To keep things a little more active here than they’ve been lately, I’ll not only be writing profiles of creative types, but I’ll also be hosting guest posts about subjects I find interesting. As someone who’s lived in different small towns around the US (including North Dakota) as well as in Germany, this seemed fitting for the first one.
By Lindsay Sterling
Lindsay is a stay at home mom and Pinterest queen. Writing has been her passion since she was 10 years old.
When the stressors of city life start to overwhelm, packing up and moving to a simpler rural environment can be tempting. Former U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) didn’t help urban matters when he released “Urban Danger,” a pro-rural America documentary that warns of collapsing big-city utility infrastructure and impending damage that could take months or years to repair.
There was no mass exodus when Bartlett released his film in 2009. In fact, some studies suggest just the opposite. City dwellers often think moving to the country means giving up modern conveniences and access to jobs, entertainment and technology. Country folks don’t want the pollution, noise and stress. Perhaps rural America needs a good PR agent.
During a speech addressing a farm group in December 2012, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said rural communities are losing their influence in Washington. His message was ominous, as he told the group more than half of U.S. rural communities have experienced sharp declines in recent years. More people are dying than being born today in rural communities, according to Vilsack, and without new people moving in, rural communities aren’t going to be able to maintain their political clout.
However, small town America has plenty to offer: diverse cultural histories, spectacular scenery, hiking trails, authentic people, clean fresh air and myriad entertainment venues, from the Saturday night square dance to Beethoven on the lawn.
The Smithsonian Magazine’s list of the 20 Best Small Towns to visit in 2013 touts rural locations that offer visitors a chance to see civic pride in action. Most communities support and encourage economic growth, get behind talented musicians and artisans, and work to preserve their unique local history, the magazine reports.
Renewable Energy Solutions
Forward-thinking town leaders in towns such as Lenoir, N.C. (population 18,000, according to 2010 U.S. Census numbers), partner with mega-corporations such as Google to bring new technology and fresh life to their cities. North Carolina offered Google tax incentives upward of $250 million. A collaborative effort with Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric provider, is creating clean energy options that will someday benefit all utility users.
The Future of Rural America
Vilsack is worried about his constituents on the farm losing their relevancy, but small-town America is about more than the farmer driving his Husqvarna tractor in the field and country music jamborees at the Fourth of July festival.
It is about quaint villages teeming with Civil War memorabilia welcoming tourists into their midst. It’s about oil boomtowns in North Dakota and wind-energy fields in Harpers County, Kan., bursting at the seams with new residents. Rural life offers clean air, home-grown vegetables and healthy fruits. It’s living at a slower pace and using your time and energy to get to know the neighbors.
Rural America is facing challenges in some parts of the country today. Even with these challenges, many small towns are thriving. Many community leaders look toward solutions to bring their communities into the 21st century, without losing the charm and peaceful atmosphere. Perhaps Bartlett should have shouted the virtues of country living instead of extolling the dangers of staying in the city—more people might have listened to his message.
What are your predictions for rural America? Tell us in the comments.