Thursday, May 10, 2012

Let's visit: A dispatch from the Rural Futures Conference

I am still at the Rural Futures Conference at the University of Nebraska, and one of the little things that has delighted me about being here is the use of language by these folks in the Great Plains area.  In particular, I have twice heard someone use the verb "visit" to mean "chat" or "talk."  I use the word "visit" this way a lot--or at least I used to--until I found that people in California didn't understand what it meant.  Indeed, this usage sometimes elicits chuckles in California, where people seem to think "visiting" requires getting up and going somewhere--like visiting another state or another country.  That folks at this event use it in the way I grew up using it makes me wonder if the usage is a rural thing, as opposed to being a Southern thing, which I had previously assumed.

Also heard at the Rural Futures Conference:
  • asset quilting 
  • economic gardening
  • place making 
  • scholarship in action 
  • rural sourcing (the next generation of off-shoring)
  • grey nomads (from an Australian; in the U.S., we see references to grey gold)
  • regional envy:  one community wanting an amenity, e.g, a swimming pool, a hospital, because another community has it; failure to think more regionally.
As you might have noted, several of these phrases and terms are not unique to rural contexts, but many do refer to economic development strategies.  I hope that the Rural Futures Institute will, ultimately, be about more than rural economic development, in part because I am not convinced that "a rising tide lifts all ships."  I didn't hear anyone talking about rural poverty and other social problems (except me, in small group settings) over the three-day event. 

One of the most surprising comments I heard on the last day, when focus groups met and reported back their impressions on the event, was the assertion that Big Ag had been excluded.  Having heard relatively frequent comments from pork, corn and cattle industry representatives during open mic opportunities, I did not share this concern. 

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