Ground Level is an MPR News project providing news coverage, resources, connections and conversations on important topics in Minnesota communities.
The steadily growing number of topic pages you can find here is to give you insight in ways that inform and enlighten and let you see opportunities to take action.
The ax or the tax? That's increasingly the question before cities, schools and counties in Minnesota as a tougher government spending environment plays out against a backdrop of a struggling economy.
Minnesotans are finding new ways to tackle water pollution in their communities, forming collaborations, testing farming techniques, requiring property owners to take steps and turning to technology to help matters.
Under the greatest budget pressure in years, Minnesota cities are both trimming what they do and exploring new ways to provide services.
Like many communities in the "collar" around the Twin Cities, Baldwin Township in Sherburne County faces choices related to growth, taxes and a future shaped by the housing bust.
Todd County has more than its share of elderly people. Will existing networks of family, volunteers and government programs remain strong enough as that proportion grows?
The conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level and MN Today examining the Skills Gap in Minnesota
The conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level and MN Today examining the demands, pitfalls and solutions to an ever increasing transit need.
The second conversation hosted by MPR News' Ground Level project in conjunction with the central Minnesota "Resilient Region" project deals with the availability of affordable housing in the five-county area.
This is the first conversation MPR News' Ground Level project hosted in conjunction with the central Minnesota "Resilient Region" project. It deals with the economic engines of the five-county area.
If your economy depends on clean water, how do you make sure the water stays clean while you take advantage of it?
One of the things made clear in our online chat about farming practices and water pollution was that what people do on the ground in their communities matter. It's also clear in the responses we received from our seven "water panelists" when we asked them about it.
A great conversation on farming practices and water quality with Redwood Falls farmer Bruce Tiffany and water quality director Kris Sigford of the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy ranging from voluntary action that might change farming practices to setting priorities for the state.
As much as any region of Minnesota, the Arrowhead is a complex brew of powerful economic forces, engaging cultural history, new ways of thinking about the environment and changing politics. MPR News and Northlands NewsCenter hosted a forum in April 2011 at the Duluth Radisson, the conversation was hosted by MPR News' Cathy Wurzer.
Ground Level asked nine health care providers to tell us one thing that would make rural health care better in Minnesota.
Over the past week, four bicyclists and one runner from the University of Minnesota have been crossing the state from west to east, stopping at farms along the way to explore innovations. As part of the project, called “Grown to Run,” the team has posted a short video every day showing a different aspect of Read more →
A group of University of Minnesota graduate students and professors will run and bike across Minnesota in order to show farming innovations to school kids. Read more →
A new Blandin Foundation survey of rural Minnesotans shows sunbstantial contrasts among regions, particularly between the southwestern prairies and the northeastern woods. Read more →
A University of Minnesota Extension researcher surveyed health institutions in western Minnesota and found considerable interest in using local food in their meals. He also determined that if producers extend their season with greenhouses and better storage technology they can double their market. Read more →
Stimulated by a report suggesting rural Minnesota has lost influence, some 30 representatives of foundations, the University of Minnesota extension, and regional and state officials started work on an effort to organize a rural voice. Read more →
The Whole Farm Co-op in Long Prairie, around since 1997, is changing the way it provides local farm produce and meats to customers, mainly in the Twin Cities. The changes are driven by competition from other local food sources. Read more →
Legislation in both Minnesota houses would spend $500,000 a year to create a broadband development office that would track and promote ways to increase high-speed Internet availability in the state. Read more →
St. James resident Irma Marquez this month became one of the earliest Latinos in the nation to received deferred status allowing her legally to stay in the United States for two years and to find work. Read her story here ▶
Kerry and Juan Cuate opened a Mexican bakery, Panaderia Mi Tierra, in downtown Worthington, Minn. The bakery now caters to the larger community, bringing the diverse population together.
