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

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Community Revitalization Dialogue III - American ruralism and the clash with modern values

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

Community Revitalization Dialogue - Part III

American ruralism and the clash with modern values

In the New York Times on August 22, Abby Goodnough wrote about ruralism in Florida and what developers are looking for. The term ruralism in this case refers to the romantic notion that city and suburban dwellers are looking for peace and quiet. People are longing to own a pickup or tractor while watching birds in the day. It is the idea that people will buy a piece of the rural landscape to hear the wind in the trees.

The reason that the romantic notion of American ruralism is catching hold is that people long for a time that they remember and not what is reality. Many city and suburbanites grew up in rural areas and they want their children to experience that life. There is a major problem with this picture however.

Living in a rural setting that reminds them of the life that they may have grown up in is vastly different then what they really want. People want the convenience of “small-town” living without the hardships. Many rural communities existed for years and still exist with only the minimum resources to turn to. People long for that “chic” rural way of life but they also want Espresso houses, video stores and tanning salons in these communities. They want peace and quiet surroundings but convenience around the corner that living in the city brings.

If we are to promote the rural way of life as a means to help us attract people to our small communities in rural areas then we must be realistic with our marketing approach. What we need to make clear to everyone is that while rural living may appeal to many, it does not come without some price. To preserve our rural, local culture, as we know it, we cannot continue this schizophrenic desire to be both urban and rural.

Agree? Disagree? Post a comment here or for more information contact Michael Holton at

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Estate Tax Not a Burden to Farmers

New Study Shows Estate Tax Not a Burden to American Farmers

Only a very few farms would face the estate tax, according to a study of IRS data performed by the Congressional Budget Office.

A new report by the Congressional Budget office (CBO) dispels the notion that the estate tax is a burden to the nation’s farms, forcing them to sell their farms to pay the tax. In fact, exceedingly few farms will face the tax under the new exemption levels established by law in 2001.

The study, “Effects of the Federal Estate Tax on Farms and Small Businesses” was published in July. Analysts used tax returns from 1999 and 2000 to examine the effects of freezing the exemption level at $1.5 million, $2.0 million, or $3.5 million.

They found that under the $1.5 million exemption level – the current level – only 300 farm estates nationwide would have owed any estate tax in 2000. At the $2 million exemption level scheduled to take effect in 2006, only 123 farm estates would have owed estate taxes. The number dropped to 65 taxable farm estates in 2000 under the 2009 exemption level of $3.5 million.

Not only were few farms effected by the estate tax, those that were generally had enough liquid assets in 2000 to pay the tax without selling the farm. At a $2 million exemption, only 15 farm estates would have owed more in taxes than they could cover through their liquid assets. At a $3.5 million exemption, 13 farms would have faced that situation.

CBO cautions that it may have overstated the number of farm estates with liquidity constraints because certain assets held in trusts, like life insurance, were not used to calculate available assets. Estates with liquidity problems would also have had other options for paying the estate tax, such as spreading their payments out over 14 years. These would have allowed them to pay the tax without having to sell off farm assets.

For the purposes of their study, the CBO analysts defined a farm estate as one where the primary occupation of the decedent was farmer or farm worker. You can view the study on the Congressional Budget Office website,

With Congressional representatives back in Washington and faced with difficult budget cuts, these findings only strengthen the arguments in favor of keeping the estate tax. It brings in needed revenue that could help support programs that create opportunities for farmers, ranchers, small business owners, and rural communities. And that’s not money from those who can ill afford to pay it.

For more information contact: Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs, - or - John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Fundamentals of Rural Stereotyping

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

Fundamentals of Rural Stereotyping

Forget the idyllic picture of rural America; look instead at the individuality, innovation,and creativity taking place in our changing rural society

The myth of what is rural and what is not seems to be growing. We often lament the demise of rural America and the associated problems. Perhaps our biggest problem is that we – the people who live in rural areas – don’t understand what we are dealing with.

