When I left home for college, I wasn’t sure I’d ever return to the same rural community I was born and raised. But I did know that wherever I landed, it would be somewhere in rural America.
I recently read a Nebraska News Service article about Nebraska losing our younger, college-educated population to cities in other states. A source for the article pondered, “Why wouldn’t a college grad be drawn by the allure of life in a big city?” He saw Nebraska as one of the most remote and sparsely populated states in the country. He asked, “Why would talented young people not want to leave?”
My response is exactly the opposite. Why would anyone not want to stay?
After college graduation, I had no desire to strike out for the bright lights of a big city. I longed to be back to my rural roots, cowboy boots, and the life I loved so much.
I chose to live in a rural community not only because I love fresh air, wide open spaces, uninterrupted horizons, natural amenities, and serenity, but also because this is the best lifestyle and atmosphere for my children to thrive.
My own childhood growing up on a farm and ranch had its share of hard times. Yet it also provided me with some pretty amazing experiences. That’s the life I envision for my children as well.
The things I learned on the farm and ranch: responsibility, accountability, and respect for life and nature are the same things I hope to instill in my children.
And I want them to enjoy all the luxuries small towns and rural communities provide. I know my family is safe and secure. We know our neighbors, and many of them are like family (many actually are family). If someone in our community falls on hard times, someone is there to catch them and get them back on their feet.
I know my children are receiving an excellent education. Children thrive in smaller schools as well as smaller classes. They receive individualized attention and feel valued.
There is unlimited potential in rural America. And as my children grow, I hope they realize that.
Vast opportunities lie in rural America. Ventures in agriculture, small business and entrepreneurship, education, medical professions, production, the list goes on and on. It’s up to us: parents, teachers, farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs, small business owners – all who call rural America home, to encourage and educate our children that there is life in rural America. It is the land of opportunity.
When the time comes for my children to embark on their journey after high school, I hope they leave, get educated, and discover new things. But I also hope I have done a sufficient job in demonstrating that they can buck the trend (despite the “brain drain” phenom), come back to rural America (if they choose), and lead successful and fulfilling lives.