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.
People often wonder what is going on in Harrington and why there is such a buzz about it. I promise if you sit in The Post & Office and listen to a few conversations you will understand. The community pride, new and old friends, and a sense of home...we’ve got it here.
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.
We spend a lot of time in our life being “busy.” We are busy, we tell others we’re busy, we ask them how busy they are. Americans glorify being busy as if it’s a good thing, because we see “busy” as a sign of success and prosperity. People ask how we’re doing, how work is, how the kids are. We say we are busy as if it is a badge of honor. But is it?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
As I’ve written many times, our rural communities will not survive and thrive into the future without our people working together for the community’s big picture. Perhaps our best way to establish unity is over a meal of reconciliation, conversation, and hopefulness.
This week on the podcast we’re in Bedford, Iowa (pop. 1,440) with Sandy Schubert of Hedgie’s Books, Toys, and More. Sandy and her husband moved to Bedford a little over four years ago. From taking a chance on a new town, to the success of her store, to the way this community has embraced her and her husband, you’ll love hearing Sandy’s story and how this move was so right, in so many ways.
My passion in life is revitalizing Stamford and seeing other rural communities have the same experience. But we should be honest about these latent divisions, so that when our community DOES take off, people don’t get left behind. If Stamford prospers and the population grows, but only part of the town benefits, have we really succeeded as a community?
This week on the podcast we’re with Natalie Kovarik and JaTanna Williams of Ranch Wives Beef Co., based out of their ranches in rural Nebraska and Montana. From their Montana roots to pharmacy school and now back to the ranch, you’ll love hearing about the ‘why’ behind Ranch Wives Beef Co. and the ins and outs of their partnership and how they make it all work.
The city pool is not just a random city service that I have fixated on. City pools, especially in rural communities, stand as something very meaningful. As we talk about revitalizing rural communities, the conversation inevitably involves “quality of life.” If a community wants to keep its current residents and attract new ones, the community must have amenities that make the community an enjoyable place to live. Moreover, these amenities should provide quality of life for everyone in the community, not just a partial segment.
As all citizens of a small town know, our local economies are dependent upon supporting one another – believing in one another. Our staff know this not only from the community banker perspective, but also from the small business owner perspective as they each have their own ventures on the side. The opportunities in our rural communities are plentiful, and it’s beautiful to see prosperity bloom as we believe in ourselves and one another!
The year was 2009. As I bounced on a small seat in the corner of a public transportation bus I saw an advertisement for The Salon Professional Academy. You see, I was attending a university in hopes to become something I wasn’t. It was there my life would be forever changed. My name is Aurilla — or Rilla, as most people in my hometown of Corning know me as, and this is my story.
We’re in Corning, Iowa (pop. 1,635) for the podcast this week with Anne Greenwalt of Carver’s Ridge. Anne is a fifth generation entrepreneur and is sharing how she and her husband Tyson started a boulder engraving business that has since grown into an amazing product line of handcrafted, personalized gifts. They recently moved the entire business to Anne’s hometown of Corning and are loving the small town life there - and Anne’s telling us all about it!
Located just four miles north of Corning, the traffic and the people that Lake Icaria brings through the Corning community helps sustain many of our local and main street businesses. For a community with such a small population we are blessed to have so much to offer! Grocery store, hardware stores, restaurants, and retail stores that will rival communities with a much larger population are thriving here due to the local community support and the support of visitors coming to our community.
"Don't fall in love with it too quickly, we don't know how much this costs," I told Jill when we first laid eyes on what would become Primrose Restaurant almost three years ago. I'm Joel Mahr, and my wife, Jill Fulton, and I are the co-owners of Primrose. We met almost 15 years ago. I was the city kid still trying to find a job I truly liked (let’s be honest, I was lost in the job world). Jill was the farm kid who had moved to the "big" city to find her dream job.
As I think of the war dead, I think that each of them were men and women of action. The freedom and liberty I mentioned? It does not exist spontaneously, created by some chemical reaction. It was created, preserved, and perpetuated by men and women of action. Many of these men and women gave their lives in full awareness of the flawed, imperfect nature of America, hoping that their sacrifice would lead to greater freedoms for more people in society. And they were right.
