Editorial: April 2017
Enlisting voices for rural America
Recently, my wife, Sarah, and I were interviewed for an article that ran in Union Farmer, the magazine of North Dakota Farmers Union. In the article, we discussed our experiences as youth attending Farmers Union Camp, which would turn out to be one of our favorite places. This was a real formative experience for us, in several ways. It was a place where we, with other kids from different towns, met for the first time, learned to dance, made new friends, had a lot of fun, and learned about the importance of cooperatives, agriculture and rural America. These annual experiences as youth not only brought us together, but it created a “spark” and a deep appreciation of the important role that rural America plays in providing for the rest of the country and world.
Now, several years later, Sarah and I find ourselves with five children, a mortgage – and a dog! – and we are delighted our oldest child has become a Farmers Union camper. We can only hope that she, a semi-urban kid, will develop a similar appreciation for agriculture, cooperatives, and our rural people and places.
This is just one of the ways we hope to instill rural values in our children, and illustrate that even though we may not all live in what is considered rural, we must appreciate it.
To that end, it is imperative that many voices unite in support of rural America. Today, only 15 percent of the nation’s population resides in rural areas. That means when essential polices impacting the rural quality of life are considered, not only must every rural citizen be engaged, we must enlist our urban counterparts to be advocates for issues important to future vitality, as well. Issues regarding common-sense regulation, continued long-term investments in rural infrastructure and rural development, access to rural health care, education and economic opportunities, support for energy and agriculture, research and the food system are vital for rural people, and are also issues that should concern every American.
As an organization that represents rural electric cooperatives, it the job of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives to advocate on behalf of these cooperatives on issues that concern not only the electric industry, but also the many issues important to the rural quality of life. We do so by building coalitions, providing education, visiting with decision-makers, and by communicating the important interests of those we represent.
Please never assume that your involvement in advocating our rural way of life isn’t important. It is imperative. That’s certainly a value Sarah and I are cultivating in our children. Let us all seek ways to participate; especially in those organizations that advocate on our behalf and on behalf of the rest of rural America. Involvement can include something as basic as attending your electric cooperative’s annual meeting. Our lives, our work and our hopes matter here in rural America, and help lift the rest of the nation along the way.