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12/11/2006

Sustaining Rural America

There have been a lot of good ideas over the years promoting sustainable agriculture and sustainable communities. Most of them encourage some sort of support for the economics of the small farm, perhaps farmer s markets or often widely scattered cottage industries. Taken as singular ideas most efforts will fail.  
 
So why not develop a program that supports the whole community? In order to make a true difference any solution must be holistic. Building a community in the Kansas that I was raised in began with homesteading. As the country began to fill in with neighbors, a sense of community evolved. In the beginning little post office towns were established sometimes being nothing more than a homesteader cabin or sod house. The postmaster often established a small store to trade with the surrounding settlers creating the potential for more small businesses to grow into the community.  
 
Then along came the railroads. Some of those little post office communities were bypassed but new vibrant towns were established at various points along the railroad. With the ability to connect to urban America, farmer s fortunes grew. Their produce was easily transported to consumers and with extra money in their pockets they were able to support a wide variety of businesses in their own home towns. Lumber yards, hardware stores, grocery stores, dry goods, livery that became auto garages and tractor companies, churches and social clubs all combined to create the extended family of community. The patchwork quilt of communities made up the state that in turn united with others to the great United States.  
 
So it is that the urban society owes its position of wealth and prosperity to the vast rural surroundings. Common sense would tell us that if the foundation erodes and begins to collapse the structure above can only last as long as the foundation has strength enough to support the weight.  
 
My own sense of rebuilding the American foundation comes from 30 plus years of watching everything crumble while our leaders stand by doing virtually nothing. If they won t do it, the people, WE, maybe had better pay attention. It would appear to me that efforts to improve a rural economy need to mirror the original settlement of the country. That would entail community.  
 
So how does that happen? I guess I m gonna let everyone mull that one over. I m still guessing myself. Don t neglect ta contact me kansascowboy@kans.com if ya got any idees. There is so much abundance out there we certainly can find the answers. No reason not to! 
So Long, 
The Cowboy 

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