Archive for Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Rural voices add to communities

July 18, 2007

A century ago when this state consisted mainly of farm and ranch families, it was a common sight to see neighbors helping neighbors. They swapped farm machinery. They loaned labor back and forth to work harvest-threshing crews. A barn-raising presented another opportunity for friends to help build and support the community.

Kansans always have been an active bunch. Residents of this state always have believed they can "get the job done."

Today, Kansas farmers and ranchers do their barn-raising by supporting education. They're helping their communities with their tax dollars and strong belief in education.There are certain areas across Kansas that have experienced more than their fair share of catastrophic weather this year. With such natural disasters, there has never been a greater outpouring of this neighbor-helping-neighbor concept.

Since Kansas was settled, farmers and ranchers have supported their communities. They've always appreciated Main Streets that are bright, clean and well maintained. They've actively participated in the school systems, served on the county planning boards, taught Sunday school and worked with other community organizations and activities. Farmers and ranchers have been part of the fabric that has made Kansas the viable state it is today.

We're all familiar with the population and demographic trends in Kansas. Move them around however you like and they always add up the same way -- rural Kansas is becoming more rural. We want our hometowns to be thriving, active centers of social and economic activity.

Our towns need places where folks gather naturally. This means a place where they can talk about mutual interests -- children, the high school football team, the remodeled library -- just about anything that relates to the welfare and well being of the area.

Restaurants, grocery stores, churches -- with committed leaders willing to live and become a part of the community -- active participation in the school system and involvement in farm and community organizations are all ways to rekindle interest.

Vibrant communities thrive and grow when farmers retire in their towns and/or become actively involved in local affairs. The voice of the farmer adds value, experience and more often than not -- common sense.

Agriculture has always been a crucial ingredient helping drive the economic machinery of our state. Kansans are proud of the leadership our agricultural community provides. Working together, rural and urban, with progressive community leadership, we can improve our standard of living and the quality of life in Kansas.

-- John Schlageck is a commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas.

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