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Pizza Party Caps Gardening Season

Twelve young gardeners who were participants in the Pizza Garden celebrated with pizza and more the week before school started. The gardeners are part of a program for third through sixth graders sponsored by University of Minnesota Extension-Murray County 4-H Youth Development and Master Gardeners. The kids met every Tuesday morning throughout the summer. A planting session was held before school let out. One more is scheduled to harvest and cleanup the garden which is located at the Slayton Community Gardens.

Besides tomatoes, onions and peppers for pizza, the gardeners also grew peas, spinach, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, cauliflower, eggplant and herbs. A favorite was a variety of green beans which are actually purple. They also enjoyed volunteer sunflowers and marigolds. Besides learning more about gardening, trying new vegetables is part of the goal of the program. Master Gardeners Marilyn Moger, Jan Scherbart, Matt Meier, Colleen Gengler and Betty Kassel worked with the gardeners this summer.


New Tool Helps Farmers Choose Alternative Practices To Buffers

Designed by University of Minnesota researchers, the tool provides farmers with site-specific alternative practices that can be used as part of Minnesota’s buffer law

To help farmers find the best strategy to comply with the Minnesota Buffer Law, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) has implemented a tool that will provide farmers with alternative practices specific to their land that can be used instead of the prescribed vegetative buffer.

Passed last legislative session, the Buffer Law requires farmers to install a 16.5-foot buffer on public ditches and 50-foot buffer on public waters that run along their farmland. However, alternative practices approved by BWSR can be used to reduce mandatory buffer widths. The Decision Support Tool will help farmers choose which practices work best for them and reduces the loss of farmland.

Funded by the Minnesota Corn Growers Association (MCGA) and designed by the University of Minnesota, the tool will be available at every Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) office at no cost to the farmer. Farmers will also have the ability to access the tool online from home at bwsr.state.mn.us/buffers.

“Although the buffer law allows for the use of alternative practices, farmers were in the dark on what practices made them compliant,” MCGA President Harold Wolle said. “This tool will help farmers decide the best strategy for their farm and decrease the loss of productive farmland while protecting water quality.”

The process starts with farmers answering basic questions about the characteristics of their land, including soil type, slope and existing management practices. From there, the tool provides farmers with their site-specific alternative practices, which would be used in addition to required minimum buffers of five feet on public ditches and 16.5 feet on public waters. Approved alternative practices like using cover crops, conservation tillage, contour stripcropping and more would take the place of the buffer law’s minimum 16.5-foot buffer on public ditches and 50-foot buffer on public waters.

University of Minnesota Researchers began developing the tool at the beginning of the year. The process started by evaluating the effectiveness of 16.5- and 50-feet buffers in preventing phosphorous and sediment runoff. The researchers used that baseline to then determine what combination of alternative practices matched that effectiveness on a variety of land and soil types.

Farmers will be asked to file the alternative practices they are implementing with their local SWCD, and will be required to perpetually use those alternative practices in order to remain compliant with the buffer law.   

About the Minnesota Corn Growers Association

With nearly 7,000 members, the Minnesota Corn Growers Association’s mission is to identify and promote opportunities for the state’s 24,000 corn farmers, while building better connections with the non-farming public. MCGA works to accomplish this through third-party research that focuses on water quality and soil health, targeted consumer outreach, developing new uses for corn and working to add value to every bushel of corn grown in Minnesota. MCGA is committed to helping Minnesota corn farmers become the most sustainable and environmentally responsible corn farmers in the nation. To learn more about MCGA, go to www.mncorn.org.


Library Card Sign-up Month

This September marks the 30th anniversary of Library Card Sign-up Month—a time when the American Library Association (ALA) joins public libraries nationwide to highlight the value of a library card.  Since 1987, Library Card Sign-up Month has been held each September to mark the beginning of the school year. Libraries work to remind parents and youth that signing up for a library card is the first step towards academic achievement and lifelong learning.

Throughout the school year, public librarians and library staff will assist parents and caregivers with saving hundreds of dollars on educational resources and services for students. A library card is one of the most cost effective back to school supplies available.   


Student Loan Debt: Choosing the Right Repayment Plan for Your Lifestyle

Nonprofit credit, student loan counseling agency Take Charge America breaks down repayment options

Repaying student loans is more complicated than ever before. And given that no two borrowers share the exact same incomes, life goals and family situations, it can be difficult to determine which path is best.

