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Farmer Seed and Nursery building sold to self-storage firm
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The Farmer Seed and Nursery Co. building, a downtown Faribault landmark for more than 130 years, has been sold.

Rochester-based Midwest Indoor Storage closed on the property Sept. 30, paying $400,000 for the 2.16-acre site, according to Edina Realty’s website. That’s almost $52,000 less than what Rice County assessors estimated was the property’s market value.

Realtor Royal Ross, who listed the property, said it’s his belief that the company, which has eight locations in Minnesota and Iowa, plans to use the building as self-storage once remodeling is complete. The Fourth Street NW location is already listed on the company’s website. A message left for company officials was not immediately returned.

Ross said the buyers are aware of the property’s status on the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that will make it difficult, but not impossible, to make exterior modifications. Changes to the interior generally don’t require approval from the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission, though they will require building permits.

The stone and wood frame structure was constructed in phases between the early 1890s and 1920s, according to information from the National Register of Historic Places. The building was placed on the Historic Register in April 1982. The stone portion was built in the 1890s and occupied by the Faribault Thresher Co. before it was purchased by Farmer Seed in 1899.

Additions were added later: a two-story elevator in 1902, an east wing in 1906, second and third stories over the main section in 1907 and 1909, and the fourth and fifth stories in the 1920s.

Self-storage is a growing industry, despite pandemic-induced setbacks experienced in 2020, according to a recent report from Marcus & Millichap, a real estate brokerage, research and advisory firm.

“As a new year progresses, the self-storage sector is poised to ride several demand tailwinds,” it reported. “Remote learning and working are taking away storage space in the home, while businesses also must put aside excess items amid physical distancing. A relocation trend to less dense areas may also drive new storage use.”

The company first became known for seeds sold to farmers, but by the early 1900s, it was selling seed for residential vegetable and flower gardens. Bedding plants, shrubs and trees were added in the 1920s.

Farmer Seed Co. was founded in Chicago in 1888 by William L. Kueker and his brother-in-law Otto Kozlowski. As associate editors for a monthly farm newspaper in Chicago, they discovered a need for seed sources through numerous inquiries from farmers.

It was then that the southern part of Minnesota, known for its agricultural activity, was being settled by German-American farmers. In 1893, the men moved their business to a small two-story building on Faribault’s West Fourth Street. A German-language catalog was distributed to 10,000 farmers in Minnesota and Wisconsin and specialized in pasture grasses, clovers, seed grains and corn seed.

A second catalog was published in English soon after, and circulation increased to 20,000.


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$2M federal grant to help provide roadmap to graduation for South Central students
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For many students, earning a degree can be tricky to navigate. Under conventional learning models, college students have a vast array of classes and programs they can participate in and it can be difficult to know which courses will help them meet their graduation and career goals and which ones are offering skills they don’t need.

South Central College students work in the campus computer lab. A $2 million U.S. Department of Education grant will help the college implement a new learning model designed to help SCC students make course selections appropriate for their chosen major. (Carson Hughes/southernminn.com)

Make too many errors and a student may miss opportunities to participate in programs optimized for their career goals, delay their planned graduation date or even wind up with a degree that doesn’t match their professional interests.

To address these challenges, schools like South Central Community College, with locations in North Mankato and Faribault, are implementing a new type of learning model: the guided learning pathway. On Sept. 28, the college announced that the institution received a $2.02 million grant from the United States Department of Education (DoED) to advance guided learning pathways for adult learners age 21 and over and under-represented students. The grant, which is funded through DoED’s Title III Strengthening Institutions Program, began Oct. 1, 2021 and continues for five years.

“Guided learning pathways will provide our students with a roadmap for success in their area ofinterest and ensure the classes they are taking are relevant to their program of study,” said SCC President Annette Parker. “These guided learning pathways will help all students successfully progress through their chosen academic program and will be especially helpful for adult learners and underrepresented students.”

Unlike the “cafeteria model,” where students choose from an abundance of programs while planning their degree, a guided pathways model gives students a roadmap of programs to take to further their education and career goals.

“If a student was interested in welding, we would work with them as an advisor to show them the courses that are required to earn that credential and the sequence of courses that makes the most sense over the time period they have in the time they want to achieve it,” said Jennifer Fager, SCC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs.

Guided pathways have grown increasingly popular among community colleges. As of 2018, more than 250 community colleges were implementing guided pathway reforms.

The model has shown promise in research by Columbia University. A 2018 study found that more than half of students who entered a program map in their first year earned a credential or transferred within five years. Students who started a program area in their third year had a success rate of just over 20% within five years

Students at South Central College study in the school’s lounge. (Carson Hughes/southernminn.com)

At South Central College, the $2 million grant will allow the school to implement several major reforms. First, the school would begin introducing college planning activities to adult learners early on, particularly in the first semester. The second strategy is to introduce multiple pre-college activities to better prepare adult learners before they have started attending classes.

Those activities include early conversations about what skills and courses are expected of students working towards specific degrees and summer bridge programs to help incoming students sharpen their skills in areas like mathematics before going back to school.

