Nevada’s USDA rep sees technology besting ‘penalty of distance’

The phrase “penalty of distance” pervades points made by Sarah Adler, USDA rural development specialist, as the Northern Nevadan touts ways to build sustainable communities. Technology is just one way, she says, to overcome or curtail the penalty of distance in places with sparse populations spread across many miles. Adler sees other aids as well, and she’ll travel to places as far away as England or as close as Silver Springs to carry her message.In Silver Springs on Tuesday, she said the Nevada area east of Carson City is building sustainable community via health care coordination, substance abuse prevention, promotion of a local food system and the like. It is done by bringing people together via technology or in the flesh.“It’s not magic; it’s a mosaic,” Adler said at a gathering of the Healthy Communities Coalition of Lyon and Storey counties. Despite troubles emanating from the recent recession, she added: “It’s not hanging by a thread. It’s weaving a tapestry.”Adler, who works out of Carson City, carries the formal title Nevada state director for United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development. She also is on the Lyon-Storey Healthy Communities Coalition board. Tuesday’s Western Nevada Regional Food Summit at Silver Stage High School in Silver Springs attracted many people interested in building a local food system, They hailed not only from Lyon and Storey counties, but also from Reno/Washoe County, Douglas County, Churchill County and Carson City.During the morning session, the audience heard from Kathleen Merrigan, USDA deputy director, via a video in which Merrigan called Adler an “energizer bunny” of Northern Nevada rural development.Earlier this month, Adler went with four others from Northern Nevada to England for another gathering called “Building Sustainable Regional Community’s in Today’s World.”“It was a tremendous experience,” she said of the Oct. 15-16 consultation that drew folks from Europe, the British Commonwealth, the United States and elsewhere. “I went on my own time and my own dime.”She said various things were discussed there, among them using technology such as broadband, prodding education to teach critical thinking and match training to needed job skills for employers, as well as promoting local-regional food market systems.“We were able to provide some important perspectives,” she said of the five Nevadans, particularly perspectives regarding how to overcome the penalty of distance where vast areas are sparsely settled.In addition, the Nevadans and others heard about using technology to combat distance from Lord David Putnam, one of the keynote speakers and the maker of the movies “Chariots of Fire” and “The Killing Fields.”And as she described her trip abroad, Adler tied it in with Tuesday’s Silver Springs gathering.She said an important point made in England was that local/regional food systems with economic vitality reduce the carbon footprint, minimizing distance-to-market problems of the global food marketing system.


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