From the desk of the executive director: 50 years of meaningful rural impact

Small Towns

During the summer of 1973, a group of rural Nebraskans saw how their communities were changing. They were concerned about the future of the places they called home, about access to economic opportunity, and about environmental stewardship.

These residents decided to fight for a better future rather than be passive spectators to a changing economic landscape and shifting federal policies. From this, the Center for Rural Affairs was created. September 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of our founding.

The Center has remained a vibrant and growing organization while some of our peer organizations foundered or faltered in the 1970s and ‘80s. Our core vision of shared values and willingness to embrace change has kept our work relevant. Those values and vision guide our board and staff members as we navigate rural America’s evolving landscape decade after decade.

Since our inception, we have brought rural people together around ideas and action. Our strategies and programs have adapted to remain relevant and responsive to community needs.

The Center’s early focus was on small farm economic vitality, farm energy use, farmland conservation, and anti-corporate farming controls.

Then in the 1990s, the Center added work to support non-farm rural small businesses. Our small business training, coaching, and lending work has helped thousands of rural entrepreneurs. Thirty years later in 2020, we added housing lending, again responding to community needs.

When a wave of immigrants came to our communities, our staff added programming responding to the needs of both those new residents and the rural communities they now called home. More recently, the Center met community and small business needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Throughout our 50 years, we have engaged in farm, health, small business, energy, and climate policy, always seeking opportunities to make changes to state and federal policy that align with our vision for rural communities.

Today, we partner with you, rural people across the country, to build vibrant communities where all can participate in civic, cultural, and economic life. The Center will continue to adapt our programs and activities to serve your communities. Our work in the decades ahead will be guided by those same values and vision that have led us since 1973.

Feature photo: Center staff in the 1970s.  |  Center file photo