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Advisor

Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Recent discussions with various people in various professions within our community suggests we have a toxic environment, so bad that most kids can't wait to leave home, never to return, not even for Christmas and other holidays.

 

Why is that?  I'm trying to build a farm business that would be more attractive to one of my kids, so I find this annectdotal statistic unselttling.  For a time, I was thinking it was a problem for us only.  I was wrong.

 

My wife and I have contacts/associates spanning many professions.  Fewer children of these friends are choosing to stay close to home.  More have left for distant metropolitan centers and have no desire to return home, even for a visit with parents.  The parents have to go there to see their children and grand children.

 

About ten years ago, our community was designated as a vibrant, attractive, desirable place for young families and everyone else as well.  We were featured in the state's largest regional paper as a place people wanted to stay.  We were building new businesses, refurbishing old ones.  Since then, a restaraunt has closed up, perhaps for the last time.  We have empty store fronts.  A well established family run grocery store sold to a competitor after struggling through a painful financial period. 

 

That said, a look at sales tax collections says we are doing much better than last year, yet people are leaving town.  Our school recently was reclassified as 2-A, from 3-A thanks to a loss of students that either quit or moved elsewhere.  Property tax evaluations are way up, thanks to increased farmland values mostly.  New construction is up, both rural and in the towns.  Numbers of job openings are static.  There are a few good openings, but most are menial labor jobs that has a high turnover rate to begin with.  A fairly large group of families l.i.v.e. here and the parent or parents commutes to a nearby city for employment.

 

We are within 45 minutes of all sorts of entertainment, including semi-pro sports teams, major theatres, shopping malls, etc.  This metropolitan area is home to nearly 1 million people, and we are just outside of that area.  We are far enough away, so far, that urban/rural residential residant development of real estate is still manageable.

 

Farmers are getting older.  Yet most are retiring and renting their land to other farmers that have more than enough land to keep them and their families busy into the new century.  They seem to have pre-arranged agreements made years earlier.  I could say more, but will refrain.  I l.i.v.e. here.

 

I would talk about politics, local, state and national......

 

My question is: what makes a community to become toxic? 

 

I know that if I were a young kid today, I would not consider putting roots down here, unless I were a prodigy of one of those established families.  Even if I wanted to be in agriculture, this would not be the place to be looking for opportunity. 

 

If I were newly married, having kids, working in a non-farm job, I might consider it, however.  Some of our friends working outside of agriculture think it is still a good place to raise kids.  But they add, there's nothing else that would keep them here.

 

That said, I have part of the answer, just by thinking about it as if I were a young person today.  But there's more to it, don't you think?

 

 

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37 Replies
Highlighted
Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

note that the word l.i.v.e. is not permitted, not in any way, shape or form.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Blame the smut spammer.

I may be wrong, but I think a lot of what has happened is that our generation's attitude that daycare is good enough to rear a child for us has left a lot of parents with detached offspring. That may sound judgmental, but t is not meant to be...it just feels like a fact in my mind.

If a kid is detached, then living far away, having their own children in the absence of grandparental support, is a sort of new norm. If you aren't' attached to the people, then who cares about the place?
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Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

That is certainly a part of the mix. 

 

Just visited with relatives in NYC.  It might be a good place for some folks in certain professions, but it is not kind to the elderly.  You do not want to spend the final days there, even if kids are there.

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Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

There are some places thar are only fit to visit at best, and that city seems to be one of them to me. DC is another. You have to be built a certain way to want to exist in those pockets of rarified air.

We stood in Mike's old front yard in Virginia several times these ladt few days, just watching our tiny grandson doing doghnuts with his new Case IH 6-volt tractor. He is, so far, a country child, as were our three.

Some days, I wonder if we served them well by letting them kick around with Mike's Daddy, stopping by Gran's kitchen for cookies, or not. I am not much for amusement parks and such. They are very different from the majority of their peers...the kind of kids who could make out okay on " Survivor".

I am resting and watching Chevy Chase's " Funny Farm" right now. Hoping it will give me some insight on this wuestion...

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Hey Kay, when that battery dies a cordless drill battery will work in those. If he's a daredevil try a 18 volt dewalt.
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Honored Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

He is fast enough for now! Loves it when we say he is running on our toes!

I just had something of an epiphany of sorts on this subject. We cannot really understand why kids leave, because we are the ones who stayed, or who left and came back.

To really get a grip pn why kids go and stay gone, someone needs to do a study, on the order of " exit interviews", with cointry kids who hightailed it and never looked back.
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Veteran Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Smokeyjay, I don't think this trend will end any time soon. Im a young guy, I stick to production ag because its something I love to do and I have a chance to rent family owned ground as my "in". If it weren't for those two reasons I would be long gone and pursuing a career elsewhere. With good jobs hard to come by, young people are waiting to have children and having fewer when they do decide to have children. In my area, if you lose your job at one of the only good paying jobs... Well, get packing, because what left wont pay the bills. Agriculture is this area's bright spot in the economy, but unless your tractor steers itself, landlords just arent into leasing you their ground. The spread between established farms and young beginning farmers has widened more in the past five or so years than any other time in recent history.  

 

Most young people stay in or come back to rural communities because they can't bear the thought of being long distances from loved ones. With the technology we have today such as facebook, skype and others, people can connect in ways that make leaving their rural community easier.

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Senior Contributor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

Around here there is a old saying. You can't hold it against a person for being born here.... unless they stay. Everyone is looking for a better opportunity. Even in farming we don't have good opportunities. I've talked about building opportunities in ag for my kids lately. If I'm serious about that I need to work more on geographical areas more suited for farming.
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Veteran Advisor

Re: Are rural communities a toxic environment for keeping youth around?

We have several young people staying/ coming back to the farm in our community. Also seems like a lot of young families in town. Not sure where they are all employed. As far as our kids when they were young (think jr high or high school age) we were struggling to make a go of it ourselves and did not have much opportunity to offer. Now there would be some opportunities but they are establishing their own careers and dreams. Actually I think some would consider coming back but the spouses not so much. But we have a good relationship with all and they do come back to visit
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