We’re on the farm outside of Atlantic, Iowa with Michelle Myers of Dirt Road Candle Company for this week’s podcast. Michelle started a side hustle making soy candles - and with scents like Iowa Back Roads, Small Town Gossip, and County Fair - her business has quickly taken off. She’s sharing how she’s built her brand and business, and about her Iowa Farm girl roots and life on the farm.
As I think about how to bring back our homecomers and attract new businesses and residents, I continually think about our internet problem. With better internet access, a community can attract self-employed and remote workers, creating more jobs without waiting for a major employer to move to town. A rural community with a low cost of living, quality schools, and reliable high-speed internet has a fantastic sales pitch for families tired of the city. But what about the rural community without decent, readily available internet access?
This week on the podcast we’re in Cimarron, New Mexico (pop. 1,021) with entrepreneurs Colin and Erin Tawney - and what happened to be a fortuitous stop on our road trip to California earlier this year. Colin and Erin are sharing what led them to bringing a bed and breakfast, brewery, and bike race to their historic town, plus all they’re doing to help bring economic development and positive change to the community. They are a great example of what it looks like to really seize the opportunities their small town has to offer.
Homecomers aren’t likely to move “back home” to rural Montana or rural Texas (or wherever you’re reading this) in the family stage of life unless “home” is a good place for their kids. What are the schools like? How are the parks, libraries, and youth sports? What summer programs are offered in town when school is not in session? Can the kids do their homework and play games on the town’s internet?
This week on the podcast we’re in Versailles, Kentucky (pop. 9,292) with entrepreneur Emily Riddle. Emily and her husband have invested into their small town square by bringing in several new businesses, and in just a year and a half it has evolved into a vibrant, thriving destination that’s attracting young people — and most recently Hollywood — as the site for a Drew Barrymore movie set.
Conventional wisdom says people don’t want to live in rural America, especially not young people. Polling and research indicates the exact opposite. People want to live in rural America if they can, but they need economic opportunities to either keep them in rural America or to draw them back. So how do we reverse that brain drain? How do we create “brain gain” by attracting our homecomers?
This week we’re in Metamora, Illinois (pop. 3,732) with Paige Ehnle of No Roots Boots. Paige has combined her passion for travel, meeting people, and high quality western and fashion boots into a boot store on wheels. She now road trips with her vintage Airstream to markets, fairs, festivals, concerts, and other events - selling her boots all over America. She’s sharing all about how she built her business and what she’s learned along the way.
Only 12% of Americans live in rural areas, but 27% aspire to. That disparity between reality and aspiration is the largest on the survey. More people live in the city than actually aspire to do so. Meanwhile, if aspirations became reality, the rural population would almost double. So how do we make that happen?
We’re in Penn Valley, California this week on the podcast with fiber artist Cassidy Fisher of The Northern Craft. She’s sharing about how she turned her passion for art into a full-time profession, and how she uses inspiration from the beautiful things around her to create her collections. Plus, she’s dishing about her incredible experience at Magnolia’s Silobration and the impact that’s had on her business.
There’s nothing wrong with being “popular” per se. I think we all want to be popular in some form or fashion, among some group or another. But are we seeking popularity for the right reasons? And if we are “popular,” are we using that popularity for good?
This week on the podcast we’re in Pawhuska, Oklahoma with Luke and Kenyon Lomax of Prairie Sky Jewelry Company. With a fairly new business and products that have quickly become high in demand, we have an incredible conversation on how they have built their business and their life, and how they transitioned from life on the road to their new home on the farm in Pawhuska. From learning their trade to social media to customer service and so much more - they have a lot of gold to share that any small business owner can learn from.
Our society has advanced far past where it was in 1962, but that doesn’t mean we’re perfect. Overt segregation and discrimination are harder to find, but ingrained, subconscious societal prejudices still exist. No matter our skin color, we’ve probably both experienced and propagated a few prejudices, even if subtle ones, and even if we didn’t intend to. Sometimes, it’s good to be challenged to think about our society. It’s good to be uncomfortable as we think about the unsavory pieces of our past, so that we can ensure we don’t repeat the mistakes of our forefathers.
This week on the podcast we’re in Gridley, California (pop. 6,937) with third generation rice farmer Matthew Sligar. Matthew started Rice Farming TV to help promote and educate people on the California rice industry through weekly videos on YouTube, and he’s gained quite a following. He’s talking all things rice farming and how his videos have opened up some great opportunities.
From 1836 to 2019, the story of Texas was, is, and will be beautiful, ugly, complicated, and contradicting, full of noble-minded people with noble-minded ideals, often struggling to live up to those ideals. We may not always succeed, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying.
This week on the podcast we’re with designer Regan Doely of Doe A Deer in Stuart, Iowa (pop. 1,648). Regan’s talking about how she’s grown her business from a side hustle on Facebook into a full product line that’s now being sold by national retailers. She’s also sharing how her handmade-focused brand is inspired by her love for vintage and why she loves to work with small shops and businesses in rural America.