“Borrowers have to do a lot of homework upfront to determine which program fits their needs, but there’s work at the backend, too, like income-driven programs that require them to reapply every year,” said Sarah Hamilton, student loan supervisor for Take Charge America, a national nonprofit credit counseling and student loan counseling agency. “Objective advice from a credible third party, like a nonprofit counseling agency, may be critical.”

Hamilton provides federal student loan borrowers a cheat sheet of common repayment programss.

Standard Repayment: If you took out federal loans, you’ll automatically be enrolled in the Standard plan, which requires fixed monthly payments over 10 years. If you can afford it, it’s your best option for paying down your loans and saving on interest.

Income-Based Repayment (IBR): Monthly payments are determined by your income and family size, and are capped at 10-15 percent of a borrower’s discretionary income. It’s a good option if you’re struggling with Standard payments or have high debt relative to your income.

Pay As You Earn (PAYE) & Revised Pay As You Earn: These plans offer two of the lowest monthly payment amounts of all repayment options. Payments are set at 10 percent of discretionary income and may increase or decrease each year based on income, family size, tax filing status and state of residence. Balances are forgiven after 20 or 25 years. Both options require annual recertification, which can impact the monthly payment as well.

Income-Contingent Repayment (ICR): Monthly payments are calculated at 20 percent of your discretionary income or the payment amount on a 12-year fixed repayment plan – whichever is lower. It’s easier to qualify for this program since there’s no income eligibility requirement, but ICR payments may end up being higher than the Standard plan.

Direct Consolidation: These loans combine multiple federal loans and offer a fixed interest rate based on the weighted average of the interest rates of the loans you’re consolidating, which could save you money and simplify the repayment process. However, it will also extend the repayment terms.

Graduated Repayment: With this program, payments start lower and increase over time, and have a 10-year term. It’s a good option if you expect your salary to climb as you progress in your career. Though this plan isn’t usually the best option compared to income-driven programs, it might be the right fit for you – especially if you don’t want the hassle of reapplying for an income-driven plan yearly. You can also consolidate and extend the terms up to 30 years.

Extended Repayment: The term of this loan design is extended to 25 years, meaning monthly payments are lower. It’s an attractive option if you can’t afford the payments on the Standard plan – but you’ll pay more in interest over time.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness: You may be eligible for this program if you work a full-time public service job with the government, military, public schools or 501(c)3 nonprofits. It can forgive any balances on federal loans after 120 qualifying payments.

Nonprofit student loan counselors can help borrowers determine which repayment option fits best with their lifestyles. Learn more at studentloans.takechargeamerica.org or call (877) 784-2008.

About Take Charge America, Inc 

Founded in 1987, Take Charge America, Inc. is a nonprofit agency offering financial education and counseling services including credit counseling, debt management, student loan counseling, housing counseling and bankruptcy counseling. It has helped more than 1.6 million consumers nationwide manage their personal finances and debts. To learn more, visit www.takechargeamerica.org or call (888) 822-9193.


Willow Lake Church Fall Sing-A-Long this Sunday

On Sunday, September 17 at 10:30 a.m. Willow Lake Church will open its doors for a Sing-A-Long and a family history presentation of the area. All are welcome to enjoy this historic landmark and stay for a Subway ® sandwich box lunch following the sing-a-long.

The sing-a-long and family activities provide the Friends of Willow Lake an opportunity to share this beautiful rural historic landmark with others and surface interested individuals and organizations that would be supportive of donating to support and preserve this historic landmark as an important part of our rural community.

Located on the prairie, Willow Lake Church was organized in 1874, and the building was built in 1899. This is an opportunity for all who have never known of this prairie treasure to view and enjoy a simply built yet beautiful rural church and learn more about the history of this area.

Historic Area - Historic Slaughter Slough is located three miles south of the church, and End of the Line Museum and Lake Shetek State Park near Currie are six miles.

These historical opportunities are great additions to any family in the area, any stay-cation or if you are visiting the area.

