Information, Inspiration, and Ideas for a Sustainable Rural Future

Promoting the Entrepreneurial Community Spirit

How you gonna keep em down on the farm ...

Rural communities everywhere watch and worry as their children grow up and leave home. Ask folks "what's the biggest problem in your community" and top on the list is "what can we do to keep our kids here?" But, is that the right question?

Without a doubt, many kids who grow up in small towns will leave home. In fact, many kids who grow up in urban centers, suburban tracts and on Native American reservations -- will leave home.

The rite of passage - from child to adult - in many cultures, including our own, is to travel out from the safety of home to test oneself in the outside world -- it's the Vision Quest, the Walkabout, the Job In The City, the Going Away To School.

"What can we do to keep our kids here?" IS the wrong question. "What can we do to get them to come back home?" is the real question to ask, and providing jobs and economic opportunities is only one part of the answer.

People will leave and come back to a place that draws them back strongly, that tugs at their hearts often and that deepens and nourishes their roots and sense of belonging. Just growing up in a place doesn't guarantee that it will be such a magnet.

The key question we need to ask ourselves in rural areas, is NOT how can we keep the kids here but rather -- how can we inspire in them that deep sense of connection and awe of place that will bring them back to the HomeTown they love -- armed with new and creative solutions to old problems that they have come to understand better "out in the world."

Communities involved in the Montana Heritage Project, have found a key that may just work to draw their young people back.