The U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency encourages all farmers, ranchers and FSA program participants to take part in the county committee election nomination process.

Life is like a putt

I was recently talking to Brian Thorsten of Thorsten Financial Services Inc. for an upcoming article in the Benton County News’ Salute to Business section coming out next week. We were talking about financial forecasting and investments. Thorsten said he could follow all the market fundamentals perfectly, pick a stock that everybody thinks is going to fly, and then, when push comes to shove, the stock plummets.

In my farmyard, several paths blown free of snow between buildings made it easier for the deer to access certain areas, easier to find footing than in the piles and drifts of snow, and the depth of snow grew week by week. They gathered in the perennial gardens, chewing frozen bark, pawing any ground not snowbound and looking for food where there was none.

Always a-maize-ing to me

When we are planting a crop at 5-6 mph or simply trying to look down the rows from a windshield view driving by, it is easy to take for granted how amazing a corn crop really is.

Farewell, readers

As many of you have heard, with my wife and I’s plan to move to Florida, July will be my last month with the Benton County News and the company that owns the paper, Star Publications. 


Legislators who, by nature, seek quick remedies for possibly menacing, sensitive problems insist the acting out behavior of youngsters enrolled in public schools is too harshly dealt with. 

Mahamta Gandhi said “An eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.” Interpersonal conflict happens. In fact, harassment complaints consistently rank in the top five most reported crimes in Benton County. 

Right versus wrong

I used to think there was always a right and wrong solution to just about every question or decision to be made. Even when it was not clear or even when the perfect answer had yet to be discovered, I always believed there was one idea, one answer or one methodology that would be best suited for the problem.

Ambition, success

With my wife and I getting set to move to Florida in a few months, we have talked many times in the last year about what we hope to accomplish while in the south. Our conversations are forged by ecstasy, optimism, faith and just a little bit of existential dread.

Adult cannabis use

Recreational adult-use cannabis, or marijuana, was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz. The bill enacting this shift in policy is 319 pages long and makes many significant changes to the status of cannabis use and possession here.

The cosmos

When I was in high school, I took an astronomy class with one of the best teachers in the district, Mr. Kortenkamp. He was revered by students across the spectrum for his character, but he was also an extraordinary teacher and held an astonishing knowledge of the cosmos. As any great teacher would, he took complex topics and made them digestible and understandable.

Gardening nostalgia

Born in an era when gardens weren’t hobbies or an effort to help nature demonstrate the artfulness of living plants, the possession of gardening tools by one’s neighbors suggested serious hopefulness that this year’s garden would provide fresh and preserved food in bleak times. 

Several years ago, I attended a conference session regarding sustainable change. At that time, the expert had identified five elements necessary for making sustained change, and I will take some space to describe two of the five.

I had a teacher in high school who I, and seemingly everybody else, greatly admired. He was fun and made lessons exciting, and it seemed like he loved being an educator. He was a geography teacher, so that is really saying something. We became Facebook friends after I graduated, and little did I know (or really care at the time) that he was wildly active in politics. I am connected with him on Facebook, and I have found that he is so far left, he makes Bernie Sanders look like a moderate. Again, not a problem. He is a good person, and he likely always will be. But there was one day during the George Floyd fiasco that he went on a social media rampage about all the hot topics – Black Lives Matter, abortion, immigration, the coronavirus pandemic, LGBTQ issues, and so on.

Tin pail tussles no more

So, the definitive workings of our school district will be guided now by a recently chosen superintendent.  More than overseeing the district’s budget of public money, choosing and maintaining programs that affect the future lives of thousands of students, hiring and keeping on board excellent teachers, and the responsibility of hiring someone who will make major decisions which are at the core of the age-old question, “What did you learn in school today?” measures the risk taken by board members when a new leader is chosen. Traveling into adulthood in a K-12 system of learning doesn’t mean that no setbacks will arrive in one’s future, but it surely eases some of the hurdles spaced here and there along the way. 

P21 standards

As we continue to examine the standards to which we should teach, there are also standards for the use and integration of technology into our learning skills. These are commonly known as the Partnership for 21st Century Learning Standards, or P21 Standards. These standards consist of four broad areas known as the 4 Cs of critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. Utilizing technological resources should allow all of us, and in particular students, to take thinking to deeper levels. Gone are the days when we spend an inordinate amount of time looking through the appropriate book to find a certain set of foundational facts that will provide basic information about a topic. A quick internet search will likely provide this information to us.  Having this information will allow opportunities to better understand a topic based on verifiable, basic information and will also allow us the ability to think more critically about a topic. We need the will and interest to continue to critically think and continue to learn about a topic.

I have long laid the lion’s share of the blame on politicians and the media for creating a political environment that breeds division and outrage in return for profit and reelection. And although I have also pointed to consumers playing a larger role than is often cited for the profitability of clickbait articles and dishonest media, recent events make it seem like politicians and the media are simply playing the game the public wants them to play. And that is, of course, evil in and of itself – to knowingly forward or share a disingenuous position or article in the quest for a positive public image and/or profit.

Mining on my mind

When we were young admirers of Gene, Roy and/or Hopalong, the movie script often included strangers who rode into town asking the whereabouts of the lawmen and cowboys, our brave heroes. The answer was usually, “Out on the range.” They were probably hunting down bank robbers, cattle rustlers or someone who abandoned his family and left town with a pretty little barmaid. In Foley, we heard of people who were “up on the range,” the area where the iron mines provided jobs for a far reach of people, including men and boys from our locale, from outer Minnesota and from other states and thousands of incoming residents from Europe. 

Having core values

In his book, “Good to Great,” author Jim Collins examined companies that, according to a series of evaluative metrics, would be considered great companies and compared them against companies that, according to the same metrics, would be considered good companies. Among the elements possessed by great companies is they have a set of core values and adhere to those values with great discipline. Central to this concept is not what the core values are but that they have these values. Having core values during times of progress and relative ease will help keep the focus of the organization in the proper direction. 

As the editor of a community weekly newspaper, and having worked for another newspaper of similar size as a staff writer, I have covered the state, cities and townships, ranging from big to small. I have learned a lot about life in rural Minnesota – a demographic near and dear to my heart. Below are a few things I have observed throughout my time in the industry, from a generalized and area-specific perspective. Here is a non-comprehensive list:

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