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Rural Issues sow Seeds of Laughter and Tears (and you Might Learn a Little Something too)

Egerstrom, Lee. "Rural Issues sow Seeds of Laughter and Tears (and you Might Learn a Little Something too)." St. Paul Pioneer Press, 28 January 2001.


In his newest book, Nebraska farmer, philosopher and essayist Roger Welsch offers 10 simple rules to follow if you want to date his daughter. Rule No. 1: "If you pull into my driveway and honk, you'd better be delivering a package, because you're sure not picking anything up."

I can identify with that. The other nine rules make good sense, too. I just don't understand Welsch's fascination with busted-up old tractors, the impetus for "Love, Sex and Tractors" (MBI Publishing Co., $14.95).

Welsch is a former prof at Dana College, University of Nebraska and Nebraska Wesleyan University who left the classroom to write about and repair old tractors. He's also the guy who provided the "Postcard From Nebraska" features for the late Charles Kuralt's "Sunday Morning" TV show.

If you liked Welsch's "Old Tractors and the Men Who Love them" and "Busted tractors and Rusty Knuckles," or any of his tales of the countryside published by national magazines, you're bound to like his new book. This is light reading for people looking to connect with the Midwestern landscape and its people.

Sheldon Green and James Coomber of Concordia College in Moorhead collaborated on "Unwanted Bread: The Challenge of Farming and Ranching" (Institute for Regional Studies at North Dakota State University, $24.95).

The partners were traveling through North Dakota researching their previous book, "Magnificent Churches on the Prairie," when they decided to profile North Dakotans adjusting to change on the Northern Plains. The result is a well-written, beautiful coffee-table book profiling a few dozen rural folks, ranging from young, beginning farmers to country clergy, farm leaders, former governors and an Air Force general.

A lot of history surrounds "Couldn't Be Better: The Russian Farm Community Project" by former Land O'Lakes official and University of Minnesota economist Vern Freeh (North Dakota State University Libraries, $20.95 paperback, $37.95 hardcover).

Freeh chronicles how former Land O'Lakes president Ralph Hofstad, other agribusiness officials, Midwestern farmers and Twin Cities ministers teamed with Russian people to launch an economic development project in a farming community near Moscow after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The project now serves as a model for other privately supported community development efforts, and a crew is working on a second farm/agribusiness project in former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbacev's hometown.

Freeh's book will be especially helpful to people involved with international economic development work. He's a knowledgeable writer because he's a member of North Dakota's
unique Russian-German community, of which the late bandleader Lawrence Welk is probably best known.
The Russian-German connection dates back to the 18th century, when Empress Catherine the Great invited German farmers to Russia to help develop her country's agricultural resources. The Germans were given assurances, according to some accounts, that they would have autonomy in Russia and would be spared from military duty.

But this cross-cultural experiment failed. Many of the German families left Russia and moved to the North Dakota frontier, bringing with them a German-Slavic manner of speech. Now, in an ironic twist, a Russian-German agricultural expert from North Dakota is helping post-tsarist, post-communist Russia rebuild. (To order, send a check made out to NDSU Library to Germans from Russia Heritage Collection, NDSU Library, PO Box 5599, Fargo, N.D. 58105-5599.)

Alan Woolworth, a research fellow emeritus for the Minnesota Historical Society, has written a chapbook, "The Genesis & Construction of the Winona & St. Peter Railroad, 1853-1873," as part of the Rural and Regional Essay Series published by the Society for the Study of Local and Regional History at Southwest State University, Marshall, in cooperation with the Minnesota Historical Society ($4). This book has importance for southern Minnesota in that railroads brought the Industrial Revolution to the prairies, and they determined which cities grew and prospered and which communities had no future.

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