Dean of Rural and Regional Studies
Episodes Four and Five
Joe Amato discusses how the face of rural Minnesota has changed in the span of a century, and what factors lead to those changes. According to Amato, small towns began to lose their self-sufficiency in the 1950's as young people began to move to urban areas. Now, populations in rural Minnesota are steadily declining.
People have been living in this region since the glaciers retreat made the Minnesota River Valley habitable for people. Scott Anfinson, the national register archeologist for the state historic society, describes what the landscape would have been like just after the glaciers retreated.
Weather is a key factor in the success of our agricultural economy. Donald G. Baker, explains why Minnesota's weather can vary so greatly, and how these weather patterns affect the soils.
This region is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the world, and this is due to the complex interaction of a number of factors. Jay Bell explains how climate, topography, and the materials of which soils are made worked together to create some of the most productive soil in the world.
While it seems the future of farming may be unsure, there is still room for optimism. Our rural communities offer a lifestyle that many people find attractive, and technology may enable farmers to grow increasingly productive crops while making effective use of our natural resources. Host Bob Bergland, shares his thoughts on the future.
Episodes Three and Four
Gary Cavender tells the story of how the fur trade and the subsequent treaties radically altered Dakota culture and lifestyles. As Europeans began to cultivate land the Dakota had used for villages and hunting, the Dakota were exiled. Cavender describes how losing their land affected the Dakota people physically, emotionally and spiritually; "The best way to explain it is we are part of the land and the land is part of us and our souls are mingled together. And so we have to be near our heart and our soul."
Project Leader, Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge
Prairie was once the largest eco-system in North America, but only half of one percent remains. Ron Cole helps maintain the few acres of prairie left in the River Valley region, and he works with land owners who are interested in converting some acres of crop land back to prairie.
Professor of Geology
Jim Cotter, (professor of Geology at UMM and recipient of a 2000 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathmatics and Engineering Mentoring), discusses the role glaciers played in creating our landscape and our fertile soils. He shows how, even today, people can see evidence of glacial activity and he explains how Lake Aggassiz, which formed when the glaciers melted, ulimately formed the Minnesota River Valley.
Pipestone Shrine Association
Chuck Derby describes how Pipestone, which is still mined by hand at Pipestone National Monument, became important to Native people centuries ago. Today, Native Americans return to this site to obtain Pipestone, which they use to make pipebowls for religious ceremonies.
Minnesota Historical Society
The fur trade was one of the first ways Native peoples and Europeans interacted. Rhoda Gilman explains how the trade impacted both groups of people. She also discusses the trade's affect on animal populations and the environment.
Weeds have posed challenges to farmers for centuries, and managing them effectively has been an on-going battle. Jeff Gunsolus describes the tools farmers have used to control them, including crop rotation, herbicides, pesticides and genetically modified crops.
According to Darrell Haugen, by 1980, almost ninety percent of the wetlands have been drained for agriculture and development. Now, Haugen helps landowners who want to allow sections of their land to return to wetlands. These newly established wetlands provide habitat for birds and improve the quality of groundwater.
Dennis Johnson describes how the current economic challenges facing livestock producers have caused many of them to make choices about how to remain economically viable. Some are choosing low-input systems and alternative ways of marketing their products, while others are choosing high-input systems that rely heavily on technology. Johnson explains the advantages and drawbacks to each.
Farmer and President, MN Corn Growers Association
Episodes Eight and Nine
Nathan Johnson from Lowry, Minnesota, grows corn and soybeans on his nearly 3,000 acre farm. In order for his farm to remain economically viable, Johnson utilizes conventional farming practices such as the application of herbicides. He discusses how he maintains high productivity while having a minimal affect on the environment.