In the Summer of 2016, shortly before the birth of our second child, I broke the news to my wife, Allie, that I wanted to build a carwash in Corning. I’m not sure if it was hormonal delirium or sleep deprivation but she was 100 percent on board from day one. We both loved the idea of how this could enhance the community and surrounding area. Corning is such a unique place that has had so many experiences for our family.
If you travel through the rolling hills of Southwest Iowa, past the corn fields and beyond the bustle of the busy interstate, you may be surprised to discover a small community with a thriving entrepreneurial population and local personality to rival even the largest of cities. Located in the middle of the Omaha/Des Moines/Kansas City triangle, Corning, Iowa is a no-stoplight town overflowing with opportunity, relaxation, and fun.
We’re in New Glarus, Wisconsin (pop. 2,172) this week on the podcast with Morgann McCoy - Owner, Designer, and Seamstress at A Well Worn Story. Morgann creates high quality, handcrafted goods - including durable bags, aprons, and home goods - by transforming textiles into heirloom pieces to tell a unique story. And it all started with a sewing machine, a dream, and $5,000!
Some of our forefathers laid down their lives, but all who served gave a piece of their lives to the proposition of a larger calling, to ideas that would create a better, safer, more prosperous world for all. Not all of us are sent to the Argonne Forest or to Iwo Jima, but all of us are called to serve in ways that we are equipped and in the places where friends, family, community, and country might need us.
For many of our rural communities, our future prosperity, quality of life, and heck, even our very existence, is dependent on sound economic development. I believe the same applies to rural economic development. If you don’t treat it aggressively, do you really understand the consequences of NOT being successful? Action is necessary. Continuing the status quo is not acceptable.
Just like the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the city walls of rural American need rebuilding. What if we recalibrated our time, effort, and energy to the right places? What if we focused that on the betterment of our community and the people within it? What if our priorities—individually, in our families, in our businesses and organizations—centered around giving of ourselves to improve our community? What could each of us accomplish? What could we accomplish together?
This week on the podcast we’re talking with Belle Golden of Belle’s Flower Truck in Tifton, Georgia. She’s sharing how, as someone who never had arranged flowers or even had dreams for a flower truck, knew in her heart this was something she was supposed to do and brought it to life in a matter of days. The result is now one of the hottest things in her small town - Belle’s Flower Truck.
We talk a lot about “community pride” but simple, straightforward definitions of the phrase are hard to come by. After working through various discussions of community pride and the definitions of “community” and “pride,” I proposed the following definition of “community pride”:
“A collective group of people’s dignity in, and satisfaction with, objects of importance and meaning to their group.”
Vian was always a place my kids loved to visit, and it was a place that was so special to my husband — it was home. Throughout the years we had been asked when we were going to bring our business to Vian. We thought this was the perfect opportunity to expand once more. We purchased a building downtown to open our newest location and get started here. After seeing the beauty that had been brought out in the buildings surrounding us, we decided to do a complete remodel. A few plans have changed, but we are so excited for the future here.
This week on the podcast we’re in Vian, Oklahoma talking with Lyndsey Sullivan, who recently opened a lifestyle gym called The Field House. She’s sharing how she brought what had been a dream in her heart for over five years to life by restoring a vacant building on main street. Lyndsey’s shifting that mindset in her rural town by offering affordable price points and educating members that her gym is an all-around healthy lifestyle option - and her community is really embracing it.
Operating a floral business in a rural town is no simple feat. Doing the aforementioned while working a full-time job 40 miles away is just another layer of the proverbial onion. However, we had a plan! My sister had never arranged a flower before in her life, and from day one she would be the shopkeeper. It was a tough start, but with much determination, and more than one FaceTime call on my lunch break to help with flower arranging from afar, it has all seamlessly come together.
Having worked at community and economic development for many, many years, I’m well aware of the countless individuals who’ve given so much time to their communities and to the entire region! And I’ve learned how so much more can be achieved through collaborations and partnerships than can ever be accomplished individually, making so many things possible that would not be otherwise. As our communities strengthen and our region prospers, you can see the work of committed individuals everywhere.
