Lesson: Rural America Needs Us and We Need Rural America
I am fortunate to have spent some time in Edgemont, South Dakota and highly recommend everyone visit. Now Edgemont is not your typical tourist destination, in fact it’s not a tourist destination at all. For that, you go to nearby Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse or Deadwood… all of which I highly recommend. I especially enjoyed Deadwood, likely due to my fascination with the gold rush era, wild west history and the Deadwood TV series. But back to Edgemont: a declining population of about 700 people and primarily focused on the agriculture industry.
I was in Edgemont on behalf of a client in the mineral extraction industry. Edgemont has a history of mineral extraction – specifically uranium by conventional mining which is not the means of extraction I was there to discuss. The mining industry has changed a lot since operations ceased near Edgemont and the people I met were open to a strong domestic and local economy, which includes mineral extraction conducted with the high environmental standards we employ in this country.
For now, Edgemont is predominantly an agricultural community and the lack of other industry has shrunk the town. But it has not shrunk its spirit or desire for a more vibrant economy or a brighter future.
Such is the spirit you find in much of rural America and it’s this spirit I love. Rural America is the backbone of the country, and it is often overlooked and underappreciated as we move away from our food sources. With many decades of enhanced refrigerated transportation and urbanization we find ourselves spoiled with a great variety of food types from beyond our immediate region. With this we have better nutrition and reduced illness, all from enjoying a wide variety of the labours of distant rural communities without ever truly understanding the connection between us.
But rural life is not for everyone, life is simpler in small towns, you know your neighbor, you are likely safer, but choices and services are often limited, and it can be too limiting or quiet for many. At present in communities like Edgemont, kids finish high school and often go into the military or agriculture. Having spent time in communities like this, I have heard parents want options to keep the kids at home. And home with high paying industrial jobs that also provide transferable skills, helping communities to benefit from enhanced infrastructure, more services, tax revenue and spin off businesses.
Whether we know it or not, we all need a strong rural America and a strong economy. Whether we understand the connection between working in a lovely urban neighborhood and jumping out for a coffee with friends and working out on the ranch with your family and stopping for a lunch break on the land, we all need each other. So go to Edgemont, or another small rural community, and meet your neighbors, see what we had in the past; we can have it again when we bring industry back to the United States.