First, there is really no such thing as rural America. Each rural community in America is uniquely different. Our popular notion of a Norman Rockwell painting often clouds the great diversity that many rural communities harbor.

It is too easy to generalize from one visit to one particular rural place. Each rural community contributes to a rural average, but none is any more likely than the next to be “typically” rural.

One myth about rural places is that they offer a safe haven from problems that only exist in urban areas. While it is true that rates of violent crime and drug use tend to be a little lower in rural areas than in cities, the gap is closing. What we need to understand as we work with rural development is that rural society is changing.

Another interesting myth is stereotyping of the “brain drain” taking place in rural areas.The only fact related to this notion is the depopulation occurring in many rural areas. This has more to do with perceived opportunities and education than with a “brain drain.”

Indeed, some of the people who choose to live in smaller rural communities are extremely bright, entrepreneurial, innovative, and creative. Survival in these communities often needs these traits to flourish and bloom.

This is a critical time for rural development and keeping focus on this way of life. What we don’t need is to generalize everyone’s situation into a neat package and call it rural America.
Instead, we need to look at each community and develop policy accordingly. We can then put an action plan into use that enhances the assets each community brings to the very meaning and distinction of the word “rural.”

for more informatin contact: Michael L. Holton, or 402.687.2103 x 1015

Sign up for our new weekly “Rural Community Revitalization Conversation” with Michael Holton, premiering this month.

The conversation will take place here on the Center’s web log

Send an email to to indicate your interest or visit the blog and participate.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

New Homestead Act - Some Hope for Rural America

- from the desk of John Crabtree,, Center for Rural Affairs

New Homestead Act – Some Hope for Rural Communities

A new report by the Center for Rural Affairs concludes that the proposed New Homestead Act’s use of asset-building strategies, such as Individual Homestead Accounts, would capture much of the potential of these strategies for enhancing the lives of low and moderate income individuals and families in rural communities.

“We believe that nationally, based on assumptions of Individual Development Account use for small business development and rates of employment for those businesses, Individual Homestead Accounts could create or expand 153,000 businesses and create over 268,000 jobs in qualifying counties. The highest numbers of jobs would be created in Iowa, Texas, Illinois, West Virginia and Mississippi.” said Jon Bailey, Rural Research and Analysis Program Director at the Center for Rural Affairs and co-author of the report.

The report, Building Wealth in Rural Communities: The New Homestead Act and Individual Homestead Accounts, examines the Individual Homestead Account provisions of the New Homestead Act, which was reintroduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Senator Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and a bipartisan team of Senators.

“The New Homestead Act contains policy ideas to provide incentives for people to remain in, or to relocate to, rural counties that have experienced significant population loss over the last 20 years,” said Bailey.

“The New Homestead Act, and Individual Homestead Accounts specifically, while needing some modifications to address infrastructure and implementation challenges, offer real hope for rural residents and rural communities,” Bailey added.

For a copy of the full report, with state by state analyses, go to –

For more information contact - Jon Bailey,
or - John Crabtree,
or, as always, post a comment here

John Crabtree
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Rural folks will not give up fight any time soon

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, - When I finished reading Pete Letheby's August 12, 2005 column from the Grand Island (NE) Independent, the first thing I did was send him an e-mail to ask if I could publish his column on the Blog for Rural America. He said yes, so here it is. Thanks Pete, for your words and for your own fighting spirit, John Crabtree

Rural folks will not give up fight any time soon

Pete Letheby,

Nebraska's physical rural landscape remains dotted with corn fields, center pivots and feedlots. But the grass-roots perspective is slowly, and very surely, changing.

Last week's gathering in Greeley was a modest concourse on some of the environmental problems -- particularly those associated with industrial hog farms -- plaguing rural residents in Boone, Nance and Greeley counties. There were fewer than two dozen farmers in attendance, as well as four members of the media, a regional representative for the Sierra Club and Kate Allen, legislative aide for Omaha Sen. Don Preister, Nebraska's most environmentally-conscious state senator.