Our original goal of starting a business was to bring more people to our area, keep more money local and hope to share priceless time together as mother and daughter. What ended up happening was something unexpected and much more significant. We have met the most amazing people who live locally, are at the lake, or are traveling through — and have built relationships and friendships with those people that we would have otherwise never known. Meeting these people and learning their stories has made it all so worth it!
Let us introduce you to Vian, Oklahoma — a town rich in tradition, diversity, pride, and dreams. Having suffered two downtown fires, a new generation of entrepreneurs had visions of repurposing hundred-year-old buildings that have sat vacant for years. So with limited funds but unlimited passion, the revitalization process has begun! Nine new businesses have opened in the past five years!
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.
It’s hard to believe that here we are on the last day of 2018. Seriously, What. A. Year. Last year at this time, Rural Revival was nothing more than a spark of an idea that I should start a podcast. I wanted to show people what’s possible in rural America through what is already happening here. And to look back on this year and see all that this has become? It overwhelms me in the best way.
This week on the podcast we’re sitting down with Jeremy Mahler of The Nineteen14 in Minburn, Iowa. The Nineteen14 is an old railroad depot that Jeremy turned into a restaurant that draws thousands of people each year — mostly through the local bike trail. As a creative and an entrepreneur, Jeremy is always involved in lots of fun projects. He’s also sharing why, after living and traveling all over the world, he decided to return to his roots in small town Iowa.
All of us in local leadership—whether elected, volunteering, or just an interested citizen—are the ones to decide if we want to “save” our piece of rural America. Austin isn’t going to do it. Washington, D.C. isn’t going to do it. We are the ones who must do it.
Norm and Teresa Gielda are the new owners of The Davis General - a modern day general store in the rural community of Boston, just on the outskirts of Franklin, Tennessee. This week on the podcast they’re sharing their story about how they chose to relocate from California to Tennessee and return to Teresa’s southern roots, and how becoming small business owners has helped them build community in a new place.
It's no secret I love to stay busy. I finished my master's degree in nursing education, and still work as a nurse three days a week. However, I needed something to fill a creative void in my life. I needed a side hustle. So here I am, working three days in the clinic, making custom leather, and running a photography business.
The Grand Theatre beautifully sums up why the “good old days” are a complicated thing. Memories of the theatre span eight decades. Each generation remembers a different version of the theatre, each of which took place in a different era of the town’s history. But to that generation, their memory is the “good old days,“ and guess what? Each group is exactly right.
Why New Providence? I get asked this regularly. It’s home for me and goodness, I am so thankful every day that I have grown a business in an area full of such supporting people. Everyone in this community treats you like family and they are so positive, always encouraging others, looking for a way to give a helping hand, and celebrating everything and everyone’s accomplishments. Why wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with that everyday?!
One definition of community is, “a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” In my opinion, New Providence has just that, and other small communities should strive to have the same. Our small size keeps us together, focused, and driven to be successful as a whole. I’m proud to be part of a community that is dedicated to making the place we call home a little better each day.
It was always a dream of ours to open a flower, plant, and gift shop, so I opened The Rustic Rose and am living out our dream! This experience has been amazing. The town of New Providence is an absolutely awesome place to have my business. I couldn’t be more happy with my choice.
This week on the podcast we’re taking you to New Providence, Iowa, where we’re sitting down with Blake Richie, owner of BR Designs. Blake is one of several millennials who has decided to call New Providence home. He’s talking about why he chose this town of 250 people as the place to start his business, why no town is too small for revival, and how he started a county-wide young professionals group to help people learn and connect.
With three weeks before Christmas, there are many opportunities for us to improve the Christmas season by changing our own piece of society. It doesn’t require a large event serving a meal to your community. It may be as simple as taking an evening to spend some time with an older neighbor. It might mean a quick trip to Walmart to purchase a toy for a local toy drive. It might be pressing a $10 bill into the hand of a clearly-struggling mother doing her shopping at the store one day.
