Four projects, Wisconsin Women in Conservation, Antigo Child Care Center, UW-Eau Claire Small Business Clinics, and The Meadows in Darlington, have been selected to receive Wisconsin Rural Partners’ 2023 Top Rural Development Initiative awards. The awards will be presented at the Wisconsin Rural Partners (WRP) 2023 Rural Summit in Mauston on April 27.
Wisconsin Women in Conservation (WiWiC) is a collaborative project that established a community of women landowners/farmers in the state interested in land stewardship. Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, Renewing the Countryside, Wisconsin Farmers Union, Marbleseed, and USDA-NRCS Wisconsin partnered to create WiWiC. The organization provides a safe space to share, connect, learn and network among women peers. Since its inception in 2020, more than 2000 women have engaged in program elements, including in-person gatherings, a Listserv, e-newsletter, and webinars. The organization’s goal is development of individual land conservation plans by the women. To date, 44 conservation plans have been completed and 60 are in the pipeline.
The Antigo Child Center was established by a mom who had lost daycare necessary for her employment. Working with the Langlade County Economic Development Corporation, Antigo Housing Authority, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and Childcaring, the building was secured and renovated. A community-supported Go Fund Me campaign helped purchase playground equipment and supplies. A serious issue for childcare programs is the long-term financial sustainability of the business. The Center addressed this problem by putting together a Tiered Partnership agreement with employers. Businesses support the Center with a monthly stipend, providing discounts to partner employers’ workers, as well as some funds for staffing/attraction of childcare workers, a farm to table nutrition program, and savings for future school-age programs and Center expansion. The Center is at full capacity and is currently considering expansion.
UW-Eau Claire Small Business Clinics are an in-person rural outreach initiative developed and run by student consultants at the Small Business Development Center at UW-Eau Claire. The Clinics provide one-on-one technical assistance and resources to Wisconsin rural business owners in the areas of QuickBooks, finance, marketing, general business startup, legal and cybersecurity, among others. Clinics were held in Rice Lake and Abbotsford in 2022 and served 52 clients. Additional clinics are being planned in nearby counties in 2023.
The Meadows is a new affordable housing community designed to support farm workers. A collaboration of Southwest Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP), USDA-Rural Development, Cinnaire Solutions, Wisconsin Housing & Economic Development Authority (WHEDA), Wisconsin Department of Administration and United Migrant Opportunity Services resulted in construction of a 32-unit complex dedicated to agricultural employees. Utilizing CDBG funding, an adjacent community building is being built with space for childcare, a free health clinic, and a WIC nutrition program to support Meadow residents and their families.
“Wisconsin Rural Partners applauds these initiatives as outstanding examples of the many efforts across the state that improve the lives of citizens in rural Wisconsin,” said Sandy Decker, WRP president. “These are excellent collaborative models for serving our rural areas.”
Wisconsin Rural Partners is the state’s federally-designated rural development council. Committed to improving the quality of life in rural Wisconsin, WRP is a non-partisan forum for identifying, discussing, and addressing rural issues. Through collaborations with a wide array of partners, including local, county, state, tribal, and federal governments, as well as for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, and rural citizens, WRP fosters and promotes locally-based solutions to rural needs and issues.
This is the twenty-third year that WRP has recognized Wisconsin’s Top Rural Development Initiatives. “The program is designed to identify, highlight, and share innovative models, practices, and programs that have a positive impact on rural Wisconsin communities,” said Errin Welty, WRP past-president. “WRP created the program to provide a mechanism for rural communities to learn from each other and we are pleased to report that many of the award winners are still actively operating to benefit our rural communities.”
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