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Rural America offers big opportunities in small communities

Our shared experiences in rural America, no matter when or how you arrived, connect us. Our ability to work hard, together, build communities with opportunities.

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Harvey, North Dakota, population 1,650
Jaryn Homiston/ Agweek
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Raise your hand if you desire to see small towns and rural corners of America thrive? As a long-time rural enthusiast, you’ll find me in my rural North Dakota community jumping up and down, waving my hands, and I hope you are too.

Just over a year ago, I made a Saturday morning drive to Tuttle, North Dakota, in the heart of the state, to see how they transformed an old school building into a center for small businesses, community development events, the arts and more .

I left Tuttle, population 58, energized for a post-pandemic rural revival .

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Jonathan Kauhako, owner of Hindsight Creations, a sublimation print shop in Crosby, North Dakota made the 3,500-mile move to the far northwest corner of North Dakota from his hometown of Honolulu, Hawaii.<br/><br/><br/>
Jaryn Homiston / Agweek

In late spring 2021, StrengthenND, a non-profit, reached out to Agweek to partner on a series of sponsored content videos, articles and a coffee table book, all produced, written, designed, edited and printed by our Forum Communications teams. The StrengthenND project, complete with stories of how ingenuity and passion of a diverse community of people are reviving my home state of North Dakota, renewed my rural spirit.

No matter your location, community or state, there are modern-day homesteaders, like many of our ancestors, seeking big opportunities in a small community to build a stronger rural America.

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Melinda Padilla Lynch and her husband, Matthew, moved from Kansas City, Missouri, to Bowman, North Dakota 10 years ago for job opportunities. Matthew now owns a small residential construction company. Melinda found her niche working as an administrative assistant to the Bowman Police Department.
Jaryn Homiston / Agweek

I believe rural America has always been a place for those seeking more — more opportunities, more space, more peace and more independence. The pandemic shined a light on what many families, couples and individuals value most and what they want to rid themselves of.

Is your community a welcoming place for all who choose to make it home?

For those of you like me who have been part of a community for years, or even rooted in the same space for generations, you might not see all that your rural area has to offer like newcomers with fresh perspective. Or maybe you know all of the hidden gems but aren’t open to sharing with those coming from far and wide.

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Rural communities offer different cultural traditions and connections if you open yourself to experiencing them, says Katie Pinke. Pictured is a daughter and father dancing at a quinceañera, held in Wishek, North Dakota, in 2017, attended by the Pinke family for their friend celebrating her family's longstanding tradition.
Katie Pinke / Agweek

I would be remiss if I didn’t address the lack of diversity in rural America. If you choose to find diversity, you can. Making rural America home for all is important to my husband and me. My daughters have been exposed to Hispanic , Filipino, Indian and African food as well as cultural and religious practices different from their German-Russian and Norwegian ancestral traditions while being raised in rural communities.

From being neighborly and serving on civic boards to starting and expanding a new business, I know firsthand rural America can and needs to be a home for all. Our small communities bring big opportunities.

Find a way to contribute to your community.

Do you see new faces? Go out of your way to welcome them and make them feel at home. Volunteer to serve on a committee or board that brings value to growth. Rather than doing the same old thing with your job development program, survey existing businesses to learn how you can help them recruit and retain new employees. Ask new employees about what they see as positives in your communities and what you’re missing that needs to be addressed?

I don’t have the answers for rural revival, but you do collectively within your area. Maybe it’s an after-school program for working parents or a childcare center for the parents who have to drive their children to outlying communities for daycare. Tuition reimbursement might be helpful to keep young professionals in your community while seeking advanced training or degree. A small business grant program to come alongside state and federal loan programs might be just what’s needed to keep main street from becoming a ghost town.
Our shared experiences in rural America, no matter when or how you arrived, connect us. Our ability to work hard, together, build communities with opportunities.

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As winter carries on longer than we wish these days, find one way to strengthen your community into the next season.

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

Related Topics: PINKE POSTRURAL LIFE
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