Earth Day & Small Communities

Earth Day is the time in April when we strengthen our practices of good stewardship by taking simple steps like growing our own food, planting a tree, decreasing our waste and supporting businesses whose values mirror our own. We focus on issues like sustaining our natural resources for future generations, on maintaining clean drinking water and clean air to breathe and creating healthy communities to live and thrive in.

Grandpa WestcottGrowing up in rural Iowa, I have witnessed so many changes in our community.  These changes were due in part to the growth of farm size, the transition from small family farms to larger corporate farms and, with that, our increasingly broadened range of travel.   Back in the day, it used to be a big deal for rural kids to go to town (which was usually a couple of miles away from the farm) for dinner and outdoor movies on Saturday night to socialize.  This is where the phrase “going to town” comes from.  When you hear about a person “going to town” on some delicious corn on the cob or “going to town” on driving a tractor through the field, it harks back to a time when “going to town” meant doing something fun in an enthusiastic way.

But things have changed.  My old school building has since been demolished and the district consolidated with a few other towns. Now the main elementary school is located 13 miles away.  There are fewer businesses and farmers in the area, as they’re moving away, too.  That’s why it’s so important to provide the next generation with the resources, support and tools to continue with these small family farming operations and businesses.  Financial sustainability is as important as environmental sustainability. If family businesses cannot be profitable, the whole community suffers.

C F Jacobsen Clear LakeMany folks living and working in our rural Midwest areas today recognize that our small-town communities are suffering.  I moved back to the same small town I grew up in and joined my parents on the farm in 2002 with my daughter. We lived in a renovated old farm house just down the road from my parents and our main farming operation where we planted roots, a garden and worked on the farm. I wanted her to know her grandparents and have a similar upbringing to my own. I wanted her to develop a strong sense of connection to the community and traditional farm family values.  It’s unfortunate that she doesn’t have the chance to experience my hometown the way I did growing up.

Looking for inspiration of what you can do beyond Earth Day to help our planet? Take a moment at the grocery store and consider where your food comes from. Think about supporting a small local business in your community or businesses that directly impact your community in a positive way Just by making mindful decisions like this we can help to rejuvenate our farms and small towns.

Thank you so much for your continued support.  Every bit helps!

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