semifinalists and finalists for the big prizes will also receive awards to help them create applications for the contest.

The competition is open to communities from 9,500 to 80,000 that are in the Frontier service area, which covers parts of 27 states.

What about smaller communities? The contest rules encourage them to join other municipalities in making a joint proposal.

The deadline for initial applications is March 25.

More information on the contest is here.


The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation has named the head of a rural community development organization as the foundation’s next executive director.

Justin Maxson, who has served as president of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Berea, Kentucky, since 2002, will start his new work at the Babcock Foundation March 16.

The foundation, based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, funds economic and social justice programs in the Southeastern United States. Though a regional foundation, it is the nation’s third largest funder of rural community development organizations, according to a study by Rick Cohen in Nonprofit Quarterly.

The Babcock Foundation supports economic and community development initiatives designed to reduce poverty and empower communities in parts of 11 states in the South.

“The South is such a critical region, one where opportunity and challenge clash,” Maxson said in a press release. “There is real need and demand for the next level of work: helping organizations and communities do the little but important things while supporting long-term systems-change work.”

(Disclosure: Dee Davis, publisher of the Daily Yonder, is president of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Board of Directors.)

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