Proudly Rural

A recent post over at the Daily Yonder had me thinking about my choice to live in the middle of “nowhere”.  Or better yet (and the phrase I loathe the most) flyover country.  Many rural residents know, our brethren on the East or West coast often look at the Midwest with derision, scorn or outright hostility.  Our vast landscape in flyover country is dominated by the Great Plains and has been at the forefront of U.S. Manifest Destiny, the growth of the American story, the Green Revolution, and now, the most stable and healthiest economies in the Great Recession.  To many Coasters, the Great Plains is a vast landscape dotted with deterioration and dying towns with slack-jaw hill billies that don’t know up from down.  You’ll here some folks in Omaha and Lincoln say the same about “Out-State” Nebraska and that (gasp) something just needs to be done to save dying rural America.

What I found so refreshing from the author’s take over at Yonder was how he demonstrated how this ambivalence destroys the culture and economic fabric of America when the “Somewheres” ignore the “Nowheres”.  The author sums it up well:

Photo by Michael Forsberg

“Continuing patterns of rural geographic discrimination target people who are a distinct minority with limited voice and resources, especially in the financial and political arena. After all, they live out in the middle of nowhere, far from where the action is. So why should they matter?”

Why should we matter? Like many other places in America, rural has been a driving force behind the growth and development of America’s economic and cultural identity.  To ignore rural places like Ord and Arcadia and Elyria and North Loup is to destroy the culture and economic identity of this nation.  We still feed the world, with agriculture still being the #2 export behind manufactured goods.  Not finance, not technology, but good old agriculture.  People still gotta eat.

Our communities also play a vital role in the great American story; it was the pioneers of the Great Plains and their fearless devotion to breaking the sod and taking life-threatening risks that ironically now are traits emulated in Silicon Valley and MIT by movers and shakers in technology and innovation.

Ord, photo by

We also ignore that people and communities of value that rural communities bring to the social fabric of this nation.  As the authors of a compelling book Hollowing Out the Middle (website) state, our social contract has bound us to deal with the “problems” of the urban inner city, we’ve forsaken our rural communities with the same obligation as a country.  And to me, that’s a travesty.  We need vibrant rural communities to have a vibrant America in the 21st Century.  Even more importantly to me, however, is the need to build fierce advocates for the rural way of life.

I choose that path.

I choose to live in a “Nowhere” where air is clean, the stars are bright and clean water bubbles up from the largest underground water source in the world.  Life is a whole lot slower here and my commute is non-existent.  I know my neighbors intimately and we care for each other in good times and bad.  Decisions I make have an immediate and sizable impact on the future of my community.  In full, I am tangibly responsible to a whole community, for better or for worse, and they are responsible to me.

In closing, I want to share another snippet from the article over at the Yonder as the author pours over this responsibility that all of America ought to share:

“We are too big in some places, “the somewheres,” to deal adequately with the basic human need to live in communities that allow us to build healthy relationships with each other and the natural environment. On the other hand, some rural places, the “nowheres,” are written off as too small to be worthwhile, not a kindly way to treat our fellow travelers and citizens.”

What is apparent to me in the final analysis is that for rural “Nowheres” to really matter, we gotta build it for ourselves.  I proudly go to work every day because I know, *know*, that I contribute a small sliver of hope to our rural communities by doing what I do.  What we need more than that is our rural neighbors to do the same.

I’m proudly rural; are you?

2 Responses to “Proudly Rural”

  1. Glen Steyer Says:

    Thnks for the great packet of information on the Ord area. It was very informative. I was surprise at the great resturants you have available and enjoyed the pamphlets on each one. I may have to spend another day on my trip to the Ord area just to eat the great food! Glen Steyer

  2. ord-editor Says:

    Great to hear Glen! Thank you for the compliments – we are very lucky to have a plethora of good eats and good times in our area. Travel safely!

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