Blog for Rural America

The Center for Rural Affairs, a private, non-profit organization, is working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities. Permission to reprint items from this web log is hereby granted, on the condition that clear credit is given to the original source of the material. If the blog provides information for a story, please let us know by sending an email to

Monday, August 01, 2005

Community Revitalization Dialogue - Part I

- from the desk of Michael Holton, Center for Rural Affairs,

Community Revitalization Dialogue - Part I

Opening the BridgeTwo months ago, I asked for names and email addresses to start a dialogue regarding community revitalization. I never dreamed that it would bring over 150 people wanting to talk about their communities or ways to improve them. In an effort to make this as streamlined as possible so that people would not be overwhelmed with computer clutter, we at the Center for Rural Affairs decided to incorporate this dialogue into our web log (BLOG) to let you talk with each other as well.

Although this is just an experiment to see if we can help communicate those remarkable ideas that innovative communities have with others, it certainly can be changed if necessary. I am confident that people who participate in this BLOG will voice their opinion.As you noticed by the title of this initial dialogue, it refers to the bridging and bonding discussion that was in our newsletter articles several months ago. Dr. Cornelia Flora wrote in her book, Rural Communities, that bonding is a common phenomenon that binds people together in times of crisis and celebration while bridging refers to the ability of small rural communities reaching across to other towns or agencies to help them through difficulties. What causes this distortion of behavior is not that difficult to understand. It comes from pride.

While pride is often referred to as a deadly sin, it is also the same spirit that empowered pioneers in this area to persevere tremendous hardships. The only help that was sought was from neighbors and others in the same situation. This was the bonding needed for early pioneer survival. Times have changed and so do our needs. Bridging has to be understood and utilized much better by our small rural communities and this dialogue may actually promote this type of behavior. Voice your opinion about what is right or wrong about your community and help others learn from these conversations. We can make a difference with this BLOG in helping our communities not only survive but actually thrive.

Posted, on behalf of Michael Holton,
by John Crabtree,
402-687-2103 ext 1010
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 6:12 AM, Blogger C. Van Milligen said…

    We have been asked by a number of small communities to assist in various development projects. While we focus on agriculture projects we do not rely on them exclusively.

    For example, high technology opportunities exist in the small towns and unincorporated areas the same as in the larger cities.

    We work with poultry, greenhouses, recirculating aquaculture, dairy and meat animals, small scale and industrial sized operations. These can be single operators or cooperatives.

    Conversion of brownfields, development of fallow land, reconstruction of historic or unused structures are all development opportunities. An old school building or old Walmart can become a rural opportunity center for a variety of operations. Small city lots can become neighborhood magnets with gardens for produce, flowers or recreation.

    Use of a large empty building for recirulating shrimp or Tilapia production along with salad greens can bring jobs and local food production to a neighborhood in Gary , Indiana or Washington, LA.

    Many things are possible.

  • At 1:26 PM, Anonymous Michael L. Holton said…

    I think that this is a great idea and one way to save some of the main areas in our rural landscape.

    First of all, the definition of a brownfield is a tract of land that has been developed for industrial or commercial purposes. It was then polluted or abandoned or underused. Brownfields are sites that when perceived as an environmental hazard make redevelopment complicated.

    Originally, the idea for the brownfields were for urban renewal but with pressure, the EPA and others have revamped much of the interpretation to include rural areas such as the Applachian communities useage of the Brownfield Economic Redevelopment Initiative.

    Rural communities are now at the forefront for assessment and clean-up.

    One of the obstacles listed for the use of these EPA funds is that there is no formal venue for communication in exchanging information and guidance about brownfield.

    BLOGs like this could be a great way to see what interest is out there.

    If you would like any more information on brownfield restoration and/or redevelopment, call your local EPA office and ask for more information.

  • At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    do you have any information of how to preserve, restore and/or develop an old building with potential historical signficance? I am thinking specifically of an old school building in my community and there are, of course, other old school buildings in a lot of small rural communities.

  • At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Michael L. Holton said…

    There are several ways to obtain grants or funds for restoring historic schoolhouses and other significant buildings. Massachussets, for example, go through the "Friends of Historic Preservation" to obtain funding to preserve their schoolhouse heritage. San Jose State college helped to restore and preserve buildings in California in the way that you are describing. My best advice to you is to talk to your State office of Economic Development and ask them about ways to preserve buildings that have historical value. If they can't answer you, respond to me in this BLOG and let me know what state you are in so that I may guide you in the right direction!

  • At 2:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I too am part of a registered non-profit community group that is trying to raise the funds to move and restore the last remaining one rooom schoolhouse in our rural upstate NY community. We are however trying to do this without creating burden on our local, state or federal government. That eliminates a lot of grants we would otherwise be eligible for. We have done all the usual community fundraisers, dinner, sales drives etc., and will continue with those. Any suggestions on possible grants we could seek to help with our project?


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