Mark your calendars for 2018 dates for a fall gathering and fall family activities at Willow Lake Church. The dates are July 8 and September 16, 2018 at 10:30 a.m.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Connection - The July sing-a-long is held during a weekend of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Pageant. There are similarities with the daughter of the couple who donated the land for Willow Lake Church. The daughter, Mary Mickelson, and Laura Ingalls Wilder were born the same year - 1867, married the same year - 1885 and died the same year – 1957.

To learn more about this historical landmark call 507-629-3488, email friendsofwillowlake@gmail.com or look up Willow Lake Church on Facebook.


Cholesterol - The Good, The Bad & The Factors

By: Karen Honermann, BSN, RN, Murray County Medical Cente 

September is National Cholesterol Education Month—a good time to learn about lipid profiles, get your blood cholesterol checked, and learn about lifestyle choices that help you reach personal cholesterol goals.

Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance found in your body and many foods. Your body needs cholesterol to function normally and makes all that you need. Sometimes too much cholesterol can build up in your arteries. After a while these deposits narrow your arteries, putting you at risk for heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol usually doesn’t have any symptoms. As a result, many people do not know that their cholesterol levels are too high. A simple blood test can check your cholesterol. 

HDL cholesterol is “good” cholesterol. Think of it as the “Healthy” cholesterol, so you want it to be High. Experts believe HDL acts as a scavenger, carrying LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver. There it’s broken down and passed from the body.

LDL cholesterol is “bad” cholesterol. Think of it as “Lousy cholesterol”—it contributes to fatty buildup, narrow arteries and raises the risk for heart attack and stroke. You want your LDL number to be Low.

Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body; they store excess energy from your diet. A high triglyceride level combined with high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol increases the risk of fatty buildups in artery walls. 

Desirable Cholesterol Levels:

Total cholesterol - Less than 200 mg/dL

Low LDL (“bad”) cholesterol - Less than 100 mg/dL

High HDL (“good”) cholesterol - 50 mg/dL or higher

Triglycerides - Less than 150 mg/dL

A variety of factors can affect your cholesterol levels—some you cannot control such as: heredity, age and gender; some factors you can control include behaviors such as: not smoking, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and being physically active at least 30 minutes a day. Sometimes medications called statins might be added to your treatment plan. ALWAYS work with your medical provider to find the prevention and treatment plan that is best for YOU. 

KNOW YOUR NUMBERS!  Here at Murray County Medical Center, you can take advantage of our 

Direct Access Laboratory Testing. Have a Lipid Panel drawn conveniently and confidentially to get started. Call 507.836.1286 for more information.  


Widowed, Divorced or Separated??

Beginning Experience of SW MN, is offering a Weekend Retreat that provides an individual with the opportunity to encounter self and to grow with a purpose to achieve inner peace.  The experience is to help close the door gently on the past and move on with renewed hope and purpose.  The weekend retreat will be held at Shetek Lutheran Ministries and is scheduled for Oct 6-8th.  Deadline for registrations is September 29th. Please contact: Laurie W: 507-829-6692 or wall.laurie33@gmail.com, MaryAnn S:507-828-2866 or maryannschultz83@gmail.com.


Reporting of 2018 Forage and Fall Seeded Crops at FSA 

All producers are reminded that the acreage reporting date for all forage and fall seeded crops is coming up.  The acreage reporting date of November 15, 2017 applies to all of the following categories: 

(a) Fall seeded small grains (winter wheat, oats, barley, wild rice…). 

(b) Forage Production - fall seeding (insured/no insurance). 

(c) Forage for grazing including pasture

(d) Forage Production - prior year seeding (insured/no insurance).

The following exceptions apply to the above acreage reporting date:  

• If the crop has not been planted by the above acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 15 calendar days after planting is complete.

• If a producer acquires additional acreage after the above acreage reporting date, then the acreage must be reported no later than 30 calendars days after purchase or acquiring the lease. Appropriate documentation must be provided to the county office.

• If a perennial forage crop is reported with the intended use of “cover only,” “green manure,” “left standing” or “seed,” then the acreage must be reported by July 15th.

We know how busy it gets during harvest season; therefore if a producer only needs to report forage that already exists, category (c and d) above, we encourage them to come into the local office as soon as possible but no later than November 15, 2017.  Most producers completed this task when they reported their 2017 acres this past summer, the remaining farms not certified will be contacted shortly.  If a producer still intends to plant a fall seeding; category (a) or (b) above those cannot be reported until they are  planted and by November 15. 


