Coming Home to Rural America

Small Towns

Home. What do you think of when you hear the word? Is it the old, creaky house you grew up in? The wheat fields of North Dakota or cornfields of Iowa? The laughter of your family while gathering for the holidays? For me, it’s the small town where I grew up riding my bike each day, and where I know almost all 851 residents.

Growing up in Lyons, Neb., the home of the Center for Rural Affairs, I experienced first-hand the closeness of a farming community. Every day during the summer, my brother, sister and I rode our bikes to the pool, then spent our evenings at the baseball field. During Christmas, we would receive breads and trays of sweets from our neighbors, returning the favor. And on May Day we delivered May baskets with popcorn, mints and candy.

After almost 10 years, I’ve come home. Back to the town where everything is within walking distance. Where everyone waves at each other. Where you can leave your car running as you run into the store. Where you know the shop owners, and went to school with city council and school board members.

Five years ago, I was living in the middle of Rapid City, South Dakota, yearning for quiet each time an ambulance screamed past my house. I was graced with beautiful trails in the nearby Black Hills and deer in my backyard (even though they ate my tomato plants). Once a marmot even visited (he munched on my dandelions – I wasn’t so unhappy about that). However, it just wasn’t the same.

I would occasionally sit with my friends in rural America, where you could see all of the stars and hear the far-off coyote. We tent camped in cow pastures and slept under the stars in clearings in the woods. Social gatherings consisted of bonfires with live music - guitars, ukuleles, tambourines and singing; and work parties - we fixed fence, painted houses for geese, cleared trees from pastures and worked in gardens. I was homesick.

A year ago, I was able to come “home,” however, it was in a move to Omaha, Nebraska’s biggest city. While I was close to my newborn nephew and 92-year-old grandma, I realized city noise, lights and traffic just aren’t for me.

I’ve been involved with the Center for quite some time, starting as an intern in 2006 and holding various roles since, including serving as a member of the Center Board of Directors. When I heard about this open position, I couldn’t wait to apply. I’ve spent 10 years working at community newspapers and as a communications professional, and am lucky to be given an opportunity to work for rural America continuing the tradition of bringing you hope and inspiration through the newsletter, blog and website.

I look forward to working with you and sharing stories about the homes you care about – rural communities, family farms and ranches, small businesses, and you and your families. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to stay informed on the work we do, and let us know what you care about.

I’m glad to be home.

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