West Central Blogger

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alexandria helps "Awake the Lakes" to open the summer season

After a long winter and fairly non-existent spring, folks around here are itching to get out and enjoy the beauty and fun of the region. Summer is spectacular in west central Minnesota.
Alexandria starts the season off right with an Awake the Lakes festival that lasts all Memorial Day weekend. On Friday night, Big Ole watched over hundreds of people who enjoyed the annual Ribfest and the rockin' rhythms of Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants, and Whiplash.
What are your favorite regional summer events and activities? Share them with the West Central Blogger!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Pondering pedal power plans? Peruse CentralLakesTrail.com

The West Central Blogger is always looking for regional treasures that span the length and breadth of west central Minnesota. The Central Lakes Trail is a perfect--and quite literal--example. This 55-mile, 14-foot wide paved path runs straight through the heart of lakes and prairies country, extending from Fergus Falls to Osakis.

Now, there is a Web site and group dedicated to the promotion and enhancement of the trail. Collectively, they're called "CentralLakesTrail.com." Maps, event listings, photos, and information about the communities you can visit along the way are available on the Web site. Make plans to visit the site--and the trail--soon!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Road Trip: Morris

Morris is the county seat of Stevens County. It's a college town--the University of Minnesota-Morris has received national recognition for its academically gifted student body, commitment to diversity, green campus initiatives and emphasis on student leadership. It's ranked among the top four colleges for its student-to-faculty ratio of 12 to 1. And it was recently ranked among the top 100 colleges nationally as a best value for both in-state and out-of-state students in the 2008 Kiplinger Best Values in Public Colleges exclusive survey.

Morris is also a farming community, it's surrounded by some of the most fertile land in Minnesota. It's dairy country, too. Doug Ehlers and Patty Kill from First Federal Savings Bank work with a lot of the farms and their employees. They kindly acted as tour guides for two WCI staffers.

First stop is La Tienda, a grocery store catering to the Morris area's Latino residents. The dairy farms and a few other large local businesses employ close to 200 immigrant workers. Most are in Minnesota without their families, but about 10 Latino families make their home in the area now. La Tienda stocks many of the comforts of home. There's also a classroom upstairs where Morris Community Ed provides English language lessons.

A few miles out of town, the countryside is greening up nicely. The first crop of alfalfa will be ready for cutting soon. Riverview Farms owns several dairy facilities in the area. And they are big. Each farm holds about 5,000 head of cattle. Milking is round the clock and an exact science. At one farm, cattle are herded onto a huge circular conveyor that holds close to 100 cows. The cows move into individual stalls, workers attach the milking machines, and the cows take a 10-minute ride before the milking apparatus is detached and they can saunter back to the barn for a well-deserved meal.

The barns also have a maternity ward where 50 to 60 calves are born EVERY DAY.

Nothing is wasted at Riverview Farms. Solids are separated from manure and dried to create bedding for the cows. The liquid can be pumped into nearby fields as fertilizer for crops. And that's not all. Soon a "digester" will be up and running that will create methane gas from the manure, which in turn will be sold to the local power company.

One more stop: Buddies in the small burg of Hancock for lunch. If you've got a huge hankering for a hamburger, the double-decker Buddy Burger is sure to appease your appetite!

See photos of the Morris Road Trip.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Detroit Lakes has its day

IMG_1508, originally uploaded by West Central Initiative.

Detroit Lakes is one of five Minnesota communities enjoying time in the spotlight as an official Capital for a Day as part of a week of events celebrating Minnesota's Sesquicentennial, May 11-18. On May 14, state officials, dignitaries and media flocked to the city for tours, forums, exhibits, presentations and more. Here, Mayor Larry Buboltz is interviewed by the local Fox station affiliate.

Monday, May 12, 2008

New "graduates" now grasp the essentials of nonprofit administration

May is graduation month for a lot of high schools and colleges in west central Minnesota. The participants of "The Essentials of Nonprofit Administration: Enhancing Skills – Improving Programs" also celebrated the completion of a 10-month series of workshops. The training was held alternately in Fergus Falls and Alexandria, and addressed today’s critical issues that nonprofit organizations face daily.

"I absolutely loved the Essentials of NonProfit Administration class!" said Lisa Workman, executive director of the Fergus Falls Area Chamber of Commerce. "It was a true learning experience that I could put to use right away, such as the financial and legal information.

"As non-profits, we all face similar challenges. We shared solutions and best practices. I would highly recommend this course to anyone in a non-profit setting, whether a director or someone in a management level at just about any level of experience."

Friday, May 9, 2008

Providing support for supportive providers

In this age of dual-career marriages and more single parents raising their children, child care providers can be a godsend. That's why May 9 has been designated Provider Appreciation Day. It's a time to recognize child care providers, teachers, school-age program staff, child care center directors and staff, and all those who work with children in a variety of ways and are responsible for their education and care.

It is estimated that there are nearly 2.8 million child care providers in the United States, with close to 12 million under age 5 in their care. Still, many parents will attest to the difficulty of finding providers, especially in rural areas. Plus, they want the best care for their children. And providers will tell you it's hard sometimes to work in isolated areas where learning opportunities for themselves AND for the kids in their care are few and far between.

In west central Minnesota, there are organizations and individuals who are working to expand childcare capacity and provide activities and programs for childcare workers and their charges, including West Central Initiative and the 10 Early Childhood Initiative communities in west central Minnesota.

In March, area providers and early care and education professionals were invited to attend "Building Relationships for a Child’s Success," a professional development teleconference organized by the Partners for Child C.A.R.E. (Convenient-Appropriate-Reliable-Excelling), a sub-committee of the regional Family Economic Success Council.

Nearly 200 people attended at 12 televised sites across the nine-county region. The session focused on equipping early childhood programs with a consistent message to parents and others about the importance of high quality care and early experiences to impact optimal brain development and subsequent school success. "Never, ever, underestimate the importance of how you are and what you do for children in the everyday moments you spend with them. You are planting seeds that have the potential to change the world in ways you may never see," said Michele Fallon, MSW, LICSW, Center for Early Education and Development.