Category Archives: Community Development

The Importance of Fiber

Importance of Fiber title

This post has become stale. I’ve been picking at it for so long that finally it just turned blue and hairy. It just never morphed into the dynamic sexy piece I was aiming for. However, after attending a very heated government meeting that covered several topics, one of which was infrastructure for businesses, I felt like it was still very relevant.

There were several good points that came up during the meeting, some of which I agreed with and some of which I didn’t. One that struck me was an argument that more funds should be diverted away from county services (payroll) and instead directed toward infrastructure that will attract businesses…which I agree with on the surface. Newton County is rural, and residents, unless they want their taxes to skyrocket, should not expect the same level of service that they would receive in an area with a higher population and higher tax rate. But the argument can also be made that these services are infrastructure. Would a business want to be located in an area with poorly plowed roads or a barely visible law enforcement presence? I’m not sure.

Are there areas that should be trimmed, yes of course, it is government. The discussion mainly became heated about the method of searching for where to cut, which I won’t get into, but I’m sure you can read more about it in the local paper The Newton County Enterprise

So, back to this post—about infrastructure—which is not incredibly sexy but as my brother Thad told me, still really important. Plus I also had Thad make a specific trip to take a photo for me, albeit not a very good photo, I had to publish it, or I think he would kill me.


The importance of fiber
Fiber is substance, it not only fills you it fuels you, it makes everything work better. It’s an essential nutrient that lots of people talk about few take advantage of. But what I’m referring to isn’t dietary fiber, its fiber optic internet.

It makes everything work better
The lightning fast speeds allow you to watch three adorable internet cat videos at the same time and download that full length HD movie in seconds. It also means those critical medical files such as CT scans, lab reports and other information can more easily be collected, transferred and sent to your doctor. Fiber internet is also vital as businesses grow and rely more and more on the data transferred over the internet…as this photo shows.


It’s an essential nutrient
My family owns a convenience store that has dominated our lives for over 30 years. When I was behind the cash register, there was a lot of information flowing through my brain that resulted in the keys punched on the register and a sale made. There was no credit card at the pump and I was more likely to receive a grimy $5 bill than a swipe of credit card. But now everything is done electronically from the cards swiped at the pump, to the taxes paid, to the cash register that allows us to monitor sales from anywhere. But moving that much information through our current internet connection is cumbersome. We need fiber to keep things moving quickly, we need this essential nutrient in order to better absorb the data running through the store every day.

Internet Cables
I know not the best form of photography ever. But it gets the point across right? There are a lot of cables

Here is a photo of a cute baby to make up for my brother’s horrible photography skills.

Otto Cool Baby

A lot of people talk about fiber
I can tell you all about how awesome and important fiber internet is but it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before by people more knowledgeable than myself. The following excerpt is from a piece featured in Inside Indiana Business by Cullen McCarty, the president of Smithville Digital, a telecommunications provider located near Bloomington. The full article can be found here.

“In a post-Great Recession business climate that includes a growing role for Big Government (whether anyone wants it or not), Indiana needs compelling and personal incentives to reverse these future-sapping trends. If Indiana can create new opportunities that represent exciting and fulfilling challenges that have high payoffs, we’ll likely see more young people stay and grow their home state.

Added to this attraction mix is the fact that young people, particularly young single people and couples who do not yet have children, living in a region that has a distinctive “sense of place” and viable entertainment opportunities is important. Increasing numbers of young people express a preference for “green,” environmentally friendly areas that may be close, but not too close, to large urban areas. Young professionals today also increasingly telecommute or maintain home offices to work.

 How does Indiana fulfill these preferences and attract and keep young people here?

 Perhaps surprisingly, and as several research studies confirm, high-speed and high-capacity fiber-based broadband can and does play a direct role in achieving these critical goals. ‘Broadband” has become an almost meaningless term, as the federal government defines it in several different ways. On the other hand, one gigabit connectivity is a phrase that packs a punch. One gigabit connectivity means one’s home office can handle almost any kind of data modeling or intensive bandwidth-hungry applications. It means that young professionals and young couples have the increased capacity to create a high-tech “sense of place,” even though they may choose to live in a semi-rural area.

 The presence of high-speed fiber in a region is a game-changer. Without it, rapidly growing business centers like the WestGate@Crane Technology Park, a 600-acre high-tech region that will soon likely be a hub of energy research and development in a rural area, could not exist. Couple that with the opening of I-69 through a long-underserved rural region with big data pipes driving deep into the area, and you have some catalysts cooking off that can create real change.”

Few Take Advantage of it…
The presence of fiber internet is slowly expanding across the country and rural America, but it will be those communities that are at the forefront of this technology that will gain the most. Not only will they be ahead of their rural peers and have a competitive edge for business development, these communities will also demonstrate their forward thinking and strategic planning. My guess is an expanding business, a company on the move, or a resident looking to relocate might value forward thinking and strategic planning in their new community.

