Rural and Small Town Opportunity

John Crabtree,, Center for Rural Affairs

When the new Census of Agriculture was released recently, we got a lot of calls. Most were questions from journalists wondering what was going on that created such “unconventional” statistical shifts in Nebraska - increasing numbers of farmers and ranchers, etc.

Conventional rhetoric has told us, since the Ag Crisis of the 1980’s, perhaps since the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s, that family farming and America’s small towns are in decline. However, we told the journalists that called us that, “of course the numbers have gone up. We’ve worked hard to create opportunities in rural and small town America.”

The Center for Rural Affairs and Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture alongside federal programs like USDA’s Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, policies such as the beginning farmer and rancher tax credit in Nebraska and similar initiatives in other states, have built upon an increasing desire among young people who want to get started in farming and ranching. And these efforts have capitalized on growing opportunities in developing local and regional food systems.

It may not be precisely the same kind of farming and ranching of past generations, but these new trends tie into things that rural and small town America have in abundance - quality of life, work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit.

I’m tired of the same old story about rural America. And I see a lot of evidence that there is another story out here that is worth far more in telling.