But it was a significant gathering. It showed the fight in some of Nebraska's rural citizens.
Now and well into the future, Nebraska's greatest selling point will probably be its quality of life, its rural aesthetics and its abundant natural resources.

Thus far, however, a majority of Nebraskans and their elected officials have been mostly indifferent and unresponsive to the environmental and quality-of-life problems emerging statewide. There is a strong, ingrained attitude that the state must continue on the same path, a "stay the course" mentality that is reluctant to change.

For those who hang onto that line of thinking, consider this: According to a 2002 study by the Nebraska Center for Rural Affairs, "at current trends, it is estimated that the farm and ranch share of the food system profit will reach zero."

That's zero, as in nothing, no dollars, zilch. By 2020, all the food system dollars will go to agribusiness, food processing, distribution and marketing.

That prospect, added to the likelihood of continued depopulation in rural Nebraska and a past penchant for overusing natural resources, means it's time to do things differently. It's time for some thinking outside the box. It's time to elect and appoint some visionary leaders who aren't tied to the traditional agricultural mindset that wrongly proclaims "bigger is better."

For example, gubernatorial candidate Dave Nabity has been criss-crossing the state telling Nebraskans that they need more mega-livestock operations.

Corporate-sized farms are often masked as "economic development." But the truth is that large-scale livestock operations don't create jobs because you have to subtract the number of nearby, smaller farmers forced out of business because of them. More importantly, industrial livestock and poultry farms often dynamite the quality of life for nearby rural residents.
As quality of life deteriorates, more and more rural Nebraskans are discovering that many in government aren't paying attention. (So what's new?)

At last Thursday's meeting, irate farmers focused their attention on the inaction of Nebraska's Department of Environmental Quality. But other elected officials and governmental agencies can share in the blame.

For example, Nebraska's 17-member Environmental Quality Council, appointed by the governor, includes representatives of the livestock industry, ag processing, crop production (also a Farm Bureau official), power generation, the chemical industry, the automotive/petroleum industry, heavy industry, food products manufacturing, labor, engineering and municipal and county government.

So tell me, where are the environmentalists on the Environmental Quality Council?

"It's stacked against us," said Jim Knopik, Nance County farmer.

That's why longtime, devoted Nebraska farmers such as Stanley Czarnik and Earl Stephens showed up at last week's meeting in Greeley. Stephens has received a letter from the Nebraska DEQ informing him that it won't pursue odor violations against the four hog farms within a mile and a half of his home in rural St. Edward.

"If things don't get better out here and if they continue to let them build (mega-hog farms), we're gonna have to get out and just let them have it," Stephens said.

"What chance do I got? I'm just an old farmer."

Czarnik, 72, has seen his farm land victimized by manure runoff from large hog farms. He says he won't quit the good fight anytime soon.

"Everyone's passing the buck," he said. "I've been farming here for 35 years. I'm going to fight this."

Government officials and agencies, farm commodity groups and others can choose to ignore Stephens, Czarnik and others in Nebraska who proudly defend a rural, family-oriented lifestyle that prizes its quality of life and natural resources.

But something tells me these hardy rural folks, and the growing awareness of the problems surrounding them, aren't going away anytime soon.

Pete Letheby is associate editor for The Independent, Grand Island, Nebraska. He can be reached by e-mail at

Posted, with permission, by John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Brain Belt

This post generated some interesting discussion. So, I thought I would bring it back for further consideration. Although I encourage whatever comments people have, I would be interested in what people think are the most important assets that rural communities have to offer that could be part of developing a Heartland "Brain Belt" strategy. John Crabtree,

(Originally posted July 25, 2005) - from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

The Brain Belt

Much has been made of the so-called “brain drain” in rural America. Young people are leaving our rural communities and taking the economic promise they carry with them, that has been the conventional wisdom.

But perhaps something else is happening.