This week on the podcast we’re talking with Lexi Marek, an ag communicator and influencer and sixth generation Iowa farm girl. She’s sharing why she’s passionate about women in agriculture, how competing for Miss Iowa changed her life, and why she’s a big advocate for branding.
Ultimately, there’s nothing wrong with the commercial aspects of Christmas. Our lives can be happier with children taking pictures with Santa Claus, family members exchanging gifts, and streets full of beautiful Christmas lights. But was it worth what it took to accomplish it?
Thanksgiving is all about gathering around the table to share a meal and celebrate the blessings and many reasons we have to be thankful in our lives. So for this special Thanksgiving edition of the podcast, we’re sitting down with someone who actually makes the tables we gather around - Walt Henson, Owner of Red Tower Design in Canyon, Texas.
Rural Revival presents this season’s best gifts - from sporting to jewelry, home goods to apparel - all made in America by rural makers and creators. As part of this holiday season, let's #shopsmall and #shoprural and support business owners who are working hard to create amazing products all across rural America. And be sure to check out the other products available from these makers and creators, too, and find something special for everyone on your list!
If the colonists can stop to give thanks for a successful harvest, and if President Lincoln could see the big picture of America’s blessings amidst war, then we too can see our blessings. If we stop and look for them, we can find countless reasons to be thankful for our individual communities and for rural life in general.
This week on the podcast we’re sitting down with Randa Starnes of Tennessee River Music Company, a registered Hereford and Angus operation in Fort Payne, Alabama. Randa’s talking about life on their family’s cattle production farm, what it’s like to grow up with a famous dad, and how they unexpectedly grew their operation with a new business venture.
War is an awful, terrible thing, sometimes needless and sometimes necessary. No matter the circumstances, every American war has been fought the likes of Dan Crenshaw, regular men and women who sacrificed career, family, and immeasurable pain out of duty on behalf of the rest of our society. As Congressman-elect Crenshaw said, we can forgive one another and remember the things that bring us together.
This week on the podcast we’re with Justin Christman of Roadside Que in Fort Payne, Alabama. Justin made the move to Fort Payne from Denver, Colorado, got creative with his passion for BBQ and cooking, and introduced the first food truck to this rural area. The power of word of mouth in a small community helped boost his business, which has now grown into a new brick and mortar restaurant.
Recently, I read a wonderful and well-reported feature published at Bleacher Report on Stamford’s own national football star James Washington, and I was struck by several of the undertones. As a community leader and business owner, I cringed a bit reading of vacant buildings and closed businesses. But then, I took a step back and considered it some more.
Join us on the farm in rural Madison County, Iowa for this week’s podcast interview with Matt and Naomi Hupton, founders of Pammel Park Coffee Company. Matt and Naomi are sharing about chasing a dream and why they chose Winterset, Iowa as their place to relocate and start a family business - and how it all started with roasting coffee in their garage and a roadside stand with their kids.
Despite our dreams, government probably should not run exactly like a business. Simply put, the ultimate goal of a business is profit. Without a profit or outside subsidy, business will not survive. Certainly, some aspects of government operate with profit as the goal. Many government services, though, simply cannot be profit-oriented. If you attempt to manage any of these individual services with a profit goal, citizens would likely experience exorbitant costs, terrible services, or both.
When someone encounters us, what lasting impact do we want to leave? Do we want people to dread seeing us because we talk in insincere extremes of misery or perfection? Do we want to leave them with an empty feeling of meaningless interaction? Or we do we want to be the people who make someone’s day better after we interact with them?
This week on the podcast we’re talking with farm manager Stephanie Ballantine from Kiron, Iowa (pop. 279). Stephanie unexpectedly found herself widowed and faced with the decision of whether or not to continue the farming operation she and her husband had built together. She made the decision to keep the farm operation going, and she’s sharing about her journey and what she has learned along the way.
Right in the heart of rural northwest Iowa is the community of Holstein - a small town with German roots that has quickly become a fun go-to destination. Holstein has a little bit of everything to offer, and with its prime location at the intersections of Highway 20 and Highway 59, it’s the perfect place for a day trip or weekend getaway in the Iowa countryside!
