Another Look at Rural Economies

15 Jan 2021


As someone who lives in a city (albeit not a large one), I am perhaps not the most qualified to discuss the topic of rural economies. On the other hand, both my parents were raised on wheat farms in eastern Washington. Consequently, one of the most pressing issues in rural America is currently impacting my family directly: family farm succession planning. Additionally, each year the labor market analytics firm I work for produces a Talent Attraction Scorecard to rank how large, small, and micro counties are faring in building their talent pools. As a result, I’ve spent many hours combing through spreadsheets and researching what is occurring in the small counties that scored well. I’ve also recently been reading a lot of famed novelist, conservationist, and farming advocate Wendell Berry. And so rural America, place, and agriculture have been top of mind. As an interested observer of rural economies, here are a few observations:

Rural America’s perceived demise needs some context.
The Economic Research Service (ERS) of the United States Agriculture Department provides periodic analysis of rural population trends. And like so many labor and economic issues, it’s a mixed bag. There is no denying that rural areas as a whole have seen their growth rate fall since the early 90s. And, long before then, the industrialization of agriculture began the process of pushing away scores of family farms.

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