|Rural communities hold the keys to survival in their own hands. With help from policies that build on their strengths as desirable places to live and raise families, they can thrive.
New: Siouxland Community Garden Project And: Community Development Strategies
Building Blocks for Rural Recovery
Rural residents overwhelmingly desire stable communities, family farms, small businesses, and local schools. Rural areas have the building blocks of their own recovery:
>> Community infrastructure remains largely intact, with schools, churches, town governments, housing, and water/sanitary systems.
>> Rural areas are strongholds of entrepreneurship, with sole proprietorships twice as high in the plains rural counties as in urban counties. 70% of net job growth in these counties in the past was in non-farm self-employment.
>> A single-family farm contributes $720,000 to the local economy, or the equivalent of eight $40,000 "town jobs". On average, 7 farms support 1 town business.
These interrelationships give us two tracks with which to rebuild the engines of economic activity in rural areas. The first is to feed that entrepreneurial spirit. We can recognize that rural people are willing and able to make their own jobs when the roadblocks are removed and the resources are available.
The other track is to reinvigorate the agricultural sector of rural areas. We can reverse the trend of declining farm share of the food dollar by finding ways for farmers and ranchers to reduce their input costs and to take back more of the processing and marketing share.
An Integrated Approach
The Center for Rural Affairs has offered services to communities for several years. Our pilot project began in northern Nebraska’s Cedar County.
Together with community organizations and government, we designed leadership classes, did the first-ever town/rural citizen-and-student survey, unearthed new business and community betterment ideas, and jump-started citizen-led projects. The Center provides our own expertise as well as connections to others that can help with implementation.
Community Revitalization Digest
We have created a digest of ideas to lead rural citizens and communities in thinking and talking about their most pressing issues. Beginning a dialogue is an important first step in building a sustainable community.
The Center for Rural Affairs' community work is designed to provide these benefits:
>> Accessing Much Needed Resources
>> Learning to Lead Others
>> Helping to Have a Direct Influence in Policy
>> Starting Creative and Innovative Community Projects
>> Encouraging Youth to Live and Work in Rural Areas
>> Developing a Vision for the Community
>> Starting New Ventures within the Community
>> Building Support for the Area and Community
Public policy that pressures small schools into consolidation through underfunding and incentives is counter-productive. As schools get larger, educational results generally worsen. The academic, social and communal advantages of smaller schools are lost. It makes little sense for the best interest of communities and society to adopt public policy that worsens the achievement of outcomes of our schools and students.
Building Rural Leaders
Leaders often guide others in setting direction, opinions, and action. They play a critical role in shaping the future. Training and commitment can make typical citizens into effective leaders. The Leadership Training page presents tips on helping to shape public opinion about an issue or activity.
Contact Kathie Starkweather for information on the community revitalization aspects of our work.
Visit the Rural Opportunities and Stewardship Program page for more ideas.