We're gathering stories from people who have moved back to rural parts of Minnesota after leaving for school or work, or who have moved to rural Minnesota for the first time as adults. Thanks so much for your contributions.
by Jennifer Vogel, edited by Michael Olson, MPR News
10 transit systems in Minnesota with the largest percentage gains and losses 2007-2011.
Outstate transit ridership rose 12 percent between 2007 and 2011. Outstate Minnesota is thought of as dominated by car travel, and it is. And what's intriguing is that some places, like Montevideo, Wadena, Hibbing and St. Peter, far outstripped the overall rate of increase. Others, like Northfield, Faribault and Nobles County, declined by double-digit percentages.
In an era of high overhead, ever more byzantine regulations and payment models, cuts to Medicaid and Medicare benefits, and large medical systems swallowing independent practices, Rutten Wasson relishes her straight-forward manner of practicing. By Jennifer Vogel, MPR News
Video by Vickie Kettlewell Osakis, Minn.
Carol Ford and Chuck Waibel operate Garden Goddess Greenhouse and sell fresh produce to 20 families all winter. Now they want to expand operations, growing more and acting as a middleman for neighboring farms to reach the growing local food market.
Video by Molly Bloom, Minnesota Public Radio
With just 3,558 residents, or six people per square mile, Travis County along the South Dakota border is Minnesota's least populated -- and it fits most common definitions of frontier. It can be lonely, so people have come to rely on a far-flung network of agencies and collaborators to serve a population that's also one of the oldest in the state. We looked at how the county copes these challenges as part of our Forced To Choose series.
Photos by Ann Arbor Miller for MPR News
by Molly Bloom, Minnesota Public Radio, Curtis Gilbert, Minnesota Public Radio
On December 15, 2012, over 150 central Minnesota residents gathered to consider what their future should look like.
Hear what residents and business owners think about the Central Minnesota 2035 'Resilient Region' project.
If you've heard Jon Foley on MPR News talk shows or seen him give presentations at the University of Minnesota or elsewhere, you've seen him work pretty hard at looking for a middle ground.
He directs the Institute on the Environment at the U and one of his main arguments is that the world needs to look at agriculture in a different way.
I went looking for my grandparents in the newly released 1940 Census forms but found my real reward when the face of Ardelle Neufeld, an 80-year-old woman I'd never met, lit up at BB's Diner in Mountain Lake. By Dave Peters, MPR News
Ground Level launched in early 2010 focusing on a wide variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state. The Ground Level Blog chronicles the wide variety of topics with over 500
We identify topics that are significant and complex and that play out uniquely at the local level. We want to explore those issues in which people taking action in their communities make a difference and can serve as guides for others.
Ground Level launched in early 2010 and shines a light on a variety of topics, from the growing complexity of Minnesota's local food system to cities preparing for new fiscal realities, from exurban growth in Baldwin Township to the quest to expand broadband access across the state.
We experiment with coverage on a variety of platforms. This includes text, audio and video online, of course - the Ground Level blog, a series of topics pages and social networking, for example. It also includes on-air coverage, public forums both virtual and real-world and collaboration with community-based media.
Our audience consists of Minnesotans interested in community life, particularly those who are taking an active part in it or helping others do the same. Ground Level is very much an experiment -- in finding ways to learn about and tell stories, in working with other organizations, in walking up to the line between providing insight and advocating specific actions. Our goal is to inform and give people the ability and incentive to engage with their community. We invite your feedback and your ideas, via the blog, twitter at @MPRGroundLevel, phone calls, emails, whatever. Join us.
About the team:
Dave Peters directs MPR's project on community journalism, looking for ways Minnesota residents are making their towns, cities and neighborhoods better places to live. He joined MPR News in 2009 after more than 30 years as a newspaper and online reporter and editor. Contact Dave
Jennifer Vogel reports and writes for the Ground Level project, focusing on complex topics that play out in Minnesota's communities and that involve residents getting engaged with the challenges of the day. She is a longtime Twin Cities writer and editor who joined MPR News and Ground Level in January 2010. Contact Jennifer
Support for Ground Level is provided
by the Bush Foundation.