sustainable communities

Regenerative Agriculture: Returning to Our Roots

By Karen DuVall

Whenever friends visit my hometown, one of my favorite spots to show off is the bison ranch across the road from my parents’ woods. Carl Van Meter dreamed of looking out his window to see bison roaming as they once had two hundred years ago, so he purchased a pair in 1976. The herd grew to about 100 head, and they were a source of fascination to me as I grew up along with them.

Van Meter Buffalo Ranch in Buffalo, Indiana

Van Meter Buffalo Ranch in Buffalo, Indiana

Regenerative Agriculture holds a similar philosophy to return agricultural acreage to its natural state. What exactly is regenerative agriculture? It’s a practice that’s steadily gaining in notoriety and popularity.

  • Conventional Agriculture focuses on efficiency, high yields, and monoculture (large fields of one type of crop.)

  • Sustainable Agriculture focuses on doing no harm to the land and local food production.

  • Regenerative Agriculture goes a step further by using farming and grazing practices to rebuild topsoil and restore soil biodiversity. This draws down carbon dioxide from the air and improves the water cycle, which in turn helps to reverse climate change.

Healthy topsoil, healthy worms, healthy crops, healthy humans, healthy planet

Healthy topsoil, healthy worms, healthy crops, healthy humans, healthy planet

Due to its very nature, there’s no one right way to practice regenerative agriculture. It heavily depends on the specific needs of the location and local community. It looks to indigenous knowledge and skills from that area. Some examples are conservation tillage, cover crops, composting, and pasture cropping. Here’s a sample of a range of regenerative ag organizations leading the way around the world, while economically benefiting the ag producers.

In fact, bison are a key component of a regenerative agriculture effort at Kankakee Sands in northern Indiana. The Nature Conservancy has been converting 700 acres of row-crop land back into prairie. Bison provide a necessary service to the prairie by grazing down dominant plants, which encourage other plants to thrive and increase biodiversity. This broader range of food encourages more indigenous wildlife to return. Even their large hoofprints are regenerative because they enhance seed dispersal and planting.

Small farmers are facing enormous pressures. Prices are volatile, especially for soybeans and dairy. Extreme heat, droughts, flooding, and shifts in growing seasons are undeniable. Often it seems that the only option is to consolidate with large farms. As ag producers are imagining different paths using sustainable and regenerative practices.

Prosperity Ag is here to help. Whether you’re a conventional, sustainable, or regenerative farmer, there are funding opportunities out there as you weather the storm. Contact us today to learn more.

How the Arts Grow Communities

By Victoria Shaw, Marketing Consultant

When thinking of community growth, arts organizations may not immediately come to mind. Yet, communities looking to improve economic prosperity, public engagement, and overall community health may actually find their answer in local arts organizations.

 

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$15.7 million

Arts revenue for local governments in the Indy area. 

The Arts Bring Economic Investment

Americans for the Arts, an advocacy group, reports annual research about the financial impact from the arts for each state. In 2010, research shows that for the greater Indianapolis area, revenues from arts organizations and audiences generated $26.5 million for state government and $15.7 million for local governments. Arts organizations hired the full-time equivalent (FTE) to 13,136 jobs. The arts don’t just support the existing community by bringing jobs, but they promote economic investment in cities. An estimated 44.8% of audiences who attended these events were not residents of the greater Indianapolis area. Meaning that the arts benefit locals with jobs because of driving an increase in traffic, a fringe benefit being that often times other businesses see an increase in traffic as well.

 

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Public Arts 

drive community engagement.

The Arts Drive Public Engagement

Visual arts in particular are essential for driving public engagement. Parks, trails, walkways, canals and other common gathering areas provide residents the chance to meet other neighbors. Driving engagement between residents is essential for towns and cities as it increases the length of residency. While 80% of the success of a property boils down to general management, the remaining success can be derived from factors such as the general aesthetic appeal and local activities held in the space. If you’re looking for ideas, check out this article from the Project for Public Spaces to see how festivals, architecture, and preservation practices have impacted cities across America.

 

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Health and the Arts

go hand-in-hand.

The Arts Improve Community Health Indicators

Research done in New York City compared the health of different boroughs and correlated them to the number of non-profits, venues, galleries, museums, and other indicators of an arts presence. Even after controlling for differences in demographics, communities with more cultural resources saw the following when compared to boroughs with less resources:

  • 14% decrease in cases of child abuse and neglect
  • 5% decrease in obesity
  • 8% increase in kids scoring in the top stratum on English and math exams
  • 18% decrease in the serious crime rate

These statistics show that the arts not only have a place in our towns but can propel positive change for future growth. Arts organizations are essential for thriving communities.

 

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300% Increase

in visitors over the last five years at the Wabash County Historical Museum.

While many towns may already have arts organizations, some are not positioned to maintain exponential growth. The Wabash County Historical Museum saw an increase of 300% for visitors in the last five years. However, because their facility was rapidly aging their services were under threat of being cut. To learn how the Museum was able to continue growth in their community schools while improving their facilities check out their story here. By taking action and encouraging arts organizations to flourish, communities can see growth in their engagement and prosperity for years to come.


Victoria Shaw is a marketing consultant for businesses throughout Central Indiana and has worked with several small businesses and arts organizations to improve overall performance level. A 2017 graduate of Anderson University, she will be pursuing a Master of Science in International Management this fall in Italy. 

She has been a part of Prosperity Ag since 2015.

How Sustainable is Your Community?

By Christi Southerland, Prosperity Ag Managing Partner

The term “sustainable city” has been thrown around quite a bit in recent years. Though each region likely has their own definition of a sustainable community, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), uses the term “sustainable communities” to describe places “where use of resources and emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are going down, not up; where the air and waterways are accessible and clean; where land is used efficiently and shared parks and public spaces are plentiful and easily visited; where people of different ages, income levels and cultural backgrounds share equally in environmental, social and cultural benefits; where many needs of daily life can be met within a 20-minute walk and all may be met within a 20-minute transit ride; where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices.

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Sustainable Communities 

"Where industry and economic opportunity emphasize healthy, environmentally sound practices." -NRDC

The community described above seems idyllic, however, it is also very hard to achieve. Communities might have a goal of becoming completely sustainable, but funding is a large barrier preventing implementation. Taking small steps each year towards sustainability can be an easier approach while keeping costs reasonable. Further, communities that meet challenges through integrated solutions rather than fragmented approaches while looking at the long term will be more successful. This means it is essential for communities to have an end-goal and a plan in place prior to taking any steps towards sustainability. Having citizen involvement in early-stage planning will also be important for success.

Communities aiming for sustainability can utilize grant and loan programs to achieve their goals. Opportunities abound for projects such as community gardens, integration of renewable energy, wastewater efficiency improvements, building new community facilities, and many more. Further, programs exist to help communities achieve their sustainability goals. Audubon International has a Sustainable Communities Program, which is a science-based, third-party certification program to guide communities through the journey to become healthy and vibrant places to love work and play.

Sustainability is a process that is continuously evolving to meet goals. Communities that embrace this process as part of their overall goal and begin to implement sustainability, they will see a power and positive effect on the quality of life and the future of the community.

Prosperity Ag works with rural communities to become more sustainable. Learn more by downloading our overview of popular funding programs for rural communities.

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