Information, Inspiration, and Ideas for a Sustainable Rural Future

Promoting the Entrepreneurial Community Spirit

The North American Rural Futures Institute

Rural Communities Category-specific Content

The 2004 Community Wind Energy Conference

NARFI Future Thinker Craig EricksonCraig Erickson of Bear Paw Development Corporation contributes his Future Thinker experience report after attending the 2004 Community Wind Energy Conference thanks, in part, to a NARFI mini-grant. Craig views this event from the perspective of a professional economic developer. Craig and Don Marble attended the conference on behalf of the Hi-Line.

The 2004 Community Wind Energy Conference

NARFI Future Thinker Don MarbleRead our latest Future Thinker experience report by Don Marble, Liberty County Commissioner. Don recently attended the 2004 Community Wind Energy Conference thanks to a NARFI mini-grant that helped Don meet the expense of attending this event on behalf of the Hi-Line.

This Little Light of Mine...

In the shock 'em contest to get viewers, readers and listeners, what passes for news and entertainment these days is aimed at feeding that dark side adrenalin lust -- to be repulsed, to be disturbed, to feel disgust.

Between some weirdo's definition of reality in TV shows, the up-close and grisly horrors of the evening news reports, and the tell-all scandals that get front page headlines in the daily newspapers, you'd think that the US has become a nation full of wackos.

So, when the Great Falls Tribune ran a recent story on its e-news front page -- Fifth-grader celebrates birthday by volunteering -- this headline absolutely grabbed my attention.

For Katy Walters and three of her friends, celebrating a birthday is something special. But, instead of the typical glitz and glitter, swimming or roller-skating party that marketing tells us all kids expect these days, these four young friends celebrated Katy's birthday by volunteering their time at the Easter Seals-Goodwill Child Development Center in Great Falls. They read books to small groups of preschoolers, talked about their favorite stories, and passed out treats to the 14 young children in the CDC program.

Now that's news! And, it made me feel good to read it.

Despite all the so called reality trash that pushes us daily to become mean spirited and callous to people around us, to use deception and cunning to win in competition, to depend on force and violence to get what we want in the world --- there are still good kids out there, kids who really do care.

There IS hope yet -- for our increasingly brutal, uncaring society. But it usually doesn't take front page, and it doesn't sell papers or product, or get a huge market share of viewers -- at least that's what folks who choose what we see, hear or hear about, have convinced us to believe -- that good news is NOT news, only the seamy side of human behavior is worth giving any attention.

Like David against Goliath, Frodo against Sauron, we need to change the direction in which we're pushing the next generation.

We have to do everything we can, every moment we can to counter balance the ugliness, hate, greed and violence that is now called "entertainment." We have to help kids learn that caution is valid but fear and paranoia that colors every person as a danger is just as destructive to how they will participate in the world.

We have to show each and every young person that we come across in our daily lives, that we value who they are and who they can become.

What can You do? Whether you're a parent, grandparent, neighbor, aunt, uncle, friend, mentor, volunteer, or someone who just sees young people in the mall, in the neighborhood, or on the street corner, there are many ways you can help change where we're heading.

It's already happening, across the entire state of Alaska. Whole communities are banding together to support and encourage a more positive future for their young people

What can You do? Take a good look here.

And for Katy Walters and her friends, keep on doing what you are doing. Keep on making a difference. Keep on doing everything YOU can to help make the world a more positive place. Happy Birthday! And MANY happy returns.

This one is in memory of Karen, who celebrated her birthday every year by going to the Red Cross center to donate a pint of blood.

Living with the Land

Click to read article. Photo by Amber D'Hooge.There's a beautiful log home under construction off-the-grid on the Rocky Boy's Reservation where Ted Demontiney and his family will be close to nature thanks to the power of the wind and the sun.

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.

Y'all come back, now

Do you want to know about the love life of chickens? About harvesting hay in Greenland? About self-discoveries while farming late in life? Celebrate life in rural places through images and stories offered here by rural folks across North America who love rural life despite its many challenges.Click here to start your journey.

Point in the right direction

When I was teaching in the '60s and '70s, finding exciting materials to spark students was a full time challenge. Curriculum and education materials were either self-generated, shared among teachers in a school or district, borrowed from regional/state sources, or purchased. A good teacher spent endless hours outside the classroom, designing and developing lessons, projects, experiments and learning modules that would challenge each and every student in his/her class. Today there is a flood of educational resources available through the Internet. For example, PBS TeacherSource alone offers over 4,500 free lesson plans, activities and professional development tools for PreK-12 educators, in everything from arts and literature to math, science, social studies and more. This is an exceptional resource for teachers. NARFI's growing resource for educators is the Educational Resources section of the NARFI Rural Futures Directory. I invite everyone who visits NARFI's education resource list to submit other resources for listing in the rural futures directory.

Get Wired or Get Left Behind

Montanan Kate McMahon and community networking guru Andrew Cohill have sage advice for rural communities in Get Wired or Get Left Behind, their feature article from the July issue of Planning, the publication of the American Planning Association. [ Read article in PDF format ]

The Iowa Creative Economy Unconference

Imagine Iowa 2010 logoIowa's Department of Cultural Affairs reports that small towns are positioned to thrive in the Creative Economy! And they put their program dollars behind a bold vision to support solo and family-based creative entrepreneurs and microbusiness development in rural and distressed urban communities.

Creatively Rethinking Rural Depopulation

Montana's U.S. Senator Max Baucus asked the North American Rural Futures Institute and Sohodojo about our thoughts on the problem of rural depopulation. As you might expect, we see this 'problem' in the context of the creative opportunity for local economic and community development within the evolution of the Network Society. [ Read NARFI Overview and Talking Points (PDF) ]
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