Starting this business was something I wanted to do for awhile. I had been working with the family business my whole life, which was body work, but the shop fell on hard times and we had to close up shop. All I knew was mainly body work, but we decided to take the gamble and purchase the bar.
The movement of reopening small town movie theatres is a great example of what communities do. People come together to make something happen, for the town, and acting in good faith. Getting the State Theatre renovated and reopened was just one thing that has happened recently in Holstein, Iowa, but is a big part of the energy and revival going on here.
As a lifelong resident of semi-arid West Texas (the “semi” is arguable), it’s hard to wish for less rain. Along the way, we’ve benefited our crops and pastures. We’ve refilled our reservoir so that we have several years’ of water stored away. But those benefits have not come without a price, particularly to those who have lost residences or those whose agricultural operations are suffering financially.
As someone with a passion for cooking who loves coffee and being around family and friends, I have always wanted to start my own business and have talked it about for years. It wasn’t until my kids were off to college and I found myself a single parent with nowhere to grow in the job I had that I finally took the plunge. After being in the corporate world of sales and marketing, I decided it was my time to start a new chapter in my life. I knew I needed a change, and it was scary - and still is at times - but I did it!
This week on the podcast, Emily Vollmar Doxtad of Rooted Boutique in Holstein, Iowa (pop. 1,396) talks about doing the unlikely thing of bringing a modern, contemporary boutique to her rural community. She shares about the journey of her business that started in a snowmobile trailer and how it has grown and changed over the years into a fun brick-and-mortar shop!
As I prepare to wrap up this series on drugs and addiction in our communities (for now), I was struck by these questions: what do we aspire to? What do we want our communities to be?
We’ve got a fascinating conversation with lawyer, farmer, and mayor James Decker of Stamford, Texas (pop. 3,124) this week on the podcast. James is setting an example we can all learn from when it comes to the revitalization of and commitment to our rural communities - and you’re about to find out why.
Revival can take place in many forms. But in the case of the purchase of the old Hotel Colonia, the first stage of revival for our community was the natural inclination to share how the building connected with each one of us and remembering our past with a smile. Slowly, as the community heard the news of the purchase, we were so blessed to hear story after story of moments that the building had touched people’s lives!
When we shine a light on the darkness in our communities, our light will become a beacon to others. A city set upon a hill cannot be hidden, even when that city is a rural community in West Texas in 2018 and the national news seems to overwhelm us.
We’re sitting down with Trey and Shandy Pearson of Rowe Point Ranch in Hedley, Texas on this week’s podcast. Rowe Point Ranch is located on the former site of Rowe, Texas, a historic ghost town that is now being transformed into a beautiful West Texas event venue.
I’ve spent months thinking about the addiction problem in our rural communities and the decay and decline that comes with it. I learned a long time ago that identifying problems does no good if you aren’t also willing to identify and apply solutions. Today, I bring you a conversation about solutions.
In a recent road trip through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, I realized the actual site of Little House on the Prairie in Independence, Kansas was just a mile off of my route and I knew I had to stop. I have to admit, it was a bit of a surreal moment. As I stood in front of the replica of that little log cabin on that windy day and looked at the land where the Ingalls family had settled, I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between their life as pioneers and our new generation of pioneering.
This week on the podcast we’re talking with Shellie Hughes and her dad Bobby Earl Bertram with Old Glory Schoolhouse in Monticello, Kentucky. You’re going to love hearing about all the creative ways they’re repurposing this old schoolhouse - and their fun connection to Magnolia in Waco, Texas. Plus a few fun stories from Bobby to keep us all entertained!
USDA research finds that rural drug use is a symptom of several problems. Most important, in my mind, is that drug use has become a primary form of self-medication. Drug users are medicating for a number of reasons, including depression and despair, as well as lacking economic opportunity (which, in itself, only further fuels depression and despair).
