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The Yonder Report: News from rural America - June 20, 2024

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News from rural America.

Audio file

Rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town, prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands and a Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival.


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For the Daily Yonder and Public News Service, this is the news from rural America.

Rural educators are looking for ways to teach students about social issues, such as racial equality, along with the rights of women and the LGBTQ+ community.

But the Daily Yonder's Lane Wendell Fisher reports, those efforts are often stymied by district policies and community dynamics.

So difficult to maneuver through, bringing up these issues when oftentimes in rural spaces, where maybe these issues aren't talked about as much, it can be controversial.

A national movement to ban teaching on race, equity and inclusion has had real impact and DEI efforts have stopped on some campuses.

The Rural Assembly and its partners conducted a focus group with rural educators across the country.

Many said they still work to integrate social issues into lesson plans, with Lane noting that can teach empathy, fairness and respect for diverse viewpoints.

Teachers really want structural support from the school to help successfully approach these issues, cover these issues, to feel that support from the administration.

Dollar store chains offer food and necessities at low prices.

But as Molly Egan explains, rural economies can pay a cost in other ways.

Dollar stores are the fastest growing retail sector, but when they come to town, rural communities are three times as likely to see established small businesses closed than urban areas.

Kennedy Smith is with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.

Community leaders need to be aware that the benefits of a locally owned business are far superior to those of a chain that's gonna be taking profits out of the community and sending them someplace else.

Some local communities have passed ordinances to ban, limit or improve chain dollar stores.

Smith offers zoning codes as one way to control the influx and promote sustainable alternatives.

Does your zoning code support and encourage development of healthy food stores?

Can we incentivize it?

I'm Molly Egan.

The grasslands of the Great Plains are less than half the size they once were and shrinking.

One and a half million acres were destroyed in 2021 alone.

But a federal program is now boosting conservation and it's popular.

Jeff Zimprick with the South Dakota Grassland Coalition says a 2023 poll found three quarters of residents were more likely to vote for candidates who support healthy grasslands management.

They know that grasslands provide clean water, clean air.

They know grasslands build healthy soils and they appreciate what's involved in the economy as well.

The USDA's program guides producers and landowners to adopt modern grazing and haying techniques, which state officials say has helped protect almost 7 million acres of grasslands in the past three years.

Pine City, Minnesota is celebrating its 19th annual Pride Festival.

It claims the title of the oldest rural Pride Festival in the country.

For the Daily Yonder and Public News Service, I'm Roz Brown.

For more rural stories, visit

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