South Central College’s third strategy would change the advisory process to one that is more career focused and oriented around mapping out an educational pathway for students.

These tools are intended to equip adult learners, who often have to devote time to work or family outside of school, with a more structured route to graduation. At South Central College, 43% of the student population is 25 years or older.

“We know that some students have barriers getting from high school to post-secondary education and adult learners typically work full-time or they might have family dependents," said Fager. "They might not have had the opportunity to explore some career goals or even possess the knowledge of what degrees will get them into those occupations. If a student wants to be a nurse for example, recognizing that student needs to know chemistry and biology.”

Through setting expectations early and providing a clear path, South Central College hopes to follow other schools in increasing student retention and graduation rates. Florida State University for example implemented program maps in the early 2000s and within 10 years saw year-to-year retention rates among freshmen increase from 88% to 92%. Four year graduation rates rose from 44% to 61% and students graduating with excess credits dropped from 30% to 5%.

“I think institutions like South Central College need to be prepared for more and more adult learners to join our ranks," said Fager. "This grant will allow us to ensure that adult learners are getting the kind of attention they need in order to succeed in post-secondary education.”


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Council puts together strategic plan for the next three years
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Though there are still a few more months until the start of the new year, the Faribault City Council is busy developing a picture of what the next three years will entail.

While on its annual council retreat Aug. 17, the council reviewed the Community Vision 2040 as background for preparation of the 2022-24 strategic plan.

According to the city’s website, the Community Vision 2040 “serves as a framework to help ensure the long-term success of the community and to articulated a vision of the community for the next 25-years. This framework paved the path for Journey to 2040 — a series of plans dedicated to the future of Faribault.”

Focusing mainly on the development of the plan, the council went through 89 of the initiatives contained within the Community Vision 2040. Following the retreat, all council members were asked to score all initiatives in one of five categories: completed, in progress, not city led, not a priority or consider for inclusion in the strategic plan.

Initiatives included categories from across the board like looking at the need for a second fire station, a community events center, sports complex, building partnerships with mental health stakeholders, exploring construction of an addition to the Community Center with Senior Center expansion, establishing a commercial rental licensing program for property owners leasing their properties to businesses, aggressively pursue blighted properties with incentives to sell or renovate and ensure appointed commissions and boards reflect the diversity of the community, among others.

In addition to the initiatives contained with the 2040 plan, council members were asked at the retreat for any other items to be considered for inclusion in the strategic plan. Nine items were proposed by the council as follows, greater incentives for downtown properties and/or businesses; construction of a new community center; upgrade expansion of the Interstate-35 County Road 45 Interchange; update the unified development regulations; expand small business assistance; enhancement of Lyndale Avenue corridor; men’s homeless shelter; vacant building registration and youth support/activities.

Twenty-nine initiatives were highlighted from the scores, and Murray asked councilors to narrow that list down to 15 to 20 at the Oct. 5 work session. After going through each of the 29 objectives, where council members gave a thumbs up or down to add it to the plan or not, Murray looked for further clarification on a few of the objectives.

A handful of the objectives consisted of similar topics, so after receiving direction from councilors, Murray grouped those together. After going through the 20 objectives from the 2040 plan, councilors discussed the items they suggested.

Councilor Janna Viscomi questioned a County Road 45 interchange project, and wondered if it might result in a delay in the County Road 9 project which has earned backing from state Sen. John Jasinski and state dollars to begin planning for a potential interchange. Mayor Kevin Voracek, who spearheaded the idea, was looking ahead to the future of Faribault as it continues to expand.

“If we keep expanding schools on the south and keep building new housing, all housing has to come down Ninth Avenue of Prairie Avenue,” said Voracek in his explanation behind the idea. “If you could bring them in to the south on roads that are designed to handle them, I think that would be nice.”

Voracek also recommended putting it into the community vision plan at least, so the idea is there if/when needed.

As for the Lyndale Avenue corridor enhancement, Councilor Royal Ross said he was mainly looking to create guidelines for that area to keep up with the look of the newer buildings that have been built along that stretch.

“I’d like to see building guidelines for that area,” said Ross. “I don’t want to see a metal pole shed, but that’s just me. There’s been a lot of investment in those buildings.”

Noticing that there aren’t many activities for youth ages 12 to 16 to participate in, Viscomi suggested coming up with ideas for additions to amenities (bike, kayak rentals, etc.) and find sponsors to fund the amenities. Voracek recommended having a work session to define what the main target would be with youth activities/support.

Addressing the various mental health topics in the objectives, Councilor Sara Caron said mental health is an issue that needs to be addressed. While there are some partnerships that have been developed, Murray said Police Chief Andy Bohlen could speak to the frustrations about the lack of movement about the mental health crisis from state legislators.

Anticipating that the mental health crisis is going to get worse, Viscomi wanted the city to be ready for when any funds come out from the federal and state level to address these issues.

“It would be a benefit for everyone that can benefit from it,” said Viscomi. “I think there’s a huge need for this.”

Voracek suggested adding the idea to bring a men’s homeless shelter to the city to the mental health piece as well.


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