Tuesday, September 4, 2012

One year at the Rural Futures Lab blog

By Jennifer Jensen, RUPRI Research Analyst, Rural Futures Lab

I have been managing this blog for just over one year (happy birthday, RFL blog!), and I wanted to take a break from our usual programming to take a look back at... our usual programming.

We have been proud to publish posts on a wide variety of topics of interest to rural American communities. The blog has featured researchers, students, policy experts, and community development practitioners of all stripes.

In the past 13 months, the blog has attracted readers from every state in the union except one (anyone have advice on how to break into the elusive Rhode Island market?), and from all over the world. Especially Canada.

Rural Futures Lab Director, Brian Dabson, laid out our vision for rural America in our very first post. We believe that rural America will continue to be an important contributor to national prosperity, but there is lots of work ahead to fully engage and develop our rural assets.

And what are our "rural assets"?

Photo courtesy of Jeff Yost and the Nebraska Community Foundation.
Many of our blog contributors have made the point that rural Americans themselves are a major asset. In particular, rural youth and young adults are the hope for our collective future. Our bloggers tackled this topic from many angles.

Photo courtesy of David Kay.
Another asset in rural America is our vast and diverse base of natural resources. A key question that the Rural Futures Lab is asking is how we can better manage the use and stewardship of our natural resources to benefit rural Americans, the national economy which relies on those resources, and the environment itself.

This question has led to an interesting mix of blog posts that feature the intersection between natural resources and economic development, energy, and governance issues:

Agriculture is as important to rural America as any other industry. These days, food system research, policy, and practices are innovative and vibrant, as our bloggers have shown:
  • Rich Pirog (C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems) documents the emergence of the local food movement.
  • Young farmers find a chance and a voice through the work of Jan Joannides and Renewing the Countryside.

Resources and ideas

An important feature of the blog is acting as a place to share workable ideas for communities. Our own RUPRI colleagues are a wealth of resources on the future of healthcare, defining "rural", rural-urban interdependence, resilience, and why rural America matters to the national economy.

Some of our most encouraging (and popular!) blog posts came from the rural philanthropy crowd. They have good news to offer:

Are you looking for connections with movers-and-shakers in rural policy at the national level? Two of our guest bloggers offer an "inside the beltway" perspective:

Other rural-specific resources featured on the blog include:

Overall, it's been a great year, and we look forward to the next one. Thank you to all our guest bloggers, and to you, our readers!

If you have an idea for a blog post, please let me know (jensen@rupri.org). In the meantime, keep on reading. And please consider commenting on how your own work or community relates to work and ideas you see featured here.

About the Author

Jen Jensen grew up in suburban Washington State but fell in love with farm life as a kid during yearly summer visits to the Champlain Islands in Vermont. Later, two years in a village as a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali, West Africa, forged the link for her between community development and rural issues. Working at RUPRI as a graduate student and now a research analyst has taught her even more reasons to admire and support the diversity, beauty, and resilience of rural people and places.

Visit the Rural Futures Lab website to download informative papers on many of the issues you read about here.

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