Our rural communities were each once part of the American frontier. The history of the frontier is of a wide-open place where anyone—immigrants, aristocrats, nobodies, and somebodies—could seek out opportunity and with hard work and the right amount of luck, carve out a new life regardless of the good, bad, and ugly of their past. The frontier was chock full of people who were hard to love.
This week on the podcast we’re on the ranch in Datil, New Mexico (pop. 54) with cowboys and love stories photographer Lyndsey Garber. We talk about what it’s been like for Lyndsey to grow her rural business from a side hustle to a portfolio with national clientele. Plus she has some great things to say about the power of story, and even shares her own cowboy love story.
February 18, 2019 is the day designated for the annual celebration of Presidents’ Day in America. As has been the case for decades, many commentators will use the day to honor all 45 Americans who have held the office of President of the United States. But today, I want to author a reminder that the federal holiday is still technically known as “Washington’s Birthday” and talk more about the man for which the day was created.
We’re sitting down with Mary Heffernan of Five Marys Farms. We met up at their M5 Burgerhouse in Fort Jones, California (pop. 839) to talk about all things Five Marys. Like, how she first discovered her love for small business, why she loves the rural life, the power of Instagram, and so much more. Mary is an entrepreneur at heart and you’ll be so inspired hearing how she and her family have built Five Marys from the ground up.
Why has the American experiment persisted and thrived for so long, even in spite of our society’s flaws and missteps? Why have other nations attempted to copy the American system, only to see it fail to launch or struggle to sustain it in a stable manner? In part, it’s the uniquely American concept of local government and town meetings.
We recently met up with Brooke Clay of Rural Gone Urban as our travel paths were crossing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We had a great conversation about the power of story, her Rural Influencer Project and what makes someone an influencer, and why the narrative is changing for rural America. Plus we let you in on the story behind The Ruralist and how that came to be.
In the last decade, something like 90 rural hospitals have closed. 20 of those are in Texas. The National Rural Health Association, our nation’s foremost advocates for rural healthcare, estimates that something close to 800 more rural hospitals are at risk of closing. That’s about one-third of all rural hospitals in the entire country. It helps a little to know that it’s not just us.
What are WE doing on a local level? Are we the thermometer, going with the flow of popular opinion? Or are we the thermostat, responsible for changing the temperature? Are we defending the status quo, giving silent or vocal sanction to the power structures of the community? Or are we the disturbers of the peace and the agitators, putting an end to hatred, injustice, and need within our realms?
This week on the podcast we’re taking you to the farm outside of New Providence, Iowa (pop. 250) with lifestyle photographer and leatherist Ali Nelson. Ali has so many cool things going on and she’s giving us a look at her life as a farm wife, creative, and small town entrepreneur.
Today, I ask you: what are we doing to improve the lives of those around us in rural America? Are we acting as extremists for love and the extension of justice? Are we working through our churches, our community organizations, our businesses, and our elected positions to ensure that all of our people prosper and are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, no matter their net worth, skin color, or religious affiliation? Are we extremists like Dr. King and Jesus? Or are we the modern day descendants of the white moderate? Do we prefer an absence of tension to a positive peace, satisfying ourselves that we are a “silent majority” hoping for the flow of time to cure all ills, while we remain comfortable and inactive?
One in three women in America have experienced domestic violence during their lifetime. One in four men have experienced domestic violence. I heard these shocking statistics this past Sunday in a presentation at church from Dan Cox, executive director of the Noah Project in Abilene, Texas. I walked away educated, but heartsick.
If you’re looking for rural development strategies, then this week’s podcast is for you! We’re sitting down with Chris Deal from Jefferson, Iowa (pop. 4,345) to talk about the amazing revitalization happening here. Chris moved back to his hometown to help with the family business, Deal’s Orchard, but his role in the community has since expanded way beyond that. He has had a key role in the revitalization of Jefferson and some exciting projects happening here.
If you want to be optimistic about the work ethic of our youth, spend some time at a local junior livestock show. While you’re there, you’ll also learn about the generosity of local communities. The experience might reassure you about the general future of America.
We’re so excited to bring you this week’s interview with Joni Nash, the Executive Director of the Pawhuska, Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce. Pawhuska just happens to be the home of Ree Drummond — The Pioneer Woman, and Joni has been right in the action as this small town has been revived literally overnight.
It is often said that sharing a table and a meal is one of the most powerful, leveling experiences that a group of people can have together. Every year, I look across the dining room and I am reminded of the accuracy of that statement. I see people sitting side-by-side whose paths might never otherwise cross, from all ages, backgrounds, and creeds. Then I see something even more special. They don’t just wolf down a meal at the same table and then depart. They eat. Then they trade desserts. They re-fill each other’s drinks. They talk to each other’s kids. They visit about their lives. They STAY. Together.