When you think of northern California you probably think of San Francisco, and the wineries of Napa and Sonoma. All are gorgeous, amazing locations! But, what you might not know is that the heart of northern California runs deep within the small rural farming communities north of Sacramento. Think rice farming, Friday night football, and simple small-town living.
Opioid abuse is called an “equal opportunity” problem because it touches every demographic—all races and ethnicities, backgrounds, and income levels. Many stories have been written about the opioid crisis in poverty-stricken areas, but the problem is far broader. Because rural areas tend to have higher poverty levels than the national average, opioid abuse disproportionately affects rural communities.
At the recent West Texas Rural Summit, drug addiction—causes, challenges, solutions—was a hot topic. Drug overdose rates are higher in rural America than the country at large. As we work to improve our communities—beautify them, bring jobs and amenities, make them more prosperous for all—drugs must be tackled by all of our community leaders.
This week on the podcast we’re talking with Becky Wilber of Wilber Fertilizer Service in Cherokee, Oklahoma. If you’re thinking about moving back to rural America, this episode is for you. This is a really important discussion where Becky shares openly and honestly about her decision to move back to her hometown and help run the family business, and why she says it was one of the hardest - but best - decisions of her life.
On August 22, Stamford city councilman Paul Wright and I attended the first West Texas Rural Summit in Lubbock. Through a day’s worth of panel discussions, Q&A, and informal conversation, something is abundantly clear: throughout West Texas, we share the same problems. Each local place has its variations, but the big picture problems are the same. Rather than fight battles alone and do things the hard way, local leaders are starting to work together.
Scott Stebner is a nationally published agricultural photographer and videographer. Or, to put it more simply, Scott creates photos and videos of people with grit. Scott’s sharing about some of the amazing projects he’s been involved with, why he has started to focus more on video, and why he’s not afraid to fail. Plus you’ll learn how an unlikely ag background led to where he is today and has given him a really unique perspective.
It’s not the easy choice to make a life here in rural America, but our communities have never been the “easy” choice. But we’re still here for a reason. We’re here because of the powerful impact these places had on our lives, because of opportunity, because of the quality of the people.
Stephanie Bradley Fryer is a lawyer and cattle producer from both Stamford, Texas and Chattanooga, Oklahoma - who also happens to be a fifth generation landowner. This week on the podcast she’s telling more about how she makes it work splitting her time between two places, and how she’s established her place as a woman in both ag and law.
We've been struggling to drum up support for the library I work for over the past few years. There just hasn't been a lot in the way of funding to go around. Not much interest. But you see, our library is not just the library. It is a safe place for kids to play in, it's a place where people come to catch the town news, it's a community center, a town hall, a place to come for help of any kind. So what happens here affects the entire community.
No matter what life throws at us, we always have an opportunity for a fresh start. A new school year is upon us. With that, each of us have new opportunities to grow, thrive, and make an impact on the community around us. Where and how will you step up?
This week on the podcast, Christy Jo of The Strawberry Patch and The Fruit Tea Chicks is sharing about her journey of learning to express herself though art, which eventually led to these two fun, creative businesses that she started out of Hartsville, Tennessee (pop. 2,369).
Those of us in community leadership desire something akin to a football team imposing its will on its opponent. We have ideas to improve our community that we believe to be worthwhile. We seek to implement those ideas and influence the community’s future, rather than sitting back and letting others dictate the future.
Music has always been a huge part of who Roger Cowan is, and he's sharing how that led to the start of his company, Dog Tired Guitars, on this week's podcast. We talk with Roger about why he believes in charity work and music education, why the story behind the guitar is so important, and why he wanted his company to be rooted in small-town, rural America.
These kids WANT to live in rural America. In fact, they're planning on it. So it is our job to pave the way to make it possible for them to do so. And as it turns out, the county fair is a great place to start.
Can a rural town revive itself on trendy restaurants, or does too much focus on that aspect of a town become “glitter on rust”? Rural communities need jobs, healthcare, schools, and infrastructure. This is a perpetual struggle in planning rural development ideas. Each of our communities has opportunities for glitter that will attract new traffic, whether it be new restaurants and retail, tourism and cultural events, or something other unique feature. But can that glitter sustain a town?
