The best response we've read to last weekend's feature article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the perceived rural-urban split in Minnesota?
Kelly Asche, Program Coordinator at the Center for Small Towns at the University of Minnesota Morris writes in Staff Voices: Responding to the Star Tribune:
The narrative of our rural areas can have a major impact on people retention and recruitment efforts. This past Sunday, the Star Tribune published a front-page article titled “Urban-Rural Split in Minnesota Grows Deeper, Wider”. The context of the article is based on the political shifts that happened in the last election cycle in our rural areas. What’s interesting about this article is the language used to describe rural areas which provides the backdrop of the political debate and the exploitation of a supposed “gap” between rural and urban areas. It’s a perfect example of an outdated rural narrative which we discussed extensively last year at our Symposium on Small Towns. Not only does this doom-and-gloom narrative not match the facts, it is hurting our ability to focus on the actual issues in our small towns.
Population decline and the reduction of the number of employees in the agriculture sector are consistently used as (incorrect) examples of doom-and-gloom in rural areas. This article negatively frames the problems of rural areas in Minnesota to “one born of such larger forces as national demographic trends and the decline of farming as a way of life”. However, the national demographic trends show that there are more people living in rural areas than ever before. The population living in rural areas jumped from 53.6 million people in 1970 to 59.5 million people in 2010 (U.S. Census Bureau). In addition, the author incorrectly assumes that since there has been a decline in the number of farmers that there must be a decline in the rural economy. However, farming hasn’t been the predominant industry in rural Minnesota for nearly 40 years. The current rural economy has adapted and diversified to global economic pressures. Manufacturing, health & education services currently make up 30-60% of employment in any given rural county. Farming and related industries employ fewer than 10% of all workers in 90% of MN counties. (Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages). . . .
Read the rest at the blog, The Center for Small Towns: Reflections from Rural Minnesota.
Photo: An old school New Idea Manure Spreader, suitable for distributing old frames and narratives.
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