Vanessa Herrig puts MCC FFA in 3rd at  Minnesota State FFA Sheep Show

The Minnesota State FFA program held livestock competitions at the Minnesota State Fair this past week. Murray County Central FFA was represented by Vanessa Herrig. The MCC Junior showed a variety of breeds including Hampshires, Suffolks, Southdowns, Natural Colors and Columbias during the Breeding Sheep Shows. She also showed a market lamb. While not showing her own sheep she spent time helping other FFA members showing their sheep in many different breeds. Some of Vanessa’s accomplishments would include Champion and Reserve Champion Natural Colored, Reserve Champion Columbia Buck and many first and second place finishes in many different catagories amongst the different breeds of sheep shown. Vanessa was named the Champion Showmen in the junior and senior class age division. There was over 600 sheep shown at this years state FFA show. 

Each chapter competes for the Premiere Sheep Exhibitor Award with each sheep receiving points for how well it finished in each class and each show it was in. At the end of the fair an overall champion was crowned. New York Mills was the top Chapter followed by Pipestone. Murray County Central finished 3rd with a total of 149 points earned. While other chapters had multiple members showing Vanessa Herrig was the lone showperson for MCC completing what was one of the biggest state FFA shows ever.


Master Gardeners seeking new members in Murray County

Master Gardeners are from all walks of life and volunteer on behalf of  University of Minnesota Extension.  They are eager to share best practices in gardening with people in their community that promote healthy landscapes, healthy foods, and healthy lives.  They have completed a University-taught core course and contributed a certain number of hours to teach research-based horticulture practices in their communities.

Would you like to become a Master Gardener?  Murray County Master Gardeners would welcome new members to assist them with their current projects as well as bring new ideas to the program. Master Gardeners in Murray County sponsor an annual garden tour in July, assist communities with planning public gardens, work with elementary-age students in the “Pizza Garden and More,” answer questions and provide gardening information one on one throughout the year as well as at the Murray County Fair, and more. 

If interested, call University of Minnesota Extension- Murray County at 507-836-6927 or send a message to piesk003@umn.edu   Applications are due by October 2; the online core course runs January-April, 2018.  For more information, contact the office or visit the Master Gardener website: http://www.extension.umn.edu/garden/master-gardener/


10th Annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day is September 22, 2017

As the designated area agency on aging for 27 counties in southwest Minnesota, the Minnesota River Area Agency on Aging (MNRAAA) announces the National Council on Aging’s 10th annual Falls Prevention Awareness Day on September 22, 2017—the first day of fall. In honor of this notable milestone, the theme of the event will be 10 Years Standing Together to Prevent Falls. This event raises awareness about how to prevent fall-related injuries among older adults. 

Did you know that 1 in 3 older Americans fall every year? Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+. 

Falls can result in hip fractures, broken bones, and head injuries. And even falls without a major injury can cause an older adult to become fearful or depressed, making it difficult for them to stay active.

The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented. The key is to know where to look. Here are some common factors that can lead to a fall:

Balance and gait: As we age, most of us lose some coordination, flexibility, and balance— primarily through inactivity, making it easier to fall. 

Vision: In the aging eye, less light reaches the retina—making contrasting edges, tripping hazards, and obstacles harder to see.

Medications: Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medications can cause dizziness, dehydration or interactions with each other that can lead to a fall.

Environment: Most seniors have lived in their homes for a long time and have never thought about simple modifications that might keep it safer as they age.

Chronic conditions: More than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic condition like diabetes, stroke, or arthritis. Often, these increase the risk of falling because they result in lost function, inactivity, depression, pain, or multiple medications.

One of the first steps that can be taken to prevent falls is to find and participate in a good balance and exercise program. In the MNRAAA service area, evidence-based programs are available to help older adults improve their strength and balance and decrease their risk of falling. A Matter of Balance is an eight-session class that is designed to reduce the fear of falling, stop the fear of falling cycle and increase activity levels among community-dwelling older adults. Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance meets for two consecutive twelve-week sessions and is designed to improve balance deficits and fall risks by transforming martial arts movements into a therapeutic regimen.

To learn more about Matter of Balance or Tai Ji Quan visit mnraaa.org/training-opportunities.