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Green Ribbon Campaign Back Story


 Green Ribbon Campaign History

A green ribbon campaign, started in the mid-1980s when the Midwest was in the grips of a devastating farm crisis, is being reborn. Farm wife Ruth Ann Grimm of Bloomfield said she hopes that it will be the "same song, second verse."

"I read about the idea of the green ribbon in the December issue of Successful Farming (magazine)," she said. "It told about Rae Desautel, a retired farm wife from Grafton, N.D., and the local ministerial association that started the grassroots efforts to create an awareness about the crisis in farm country."

Mrs. Grimm -- who farms with her husband, Leon, north of Bloomfield -- explained how she took up the cause. "This was kind of a slow year for news, so I didn't have anything exciting to put in my annual Christmas letter," she said. "I decided to make a 'political statement.' "

She wrote in her letter to family and friends: "There have been other occasions for ribbons -- yellow for missing loved ones, red for AIDS, pink for breast cancer research and now green for American farmers and ranchers. Please wear these ribbons to show your support for the proud Americans who feed our nation."

The original cards were printed with:

"We Care -- In Prayer. Please wear this ribbon for all farmers & ranchers." 

MRS. GRIMM INCLUDED ABOUT 100 green ribbons in the family's Christmas letters. After reading a column by Joan Burney of Hartington, Mrs. Grimm sent her a copy of their Christmas letter, along with two green ribbons.

Mrs. Burney, who was instrumental in providing help and counseling for farm families during the '80s' farm crisis, later responded in her column about the need to support the project.

Mrs. Burney wrote, "Right beside my pink ribbon, I now have one that's Kelly green. Wouldn't it be great if they showed up on everyone's lapel and just kept showing up, until they reached all the way to Congress."

Mrs. Grimm's Christmas letter was starting to make an emotional political statement.

She also sent a Christmas letter and ribbons to her family's minister, the Rev. Tom Miller of St. Mark's Lutheran Church in Bloomfield.

Miller appreciated the idea and asked to take 100 green ribbons to the Rural Ministry Conference held Aurora in early February. The annual conference of the Nebraska Lutheran Synod is designed to equip pastors and rural congregations for the special challenges of ministry in rural areas.

Miller said, "This year the topic,'Crisis to Crisis: Caring for God's People,' was chosen to help pastors and other individuals think about how the church can care for and help people in what we think is a coming rural crisis." The Grimms were invited to join the panel, "Equipping the People for Spiritual Care," because they, like the other two couples, had faced the crisis of the '80s and survived.

Miller said, "We thought these farm couples could bring a wealth of experience and personal perspective to many pastors who were not in the rural setting during the farm crisis of the '80s. We know that we didn't respond in ways that were helpful then. We want to learn from the experiences of those who actually faced the crisis, so that we are more prepared to respond in helpfulways in these days."

CONTINUING, MILLER SAID, "We want to be prepared, to be able to offer helpful assistance in the way of prayer, encouragement, spiritual support and tangible support, for example, food banks and support groups." Miller said that the conference topic "was chosen some months ago, but when I got the green ribbon in Ruth Ann's Christmas letter, I explored it. It seemed appropriate to have the ribbons at our Rural Ministry Conference; they were given to all participants. Since then many of the participants have passed them on, and the idea with them, to local congregations and other areas."

"The Rural Ministry work group," he said, "has gotten permission to distribute the ribbons at our Nebraska Synod Assembly and Festival in Fremont in June. Our purpose there is to let a larger group of the church know about issues in our rural areas.

"Our hope is that the church, as a caring community, might take on a greater awareness of issues in the farming communities. We are expecting about a thousand people at these events."

Also in attendance at the Aurora conference was Art Anderson, a former mayor of Bloomfield and a certified parish ministerial associate.

Anderson said, "I thought it was a wonderful idea and saw what a positive response the green ribbons made to that group. As a member of the Bloomfield Ministerial Association, I presented it to the local Chamber of Commerce. The chamber, too, thought it was a great idea and a way of showing our support for the heart of the community -- farmers."

A group of chamber members made about 1,000 ribbons and fastened them to cards which read, in part: "The Bloomfield Chamber of Commerce Cares." The ribbons and cards were distributed one Sunday morning to parishioners at the four churches in Bloomfield and Lindy Good Shepherd.

"We ran out of ribbons," Anderson said. "It was great. Everyone wanted one. We made another thousand because many of the businesses on main street wanted to have them available for their customers. My hope is that the green ribbons will let farmers know that they are not alone, (that) we understand there is suffering going on out there and someone cares."

THE REV. MARCILLE Jensen of Creighton, a member of the Northeast Nebraska Ecumenical Rural Support Group, asked Mrs. Grimm to make 400 green ribbons to be distributed during a recent rural program in Creighton presented by Dr. Val Farmer of Fargo, N.D.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Grimm is buying rolls and rolls of green ribbon.

She has another way of spreading awareness to consumers across the country. An avid Internet user, she includes on her correspondence this quote by William Jennings Bryan:

"Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country."

Whenever Mrs. Grimm said she reads on the Internet of someone complaining about tile high cost of food, "I usually send in a message explaining a few things to them, such as the low prices that farmers actually are getting compared to the high prices in the stores. That it's not us who are making all the money."

She added, "My hope is that we can get the message out. If the small farmers all go under, the big corporations will control the food supply. If that happens, God help us all. Optimistically, awareness has to help."

More recent backgroung

Background for the original “Green Ribbon Campaign”

Margaret Bruce, a member of St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, in North Dakota, in 1998, developed the idea of circulating a green ribbon with a card stating "We care through prayer," to support struggling farmers. When the nationwide family farm crisis worsened, National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) began supporting the Green Ribbon Campaign at their 75th anniversary meeting to help bring attention to the sufferings of family farmers. (Source: Wikipedia)

Farm Women United (FWU) continues to support the Green Ribbon Campaign

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