Joel Kotkin, Irvine Fellow at the New America Foundation wrote recently in the journal American Enterprise, “What used to be known as the nation’s Grain Belt is increasingly becoming our Brain Belt…more and more, the country’s competitive edge in practical economics this century will come from previously unlikely places like Sioux Falls, Des Moines and Fargo…Remarkable young people more often stay, or…come home again. And other Americans…are heading into these new comfortable economic hotbeds, bringing with them fresh energies and ideas, and an appreciation for the wholesome values that people in these places hold dear.”

Sixty percent of Nebraska high school students take upper level math courses, more than any other state and 14% above the national average. In North Dakota, 60% of young people are enrolled in college by age 19. And the highest high school graduation rates in the nation are in Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin and Nebraska, respectively. Clearly, we have remarkable schools and remarkable young people.

If Kotkin’s premise is also sound, and he presents a strong case, then we must examine ways that rural communities can also find a niche within this trend. Can innovative workers and entrepreneurs provide the kind of high-wage information technology services – programming, systems analysis, etc. – that currently are often sent “offshore”? Can rural entrepreneurs collaborate to provide products and services that one alone might not have the capacity to produce? Can we work together to tackle the challenges rural entrepreneurs face? Can we create a “Heartland Strategy” that includes rural communities? We think so.

John Crabtree,
402-687-2103 ext. 1010
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Latest Rural Poverty Data

- from the desk of Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs,

Latest Data on Rural Poverty

Pervasive poverty still reigns in rural America, but things are looking up in the Plains

In an annual, summertime ritual, we bring you the latest data from the United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis on county income levels.

Based on 2003 data (the latest data available), the new figures again show how pervasive rural poverty is in the United States. Of the 250 lowest income counties in the nation, 228 are non-metropolitan counties.

However, there is some good news, especially for the Great Plains region. The lowest income region in the nation from 1997 to 2002, the Great Plains still has several of the lowest income counties in the nation in 2003. However, things are looking up for several counties and states.

Loup County, Nebraska, was the first, second, or third lowest income county from 1997 to 2002; in 2003, Loup County is the fourth lowest income county, but its per capita income increased nearly $3,600 from 2002 to 2003. And 2002’s lowest income county, Slope County, North Dakota, is not even among the 250 lowest income counties in 2003.

For six consecutive years, rural Nebraska was also home to several of the lowest income counties in the nation. In 2003, only two rural Nebraska counties were among the 50 lowest income counties in the country.

The per capita income of the nation’s lowest income county – Starr County, Texas – is about 34 percent of the nation’s per capita personal income, and about 800 percent less than the nation’s highest income county (New York, New York – Manhattan). The table below shows the 20 lowest-income counties in 2003.

20 Lowest Per Capita Income Counties in America

County 2003 Per Capita Income
1. Starr, TX $10,805
2. Ziebach, SD $11,264
3. Maverick, TX $12,774
4. Loup, NE $12,819
5. Zavala, TX $13,304
6. Todd, SD $13,505
7. Jefferson, MS $13,608
8. Grant, NE $13,705
9. Zapata, TX $13,847
10. Hamilton, FL $13,932
11. Union, FL $14,021
12. Shannon, SD $14,106
13. San Juan, UT $14,363
14. Guadalupe, NM $14,455
15. Presidio, TX $14,465
16. DeKalb, MO* $14,577
17. Hancock, TN $14,610
18. Elliot, KY $14,633
19. Buffalo, SD $14,649
20. Jackson, KY $14,760

* Represents a metropolitan county

Source: U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Post a comment here or, for more information, contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Annual Rural Poll Shows Hope for Small Communities

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,

Center for Applied Rural Innovation's Annual Rural Poll Shows Hope for Small Communities

Tenth University of Nebraska rural poll has implications for our region; it shows new people and ideas coming.

A hopeful new poll shows that rural communities are drawing new people and generating entrepreneurial activity – people starting businesses.

