Mary Chandler - Peace Corps Volunteer at The Institute of Democracy
Rural America shares the same idealized pastoral mystique as does rural Georgia. The perception is that life on the farm is simpler, more in touch with nature, family and the home are all important in rural life.
Farmers are highly regarded in American culture. When I was a girl growing up, though I did not live on a farm, I grew up in a farming region. My brothers all worked and lived on farms in the summers. Farming is an important part of our state’s history and economy; most of the farming in my state is dairy farming.
A farmer’s life, while difficult, is seen as full of satisfaction. Working out of doors, in a pristine environment and with animals are all fundamental pleasures of a simpler life.
One new trend in agriculture in America is “buy locally,” helping the family farmer to find markets for vegetables, meat and dairy products in a local market. My community has a market that has a 40+ year history of a market that taps into a rich farming tradition in my state. Deep, rich, organic prairie soils and flat, glaciated landscapes provide some of the most productive agricultural land in the world. Many of the products produced on these farms finds its market in the local farmer’s market.
In truth, a farmer’s life is full of peril. Once, when I was a girl, I had an encounter with a skunk on a farm. A skunk is an animal that sprays a smelly, oily substance that is almost impossible to wash out. I was visiting the farm with my dog Cindy. Cindy woke me up one night scratching at the door to the bedroom. I let her out and followed her to the chicken coop where the chickens were putting out a great noise instead of being cozy in their roosts. It was a skunk. I tried to stop Cindy, but she was determined to save those chickens, even though they really weren’t in any real danger. When the skunk turned around to douse Cindy with its spray I dove to try and save her. Both Cindy and I spent the rest of our time at the farm sleeping in the barn.
Wolcott, M. P., photographer. (1939) Farmers playing cards on a winter morning, Woodstock, Vermont.
One of the most endearing memory of my Grandfather is a favorite saying he had. In a card game, he would always say, “Along toward morning, the Farmer got lucky.” Meaning that though he had a bad cards for most of the night the Farmer’s fortunes turned around eventually. It was a metaphor for finally getting good luck when there’s been a string of bad luck.
I think most of America feels that way about the Family Farmer, (s)he and his family, deserve a good chance.
US communities are rarely have the same physical challenges that are apparent in the villages in Georgia. Flat, non-mountainous farmland is available.
Though, loss of population, particularly young adults, is also a problem for rural areas of the US. Young people in rural areas leave for larger metropolitan areas for better jobs, and a more connected world in which to interact with others. Some rural communities in the US have gained population recently. These tend to be near metropolitan areas where services are good and access to urban areas is easily achieved.
What have rural communities in the United States done to stop this exodus of the young? In past years, building “industrial parks” has been a major strategy. These are areas of a small city set aside, with services (water, sewer, electricity). They are designed to attract manufacturers to the communities which then provide jobs for the populations. Some of these parks have been successful, others have not found companies to invest in them.
Key factors that contribute to success are:
Mary chandler at the meeting with rural population in Zesopheli, Keda Municipality. The meeting was held within the frame of "The Institute of Democracy" Project - "Petition-People's Vioce in Self Governance".