If you are a creative in a small town, you’re going to love this episode of the podcast! We’re sitting down with JoAnna Robertson of Clarendon, Texas. JoAnna manages the Western Heritage Classic Ranch Horse Sale in Abilene, and operates a wedding and portrait photography business throughout the Texas Panhandle. She is amazingly talented and has had some amazing creative experiences, and we're excited for you to get to know her!
Have we ever considered the concept of community-oriented gifts? We were each designed to do something great in our community. What specific abilities and gifts do we each possess, individually, that we can use for the good of the community around us and the people of the community?
From physical therapist to home store and coffee shop owner, Jaime England is telling the story behind what motivated her to take on the biggest storefront on Main Street in Manning, Iowa. She also talks about the revival happening in her hometown, where young people are excited to get involved and how the town is creating things to keep people engaged and wanting to live there.
The small-town environment gives us a lot of opportunities to be involved in the community. It has given us the opportunity to teach our children that volunteering and taking pride in your community is important. We have found since moving back home, we have more opportunities and a more fulfilling lifestyle than we ever did in the city. We are invested in the community and we want to help make this a great place to live!
It seems only fitting for a community whose slogan is “it’s refreshing” to embrace the idea of adding an outdoor aquatic center to its already well-developed indoor aquatic facility, and as one who loves the sun, summer, and soaking it all up by the water, I feel compelled to help lead the fundraising efforts.
It’s important to tell the difference between “traditions” and “bad habits.” Sometimes, an idea is successful for a while, but after changes in populations, economies, or the world around us, that idea stops being successful. We can do one of two things: we can recognize that circumstances have changed and recalibrate our tradition to fit the new circumstances, or we can ignore the new circumstances and let our once-successful tradition slide into a bad habit.
Manning, Iowa (pop. 1,500) is our featured rural community this week. Manning has been recognized as an Iowa Small Business Administration Community of the Year award, winning out against cities of all sizes, and was highlighted for demonstrating ideal collaborative community efforts to support small business success. We'll be sharing stories throughout the week of some local business owners who are making an impact in the community.
Georgia Clamping Company is putting a whole new spin on camping as we know it. Owners Nate and Bek Self believe that luxury and comfort should not be sacrificed while enjoying the great outdoors, and they are creating unique, one-of-a-kind getaways where people can explore on their own terms. You’ll see how this company really knows how to celebrate the things we love about rural areas and the outdoors, and why they believe in community over competition.
The Texas Cowboy Rodeo is designed to celebrate one of the most enduring images of America, the Texas cowboy. For 88 years, the event has brought together multiple generations of cowboys and non-cowboys, locals and non-locals, rural people and city people, from far and wide, all for that purpose.
If a community can’t be inspired to look good for its most important event of the year, it’s unlikely to look good the rest of the year either. Once you establish the pride for your major events, truly setting a permanent, higher level of expectation in your community requires expanding that pride throughout the year. The true test of our community pride is what we do when the crowds AREN’T in town.
We are beyond excited to bring you this week's podcast interview with Katie Harvey Martinez of Harvey’s Diner in Redfield, Iowa (pop. 826). Katie's story is what first inspired us to start the Rural Revival podcast, and you will quickly understand why. From the Iowa farm to Broadway and back, Katie's life is one amazing adventure. But her most recent move back to Iowa to open Harvey’s Diner is quite possibly her most exciting adventure yet.
If you’re tired of the national news this past week, let me tell you about the news in Stamford this past week. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve got our share of struggles and issues, but three developments stand out. Different people, stepping up in their own ways, with one goal: to improve their community.
Our rural communities will not survive and thrive into the future without our people working together for the community’s big picture. Perhaps our best way to establish unity is over a meal of reconciliation, conversation, and hopefulness. Even if there’s no immediate, apparent tension in the community, there are still gaps to be bridged. How better to overcome those concerns than sharing a table together?
