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Keeping hope alive in a devastating farm economy

(Cheyenne) Margaret Gruce, a North Dakota farm wife, wanted to do something to show she cared about the farmers in her community that were struggling with a devastating farm economy. She didn’t think she could do much, but she thought she would try, so she started handing out tiny green ribbons with a card that said, “We care through prayer.” Gruce’s movement has spread across the country and internationally. The farm wife who started the movement now has her ribbons being handed out in the tens of thousands by the Evangelical Lutheran Church. They have been worn at Congressional meetings and 5,000 were handed out recently at a rally in Dallas, Tex. With farm income down 18 percent from 1996 levels and with prices received by farmers projected to remain devastatingly low, the future looks dim. But Brother David Andrews of National Catholic Rural Life says that it takes a lot of little people doing a lot of little things to make big things happen. Speaking before the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union (RMFU) 91st annual convention here today Andrews gave several examples of little people doing little things that brought about changes. In addition to Gruce, Andrews talked to more than 100 RMFU members about Clarence and Carolyn Boreman, an Iowa farm couple in their late 70’s, who were concerned about a neighboring farm that was bought by a huge industrial swine facility. The Boreman’s tried to be friendly neighbors and they expressed their concerns at meetings, but the facility wouldn’t listen and instead sought protection from nuisance complaints by having itself designated as an agricultural area. The Boreman’s took up the fight and challenged the designation in court. The issue made it to the Iowa Supreme Court which upheld the Boreman’s argument that the designation was actually a taking without compensation. The hog facility appealed and the U.S. Supreme Court wound up taking on the issue. The Boreman’s, who had funded the entire court battle with their own private funds, won. “Against all that power they won against the odds,” said Andrews. “Stories like these are a David and Goliath on a local level,” says Andrews. “And they can be multiplied. These are folks who won against the odds, and so can we.” Andrews finished his speech by reminding his listeners that “we must keep our convictions clear and keep hope alive.” And the farmers and ranchers in the audience left with a little green ribbon pinned to their lapel to remind them that keeping hope alive starts with doing little things.