Lunch, Foreigners and Agritourism

I felt bad for the worker at Subway. Foreigners were in line ahead of me, and they didn’t know the procedure for ordering a sandwich. When the woman behind the counter asks, “What cheese?” The couple chats between themselves trying to decipher what she said and finally what cheese they want.

You would think based on the people in line ahead of me and the license plates and cars in the parking lot outside that I was at a Subway near the city, but I was closer to a cornfield than a shopping mall. I had stopped at the Subway next to Fair Oaks Farms for lunch. It’s amazing to think about the variety and number of people that stop at this destination. Whether you’re a fan of Fair Oaks Farms or not (or as locals refer to it- The Dairy) the company has tapped into something with incredible potential. Potential that I wish more local people would pay attention to, Agritourism (capitalized because it’s that important).

So what is this…agri who ha? As defined by Melinda Geisler from Iowa State University, Agritourism is activities like visiting a working farm or any agricultural, horticultural or agribusiness operation to enjoy, be educated, or be involved in what is happening at that locale. Examples include:

  • Farm tours for families and school children,
  • day camps
  • hands-on chores
  • self-harvesting of produce
  • hay or sleigh rides
  • overnight stays in a bed and breakfast.

According to Geisler, the rural United States is a popular tourist destination. As I resident of rural America or as my wonderful friend Michelle said to me…”Sara, you live in the BFE,” I find this shocking. Newton County? Popular? Crazy…

It gets better. Nature-based tourism, or ecotourism , works well with the agritourism market. Ecotourism is usually comprised of activities like hunting, fishing, photography, bird watching and visiting parks. If only Newton County had some of these draws…

Oh wait…

Kankakee Sands

The Nature Conservancy Kankakee Sands

Willow Slough Fish and Wildlife Area

LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area

We totally have ecotourism destinations and activities.

Other Related Tourism Markets

Rural Weddings
Weddings are an expensive and big business. I should know, I got married 18 months ago and it still hurts to think about much money we spent. (Our wedding was amazeballs though, even the bartenders said so). Despite our attempt to have a no frills, DIY affair….you just spend money, it’s crazy. Every cute insanely expensive thing catches your eye as the perfect detail for your big day. How can you NOT spend $$$ on adorable cake toppers and pretty stamps and glittering table decorations? Weddings are a $48 billion a year business and the average wedding in America is around $22,000. Guess what is one of the more important items for a wedding? Location, and outdoor weddings are attractive to many couples because the natural decor can’t be duplicated. Also, rural locations are appealing because they can sometimes be more affordable when  compared to an urban locale.

Just to be clear though, having your wedding in a rural location can also be a ton of work. This is something I also know about, as we had ours at the county fairgrounds…no real kitchen, restrooms were a bit of a jog from the venue, and the building had power but little else. There are just a lot of details, but people are willing to pay someone else to worry about those details. Meanwhile, the rural location gets some great easy marketing from beautiful wedding photos. Businesses in the area (such as bakeries, catering, photographers) benefit from the money spent on their services and wedding guests represent an influx of new potential customers in possibly untapped markets.

Starting an agritourism business wouldn’t be easy, but no small business is “easy.”
University of Iowa specialists state there are three things to really look at before even considering an agritourism venture:

  • Define the attraction
  • Create a marketing plan
  • Examine important details like extra labor expenses, insurance and biosecurity.

These points are geared toward current agriculture producers and adding an agritourism aspect would require additional diverse resources. More labor may be necessary and the marketing work might take time away from typical farm work. Also a farm’s risk and liability increases when visitors are factored in. Close proximity to a significant population center is another important factor. I think Newton County has that covered…


Many producers who are involved in agritourism note there is synergism in having non-competing agritourism enterprises in the area to increase traffic to the area and provide more tourism attractions for customers.

According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, 23,350 farms indicated they provided agritourism and recreation services valued at $566 million. Of the total farms, 3,637 farms indicated gross farm receipts of $25,000 or more.

Agritourism is valuable, not only for a rural area such as Newton County Indiana but also for people from urban and suburban areas. Visitors can explore, learn and enjoy both the natural resources in our area and the agricultural processes involved in food production. Residents could benefit from the economic and community development agritourism generates.

Just my thoughts…as I enjoyed my Subway sandwich.

***On a side note

This post was slightly delayed due toworking on a friend’s blog (hopefully an update on that soon) and providing my brother with feedback for his own. Woo! I’m inspiring others to write. Fantabulous! Check out my brother’s blog: Other great blogs to check out that I forgot in my previous post Other Word Connoisseurs include; The Blogess and Hyperbole and a Half. They’ll be added to Blog Love. Enjoy!

Additional Info:

What is Agritourism?

Official: Agritourism vital to Indiana economy