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Of note: This week we highlight a story and column by Wisconsin Watch’s Bennet Goldstein, who reported on the growing presence of LGBTQ people in agriculture. “We’re not just raising food,” farmer Shannon Mingalone said. “We are creating safe spaces for people.” In a column, Goldstein — a Midwestern transplant — reflected on how his own views about rural communities shifted while reporting the story for the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk.

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Shannon Mingalone, left, and Eve Mingalone are seen in their hoop house at their business Ramshackle Farm in Harvard, Illinois, on Oct. 19, 2022. The couple started their small growing operation in 2021, after moving to the area from Colorado. They grow lettuce and Asian greens over the winter using hydroponic farming techniques. They also have 50 raised beds outside, and a hoop house for growing vegetables indoors during the winter. Shannon said she found the local queer community surprisingly amazing. The farm is named after one of Shannon’s favorite bands, Ramshackle Glory. The couple has two children, Adelaide, 5, and Klein, 3. (Coburn Dukehart / Wisconsin Watch)

Queering the family farm: Despite obstacles, LGBTQ farmers find fertile ground in Midwest

Wisconsin Watch — December 26, 2022

Shannon and Eve Mingalone avow that their farmers market booth is “very gay.” They hang strings of pride flags and sell rainbow stickers to help pay for gender-affirming care, like hormone replacement therapy, for Eve. Sometimes, when parents and their teenagers pass the booth, the adults glance, then speed ahead. The kids pause for a second look. Shannon, 34, hopes it means something for them to see LGBTQ professionals out and succeeding.

Related column: Listening to LGBTQ farmers helped me reconsider my place in the heartland

Chrissy Barnard is photographed in Superior, Wis., on Dec. 8, 2022. Barnard is a peer support specialist with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Wisconsin. She’s among many voices calling on lawmakers to overhaul a gap-riddled emergency mental health system that she said poorly served her and many others during crises. (Derek Montgomery for Wisconsin Watch)

‘You’re treated like a criminal’: Wisconsin eyes fixes for emergency mental health system

Wisconsin Watch — January 5, 2023

When Chrissy Barnard faced a mental health crisis and most needed care, law enforcement handcuffed her, placed her in the back of a patrol car and drove her five hours to Wisconsin’s only state-run mental health facility for the general public. Said Barnard: “The whole system needs to change, because it’s so traumatizing. You’re treated like a criminal from the get-go.”

Kathy Koch, right, steps out of a van after being transported to her home by Curative Connections driver Steve Maricque, left, on Dec. 29, 2022, in Green Bay, Wis. Curative Connections, a nonprofit, serves people with disabilities and the elderly, including transporting them to medical appointments and other important stops. Those services will become more important as Brown County’s population, like much of Wisconsin, increasingly skews older and less mobile. (Angela Major/WPR)

Wisconsin’s population is trending older. Where will non-drivers find transportation?

Wisconsin Watch/WPR — January 5, 2023

Public transit systems and nonprofits face challenges in making transportation accessible to aging Wisconsinites and people with disabilities. “A lot of the elderly in the area — nowadays their kids move away and they don’t have someone to get them to where they need to go,” says Steven Maricque, a driver for Curative Connections, a nonprofit that serves the Green Bay area. 

Related: Wisconsin workers with disabilities face transportation barriers 

Sgt. Jason Russell of the Dane County Sheriff’s Office speaks with a fellow officer during a traffic stop while on patrol earlier this month as part of a grant program designed to step up enforcement of impaired driving laws and reduce crashes. (Samantha Madar / Wisconsin State Journal)

More than 770,000 Wisconsin drivers have OWI conviction as drunken driving crashes rise

WPR — September 13, 2022

A culture of drinking in Wisconsin — a state flush with bars, liquor stores, beer gardens and tailgate parties — has always made the challenge of curbing intoxicated driving an uphill climb. But the upward trend in crashes, injuries and deaths is forcing safety advocates to double down on their efforts in an attempt to shift the course of the numbers.

Related coverage from the State Journal: Wisconsin OWI courts offer second chances, tough love for repeat drunken drivers; What’s keeping legislators from strengthening drunken driving laws in Wisconsin?; Great loss prompts family members to seek action on drunken driving.

Oneida Nation wetlands project manager Tony Kuchma walks near a soft stem bulrush on Aug. 23, 2022 at the headwaters of a tributary Trout Creek on the Oneida Reservation. (Mark Hoffman / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Farmers endured a rough year, but fertilizer companies cashed in

Investigate Midwest — December 28, 2022

Some farmers could not afford the rising costs of fertilizer, but the commodity’s prices have massively boosted company profits in 2022. One major player saw net earnings over the first nine months of 2022 jump more than 1,000% compared to a year earlier.

‘This accident could have been avoided’: Years later, federal agency releases findings on Superior refinery explosion

WPR — January 4, 2023

After more than four years, a federal agency found a Superior refinery’s lack of safeguards during a maintenance shutdown led to a 2018 explosion that injured three dozen workers and caused thousands of residents to temporarily evacuate.

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