A FIRST GENERATION WHEAT FARM

A FIRST GENERATION WHEAT FARM

While Josh always dreamed of one day owning and operating a farm, there was one problem: neither he nor I had a family farm to come back to. Josh’s dad worked as a farm manager locally, and that’s where he realized his love of farming. In 2006, we heard through the small-town grapevine that a farmer named Jim in Harrington was getting ready to retire and didn’t know yet what he wanted to do with his farm. Josh decided he was just going to write Jim a letter and I remember him saying, “What’s the worst he can say? No?”

THE VALUE OF HARD WORK AND A HANDSHAKE

THE VALUE OF HARD WORK AND A HANDSHAKE

I know growing up in a small town and a farming community has helped me exponentially in life, from work ethic to common knowledge and motivation to go out and accomplish something I want to achieve. I think all kids should have to spend a summer working harvest or stretching miles of fence. It seems to give people a different level of respect for the things that you have to work for in life. I want my children in the future to know the value of hard work and a handshake...I want them to grow up in a community like this.

EPISODE 61 // JUSTIN AND HEATHER SLACK OF THE POST & OFFICE

EPISODE 61 // JUSTIN AND HEATHER SLACK OF THE POST & OFFICE

This week on the podcast we’re in Harrington, Washington (pop. 424) with Justin and Heather Slack of The Post & Office — a local coffee shop and co-working space. As self-described ‘accidental business owners,’ Justin and Heather are sharing about their quick move to Harrington and the adventures that have followed — from opening up new businesses to Justin’s new role as mayor. Plus, you’ll appreciate the perspective they gained from their time spent living in a big city, and the ‘why’ behind everything they’re doing: to bring the community together.

EPISODE 60 // NIKKI EDMUNDSON OF CANTY BOOTS

EPISODE 60 // NIKKI EDMUNDSON OF CANTY BOOTS

This week we’re in Harrison, Montana (pop. 137) with Nikki Edmundson of Canty Boots. Nikki’s sharing how a custom pair of boots she made for herself turned into an international business. You’ll love Nikki’s perseverance as a business owner - from establishing her trademark to pursuing the stores she knew were the right fit for her product. She’s also sharing about her new store that opened this summer and life as a working mom.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: ALBATROSSES

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: ALBATROSSES

There’s always that one building. So many towns have them. It stands out like a sore thumb. It might be the tallest building in the community. Maybe it’s the square footage. Maybe it’s the location. It’s vacant. It has been vacant for decades. When someone comes to town, they immediately notice THAT building. Even as other buildings around town are restored, that one building still stands out. It feels like an albatross on the community’s revitalization. If a building could talk, it seems like the building is saying “good work on those other buildings, but you still haven’t restored ME.” YET.

WHY I CHOSE TO NOT RENEW MY LOFT LEASE

WHY I CHOSE TO NOT RENEW MY LOFT LEASE

For the past nine months I’ve made my home base in the quaint town of Adel, Iowa. The original goal was to continue to split my time between Franklin, Tennessee and Iowa. But let’s be honest. Rent is expensive, especially in the Nashville area right now. And, after two years of living in Nashville and 19 years of living in the city, I felt the pull to go back to my small town roots and live the life I was sharing with the world through Rural Revival. So in a very quick turn of events, I found a loft on a town square in a small town, above a retail shop, in a place where I already have friends, and it seemed like the right fit. 

EPISODE 59 // JILL WINGER OF THE PRAIRIE HOMESTEAD

EPISODE 59 // JILL WINGER OF THE PRAIRIE HOMESTEAD

This week we’re in Chugwater, Wyoming (pop. 212) with Jill Winger of The Prairie Homestead. After growing up in the suburbs, Jill and her husband Christian knew they wanted a life in the country. So they went all in and started building what we now know as The Prairie Homestead — and pioneering the way for today’s homestead movement. Jill’s sharing all about her life as a homesteader, what she has learned as this brand and business has grown and expanded, and how, as someone who didn’t love cooking, she ended up with a cookbook. You’ll love Jill’s passion and intentionality, and how it shows in everything she’s doing.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: DOWNTOWNS ALIVE

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: DOWNTOWNS ALIVE

Our rural communities have vacant buildings and that’s just reality. You can take it as a negative or you can see it as...opportunity. There are major cities all over the country that are booming, but struggling with a lack of available, affordable real estate (both commercial and residential). With low cost of living, low land prices, and a surplus of vacant buildings, the problem in our rural communities, if presented to the right people, might actually be a solution to someone else’s problems.