The poll is the 10th in a series of polls of rural Nebraskans by the University of Nebraska Center for Applied Rural Innovation. Though the poll focuses on Nebraskans, it has broader implications for the entire region. Its findings include:

- One-quarter of rural Nebraskans lived somewhere other than their current community during the past 10 years. Many of them are young.

New people and ideas are coming into rural communities – essential to revitalization. Forty percent came from out of state and forty-five percent came from a larger Nebraska city or another community.

- The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in rural Nebraska and strongest in the smallest communities. Twenty percent of rural Nebraskans, and 29 percent living in or near towns of less than 500, own a business.

This is a credit to the Center’s Rural Enterprise Assistance Program, which has helped 4,000 rural businesses to get started or survive. And it is essential. People starting small businesses are the primary source of new jobs in the small agricultural communities of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

- Rural Nebraskans have favorable opinions about self-employment, but they also recognize the hardships and risks. Sixty-one percent agree that self-employment is desirable because they can be their own boss, and 54 percent say it provides a better quality of life. But they are realistic – 74 percent agree that it requires working more hours.

- Rural Nebraska also agrees on the biggest barrier to starting new businesses. Seventy percent say the cost of health insurance makes self-employment unappealing.

- Rural Nebraskans are engaging in lifelong learning – essential to getting ahead in an information-based economy. One-half of rural Nebraskans have participated in formal education courses, workshops, or other training activities during the past 10 years.

- Rural Nebraskans are getting connected to the Internet, but not low-income households. Sixty-nine percent of rural Nebraskans have Internet access either at home or at work, but only 11 percent of those with incomes of less than $20,000 have Internet access.

- Internet service is getting better, but improvement is needed. Less than half (43 percent) of those surveyed from communities of less than 1,000 say they are more satisfied with the speed of their Internet service.

Source: See for the Center for Applied Rural Innovation’s (CARI) rural poll.

John Crabtree,
Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Catholic Bishops on Farm Program Payment Limits

- from the desk of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs, - payment limits exerpts from a rural issues update on farm programs -
by the United States Council of Catholic Bishops -
to see a full copy of the statement go to -


When the 2002 Farm Bill was passed, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) were critical of the projected $180 billion budget outlay for ten years, an 80 percent increase from the previous farm bill. The Conference was specifically concerned about Congress’ failure to target federal income support to those who needed it most, such as small and medium-sized farms. Despite the enormous price tag, several provisions in the Farm Bill, supported by the USCCB and the NCRLC, addressed inadequate hunger policies and the needs of rural communities. These provisions included: restoration of food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants; increased funding for conservation programs; innovative programs to assist new and beginning farmers and ranchers, and various rural development programs.

USCCB Position

The USCCB continues to advocate on behalf of farm policies that enable our nation to maintain an agricultural system of diverse, family-owned and operated farms. “Policies and programs are needed that encourage rural development, promoting and maintaining the culture and values of rural communities. These should include policies that encourage a wide range of economic development strategies, especially by fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of rural people and investing in their education and training. They also should include policies that promote and support farming, support the efforts of farmers to establish cooperatives and other cooperative ventures, and encourage widespread diversity in farm ownership.

Limited government resources for subsidies and other forms of support should be targeted to small and moderate-sized farms, especially minority-owned farms, to help them through difficult times caused by changes in global agricultural markets or weather patterns that destroy crops. Agricultural subsidies often go to a few large producers, while smaller family farms struggle to survive. Rather than simply rewarding production, which can lead to surpluses and falling prices, government resources should reward environmentally sound and sustainable farming practices. Because of rising land prices, the cost of sophisticated equipment, and the difficulty of making a living, government resources are also needed to help new farmers and ranchers enter the field of agriculture.” (From 2002 Pastoral Statement, For I was Hungry And You Gave Me Food)

(June update)… Senator Grassley and others will bring forward an amendment to decrease or eliminate cuts to food stamps and conservation by passing a payment limitation reform amendment, bringing about the long-anticipated major farm policy showdown of the year. This promises to be an extremely contentious debate and should take the rest of the legislative session to resolve.

