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

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Two Paths for Rural America

Two Paths for Rural America

By John Crabtree,

“Rural economic development isn’t like in the big cities; we’re never going to get some Fortune 500 company to build a plant in our town. That’s OK, but we need to get behind the little guys with the family owned businesses. They want to live here and they work hard to figure out how to make it work.”

So I was told by a farmer at the Center for Rural Affairs’ Annual Gathering in Kearney, Nebraska. And he’s right.

Congress must invest in rural America and focus the 2007 Farm Bill Rural Development Title on entrepreneurial development; rural asset-building; agricultural entrepreneurship; and beginning farmers and ranchers.

Economic development based on industrial recruitment simply does not work in rural communities. But rural entrepreneurship does work. In the rural Great Plains, nearly 70 percent of job growth in the 1990s came from small businesses and microenterprises.

Chronic economic decline and depopulation in rural places is not some natural phenomenon, guided by an invisible hand of economic fate. There is another path.

Giving rural communities the tools to create their own opportunities is the best way, perhaps the only way, to address deep-rooted poverty in many rural places and the growing economic disparity between cities and rural communities.

Robert Frost said, “Two paths diverged in a wood, and I, I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” Two paths are diverging in rural America, I suggest we heed Robert Frost and take the road less traveled.

post a question or comment here or contact John Crabtree,

Center for Rural Affairs
Values. Worth. Action.


  • At 3:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    John, what is the best way to get these points across to our Congressional delegation?

  • At 10:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The farmer that John quoted at the beginning of this article is absolutley right-we can't depend on huge companies to save rural America. We need to depend on ourselves and invest in ourselves by running our own businesses, running our schools the way we want to run them, and support our family farms. Corporations are evil and only care about themselves.
    Although I am not a business owner, I am very impressed with REAP. With this program, the "little guy" can have his dream of running his own business and investing in the rural community that he or she lives in. That is what rural America needs.
    Great article John!

  • At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Melinda Wilson said…

    Big companies won't save rural communities, because they can't. If a big company moves in, they bring with it suburbia and growth and destruction of the rural community, that is the nature of the beast. Everbody thinks a big company will give jobs and money, and it might, but won't necessarily, and it will bring with it the massive subdivisions and walmarts along with it. I know this because i have lived it. All over Georgia this is happening and i urge people to think about preserving rural america without encouraging unchecked growth.


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