EPISODE 58 // DAN DOUGLAS OF BELLEVILLE HOMETOWN LUMBER

EPISODE 58 // DAN DOUGLAS OF BELLEVILLE HOMETOWN LUMBER

This week we’re in Belleville, Kansas (pop. 1,991) with Dan Douglas of Belleville Hometown Lumber. Dan is sharing about his unlikely path as an entrepreneur, and how he was able to come back to his hometown and open a business. We touch on community over competition, what it means to bring jobs to his hometown, and how their business growth is having an impact beyond their community.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: VACANCY AND LIFE

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: VACANCY AND LIFE

My very first essay, written way back in November of 2017, was entitled “On Vacant Buildings and Vacant People.” It was inspired by a national sportswriter’s visit to Stamford, in which the author noted Stamford’s vacant buildings. However, he also noted something more important, something that captivated him—its people. The people themselves were far from “vacant.” The author found good, hardworking people who support their community and its youth.

EPISODE 57 // EMILY MYERS OF LANTANA MADE

EPISODE 57 // EMILY MYERS OF LANTANA MADE

This week on the podcast we’re in Fairfax, Oklahoma (pop. 1,380) with Emily Myers of Lantana Made. Emily is a ranch wife and mom who crafts western handmade bags out of her home on the ranch. From an internship at the Fort Worth Stockyards to a job at Miranda Lambert’s Pink Pistol store, she’s sharing about the journey that led to Lantana Made. Since starting her business she’s put her own mark on the western fashion world and she’s telling us all about it. 

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: READY, AIM, FIRE

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: READY, AIM, FIRE

Last week, I attended the Texas Midwest Community Network’s annual seminar for newly elected local officials. Several times, attendees asked about economic development. How do we bring business to our towns? Texas is booming. Our statewide leaders constantly boast about job creation and economic growth. Why aren’t our rural communities benefiting? These are questions that all community leaders should think about. Several speakers emphasized the importance of having a plan and pursuing that plan.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: WHAT IS WEST OF 98?

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: WHAT IS WEST OF 98?

As I’ve written before, too much “rural” talk in our national conversation is trendy, patronizing, and self-serving. We also lack rural voices from “out here.” The rural communities of Appalachia, the Midwest, and West of the 98th Meridian have similarities, but they also have distinct concerns as well. Each of those voices needs to be heard, not homogenized as one “rural” voice for political speeches and sound bytes on cable news.

EPISODE 56 // STEVEN AND TIFFANY POE OF THE GRANDVIEW INN

EPISODE 56 // STEVEN AND TIFFANY POE OF THE GRANDVIEW INN

This week on the podcast we’re in Pawhuska, Oklahoma (pop. 3,377) with Steven and Tiffany Poe, owners of The Grandview Inn. Steven and Tiffany are sharing how a homeschool group connection introduced them to Ree Drummond — who we all know as The Pioneer Woman — which led to them moving to Pawhuska, and how they now have their own piece of Drummond history at the Inn.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: A BIGGER PARKING LOT

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: A BIGGER PARKING LOT

I’ve heard for years that the Texas Cowboy Rodeo was slowly dying. I’ve also heard for years that rural communities are slowly dying. There are supposedly better entertainment options in 2019 than a “danged ol’ rodeo.” There are better places to live in 2019 than a dusty small town. Right? Isn’t that what we’re told? Isn’t that logical? Our communities might survive, but they’ll never be what they once were. Or is that true after all?

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: INVEST IN SUCCESS

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: INVEST IN SUCCESS

As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve learned the importance of support for events. It’s not about supporting the underlying event as much as it’s about supporting the community that benefits from that event. A man may not care about a rodeo, but the Texas Cowboy Reunion will drive thousands of visitors into town over a four day period and boost the economy like no other four-day period in the year. You don’t even have to know the difference between a shotgun and a rifle to recognize that your hunting economy should be supported.

EPISODE 55 // ZACK AND LAURA KRAUS OF FLAMINGO SPRINGS TRAILER RESORT

EPISODE 55 // ZACK AND LAURA KRAUS OF FLAMINGO SPRINGS TRAILER RESORT

We road tripped to Prairie Grove, Arkansas (pop. 4,380) for this week’s podcast with Zack and Laura Kraus, creators and owners of Flamingo Springs Trailer Resort. Zack and Laura are sharing how they decided to quit their multiple jobs in LA, sell their stuff, and ultimately move to Arkansas and open a trailer resort that really is as awesome as it sounds.

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: EXPECTED ADVERSITY

ESSAYS FROM WEST OF 98: EXPECTED ADVERSITY

In life, adversity is the rule, not the exception. No matter what community revitalization project we undertake, adversity WILL happen. High-dollar electronic equipment fails. People get busy and don’t give maximum effort to a group. Cleanup days have a lackluster turnout. New businesses struggled to find a footing. We get exhausted and struggle with our own motivation. But if turning around a rural community was easy, none of our communities would need our energy and our ideas.

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