Office of Social Development & World Peace
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
(202) 541-3000

For more information about the payment limitations issue or how to help the Center for Rural Affairs and our allies win this fight - contact
John Crabtree,,
402-687-2103 ext 1010

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action

Monday, August 08, 2005

Rural College Grads Long For Home

- from the desk of Jon Bailey, Center for Rural Affairs,

Rural college graduates migrating to urban locales, but long to come home

"One of the surest routes to the American Dream is a college education, but recent news accounts would suggest that this road to social mobility has created a rural 'brain drain,' with college grads leaving for hipper cities and more pleasant climates in such dramatic numbers that states such as Iowa will face severe shortages of educated workers within the next two decades,” Maria Kefalas and Patrick Carr wrote in a Des Moines Register column.

"As part of the MacArthur Foundation's Research Network on Transitions to Adulthood, we led a group of researchers to a farming community in northeastern Iowa to learn about how young Iowans are making their way into adulthood. As we talked about the twists and turns their lives had taken since high school, we found that it is simply a mistake to assume young people are rushing to exchange their 'Little House on the Prairie' upbringings for 'Sex in the City' lifestyles," continue Kefalas and Carr.

"One thing we realized from our study is that it is wrong to assume that youth who leave have no respect for their communities. They want their communities to thrive, and they are sad to leave them. Many told us they would like to come back, if they could," write Kefalas and Carr.

"What can small towns do to make it easier for them to stay? First, communities must cultivate the connection the young adults feel toward their community, and they must capitalize on its benefits: affordability, slower pace, and a strong civic life. Second, rather than focusing on the loss of "college-educated" singles, why not invest more aggressively in the hard-working and talented young people (many of whom have families and two-year college degrees) who opt to remain in the state?" they conclude.

for more information contact Jon Bailey,
or John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Poll Shows Payment Limits Have Strong Support

- from the desks of John Crabtree, Center for Rural Affairs,
and Chuck Hassebrook, Center for Rural Affairs,

to see a copy of the Kellogg Foundation poll go to -

Poll Shows Limiting Farm Payments Has Strong Support

Lyons, NE – Voters in three farm states (Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota) overwhelmingly support limiting direct federal payments to single farms to no more than $250,000 in a poll released by the Kellogg Foundation today. Voters in these states supported payment limitations by more than a two-to-one margin (67 percent to 31 percent).

“This polling data demonstrates what we have believed for some time, that effective payment limitations on federal farm programs are not only the best policy alternative, they are overwhelmingly popular in farm states, among farmers and across political lines,” said Chuck Hassebrook, Executive Director, Center for Rural Affairs.

The poll, conducted by the Kellogg Foundation, shows that voters in all three states oppose across the board cuts commodity programs as well as cuts in USDA rural development programs, nutrition programs and conservation programs, by convincing margins. However, they support limiting direct payments to any single farm to no more than $250,000. Support for limits on single farm payments jumps to 68 percent among farm households and to 70 percent among Republicans.

Support for farm program payment limitations enjoyed the most support among voters in Kansas (66 percent), then Iowa and Minnesota.

“When Congress reconvenes in September they will face a stark choice, practically and politically. They can cut rural development, conservation, nutrition and commodity programs that benefit family farmers and ranchers; rural communities and disadvantaged children. Or they can choose to limit payments to the nation’s largest farms. Payment limits are a win-win solution because they save money and because reducing subsidies that mega farms use to drive smaller operations out of business is the single most effective thing that Congress can do to strengthen family farms,” said Hassebrook

“Polling on public policy options is rarely as clear and convincing as in this study. Clearly, this data demonstrates that if our Senators and Representatives stand up for rural America and implement effective payment limitations, rural America will stand with them,” added Hassebrook.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

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.