Looking for the goodness in America? Find it right here

"American life is not bleak, in my opinion. If you want to find the goodness, the Americana we love, go out and experience rural America."

Aneta rhubarb tasting.JPEG
A rhubarb tasting event of 22 recipes in a community garden and orchard run by volunteers in Aneta, North Dakota, reminded Katie Pinke of the goodness of American culture. Photo taken June 17, 2022.
Katie Pinke / Agweek
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When I heard a radio announcer recently say life in America is “bleak” right now, I flashed back to a recent rhubarb tasting event and an experience at the static judging at our county fair. I found that slice of Americana — the American cultural goodness we take pride in — at those events.

American life is not bleak, in my opinion. If you want to find the goodness, the Americana we love, go out and experience rural America. I won’t romanticize rural America. Of course, we need to overcome issues and create forward solutions. But I found the goodness of American culture in tasting 22 homemade rhubarb recipes in a little town park, run by volunteers of a community garden and orchard, and in seeing 4-H members and the work they've done over the past year on a variety of projects.

More than 200 people attend the rhubarb tasting in Aneta, North Dakota, on June 17, 2022, where 22 recipes were prepared for a free tasting and freewill donations were taken. Attendees can then pick rhubarb in the community garden and prepare the recipes from a booklet given out at the event. This event was an example for Katie Pinke of a slice of Americana, showcasing the goodness found in rural America.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

When I attended the Aneta Community Garden and Orchard’s rhubarb tasting, one cousin who works and lives in a metropolitan area on the East coast explained how she takes this week off every year to come back to where her dad grew up in rural North Dakota and shares with her co-workers what it all entails. Her colleagues find it to be a rare opportunity to take in something not happening in the rest of their lives. The following day, a friend attended his first-ever Aneta Turkey Barbecue and said to me, “This is a Normal Rockwell painting,” as he sat on the park grass with his family.

Experience and share in a slice of Americana which can be found in our rural corners, often in everyday or annual events we're accustomed to, says Katie Pinke.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

Sometimes when we experience the same repeated events or people, we don’t see and feel the goodness they offer. We take the event, place or people for granted or even build up disdain for the goodness we live in or that they offer, thinking someone has it better someplace else.

In between droughts, floods or economic distress, there are Norman Rockwell painting moments, right in our little communities. America has goodness to experience, and I particularly find and experience that goodness in our rural, remote corners. Share in it, and invite your cousins from the coasts, colleagues, or neighbors to visit and experience it with you.


I felt the iconic Normal Rockwell painting feeling at 4-H static (non-livestock) judging at the local county fair this week. Families came in together, with kids bringing their finished projects on which they have honed new skills. You can see the pride in kids' faces and hear it in the explanation they offered to the judge's questions.

While we live rural, our county seat is Grand Forks, North Dakota, which — including East Grand Forks, Minnesota — has around 65,000 people. An opportunity to grow and share the goodness of 4-H with a larger population awaits. I invite others to attend their county fairs and see the 4-H projects. I ask friends and families to join us at the livestock show.

I didn’t grow up at livestock shows or being a 4-H member myself, but as a club leader and 4-H mom, I see how 4-H connects and grows not only our next generation of kids but also grows and connects families. 4-H is a part of the goodness in my adult life.

Our lifestyle of rural America may not be big city flashy, but I’ll take a few moments of iconic American culture good moments any day in rural America to be reminded that our life is not bleak.

Rhubarb tasting in a community garden gives me encouragement for brighter days. 4-H members and their projects show me we have a dedicated generation growing in our communities. American life is not bleak if we choose to experience the goodness of the communities, programs and most of all, the people around us.

Support the people working to create cultural events across our countryside. Don't be the bleak radio announcer I heard recently. Show up and experience the goodness found in rural America.

Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.

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The following is an opinion column written by an Echo Press editorial staff member. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the Echo Press.
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