This week on the podcast we’re taking you to an exciting new destination in downtown Grinnell, Iowa in our interview with Angela Harrington, owner of Hotel Grinnell. Here she has led the charge in converting a former school building into an incredible contemporary boutique hotel. During the interview we found out Angela also happens to have a lot of experience in small town economic development.
The surprising recent death of Anthony Bourdain brought a couple of topics into focus for me that I feel called to write about today. Men’s Journal wrote that Bourdain’s showed the unifying power of food — “how a shared meal can break barriers, challenge assumptions, and build bridges.” Crossing these bridges will bring together our people into a single unifying purpose, growing our community for a prosperous future.
This week on the podcast we’re taking you to Boaz, Alabama to chat with the girls of The BoxTruck Boutique. From starting with their own individual businesses of shirts, clothes, jewelry, and home goods, they eventually combined to form what is now The BoxTruck Boutique. Since then the business has taken off and they’ve never looked back!
Emma Hicks is the inspiring entrepreneur behind Iowa Gathering, Main + Second, and Camp Climb. From opening up a storefront to starting an online business to shooting a TV show pilot, Emma shares about what it looks like to build a life around what works for you and your family. She also speaks about having pride in your small town and the importance of a supportive community.
My name is Michael Catarineau, and I am a photographer, graphic designer and journalist. I freelance these skills, but I also use them in my day job as an ag journalist for a daily newspaper, the Scottsbluff Star-Herald, in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Follow my journey here on Rural Revival to get a glimpse into my world — a big-city Texan in Small Town, Nebraska.
We're based out of Franklin, Tennessee so it's no secret we love music. And let's face it, no country drive is complete without a great playlist to go along with it. So here you have it, our top five playlists for your backroads soundtrack!
Alice Pettyjohn is the owner of Alice Circle, an art studio and boutique offering everything from art classes and art parties to a variety of creative gifts and clothing. Listen and learn how she’s fulfilling a unique role to bring art to the community of Rainsville, Alabama.
Managing a small business is hard work! So we're sharing 15 great resources that we use everyday to help streamline our businesses and simplify this crazy entrepreneur life that we signed up for. And, best of all, everything on this list is FREE!
This week we're bringing you a fascinating conversation with Linc Kroeger of Pillar Technology and The Forge in Des Moines, Iowa about bringing tech jobs to rural communities. Linc and his company are pioneering a concept that is truly forging the future and changing how we approach jobs and education in rural America.
On this week’s podcast, Karmen Smith talks about life with her husband Jason and their kids, their unexpected journey as entrepreneurs, what happens when you pray big, overcoming your fears with Facebook live (anyone??), turning your farm into a business, and doing scary things. You won’t want to miss this!
Tucked in the mountains of North Alabama between Nashville and Atlanta you'll find breathtaking landscapes, charming small towns, and lots of opportunity for outdoor adventure. We're sharing our favorites from the area, including local artisans, small businesses, and experiences you won't want to miss.
We love showcasing makers of the best American-made products, and that's why we're so excited about this week's podcast with Anna Brakefield of Red Land Cotton. Red Land Cotton is bringing American-made linens and towels back to our homes and it's catching the attention of people all across the country!
Something about the Denison Dairy Queen has made it legendary. It's the kind of place you want to experience every chance you get. So what's the secret behind this locally-owned, seasonal, ice-cream-and-burger joint that makes it so special?
Entrepreneurs at heart, Kasey and Jordana Henke have done a little bit of everything when it comes to the world of vintage and junk, not only trying but succeeding in pretty much everything they've put their hand to.
Do you live in a rural community? Are you thinking about moving to a rural community or starting a business in a small town? This week’s podcast with realtor Amy Lucht is a conversation you won’t want to miss!
Writing a blog post for Rural Revival was on my to-do list this week but I couldn’t figure out how to get started. Then I saw this quote on their Facebook page, “Remember Why You Started.” Wow.
Devon Evers of Crossgrain Woodworking shares how his business got started when a picture of a hutch he built for himself went viral on Facebook.
With many of you asking how to get involved, we wanted to share three ways you can do that right now
Revival in our small towns and rural communities is not only possible, it's happening. Let's start a RURAL REVIVAL!