June 11-12, the six Minnesota Initiative Foundations brought our boards together for two days of learning and connecting with each other. There were 12 of us who shared “Why I Choose Rural” with the entire group. This is my message.
I grew up in northwestern South Dakota, literally inches from the North Dakota boarder and surrounded by the vast expanses of rolling prairie and people who are hard working, community minded, and high spirited.
I came to southwest Minnesota in 1981 by way of Augustana College in Sioux Falls and immediately felt at home amidst the prairie and the people.
One thing I have learned over the years is that the notion of rural is in the eye of the beholder. When my parents first started coming to visit us, my dad, who farmed thousands of acres of sandy prairie to support our family, would survey the landscape and lament, “Geez kiddo, look at all that good land you have tied up in trees.”
To him, I had moved to the hustle and bustle of a region that boasted at least two Walmarts and more tar roads than existed west of the Missouri. I had gone metro!
Like many of you, I grew up as a free range kid. We’d leave the house in the morning after breakfast and straggle home for supper, exhausted after a day of trekking from one friend’s house to another to snack and play … some mothers were home, others worked, some houses were fancy, others were not. But it didn’t matter. The whole town kept an eye on us and reported any monkey business back to our parents.
And it was the same as we raised our kids in Canby, Minn., population 1,800. Our neighborhood was like family. When I traveled a lot for work, our 80 year-old neighbor, Benny, would blow out the driveway in the morning so my husband could focus on getting the kids ready for school. And even though they all had a garden in the backyard and plenty of their own, the neighbors always stopped to buy sweet corn from the stand that the kids set up in the front yard.
However you define rural–from Moorhead to Milan–it’s about a sense of belonging that defies description but feels so natural that you don’t have to explain it. Folks might raise an eyebrow if you get out of line, but they will rally around you in a crisis, regardless of your shortcomings.
We come together to get things done, often small things like new playground equipment or bleachers for the football field. Not amenities that will draw waves of new comers, but things that will tighten the bonds of those who already call rural home.
I choose rural because I feel connected to something bigger than myself … a community that depends on me … and reciprocates tenfold in return.
I choose rural because we all have a deep-seated need to belong, and however I define rural past, present, and future, it is truly where I am at home.
Tell us why you choose rural by commenting on this post!