Schlageck: Community investment
While Kansas is blessed with many resources, without question its people are the most valuable. While traveling from Colby to Leavenworth a couple weeks ago, the importance of people came into sharp focus once again.
One stop on this journey was in the small town of Gove in northwestern Kansas. Approximately 75 hardy souls reside in this farm and ranch community.
Main Street is a whopping three blocks long. Only a handful of businesses remain on both sides of the street including a community café, a small grocery, a yarn and antique shop, a museum and of course the county courthouse. Rarely are there more than two or three vehicles parked on the street.
The folks who inhabit this community and the surrounding farms and ranches wear many hats and those active few log countless hours nurturing and tending to their home community.
“It’s home to each and every one of us,” said Rayna Kopriva. Kopriva has lived a few miles southwest of Gove most of her 34 years.
“Nearly all of our citizens contribute,” she said. “We want to make our little town the best we can.”
Kopriva is one on the younger citizens. Many of the older residents consider her “the young kid” of the community.
“I’m everyone’s daughter, ‘cause I’m still around,” she said. “Every year the youngsters of the community graduate. We celebrate this milestone in their lives and they leave to find jobs elsewhere. They visit, but they don’t return home to live.”
While Kopriva spends plenty of her time helping husband, Daryl, with the farm and livestock, she’s also worked at nearly every business in town including the café and grocery store. Kopriva has served on nearly every board as well.
She’s also served 12 years as the town’s librarian. This stucco building sits on the south side of Main Street in Gove. Once the grade school, this building was converted to the community’s library and houses nearly 8,000 books.
For Kopriva the library is much more than a summer reading program or a place to check out books.
“It’s really one of two main gathering places,” she said. “People come here to visit just like they do when they eat at the café on the north side of town.”
Gove isn’t the only one of its kind in Kansas. All across Kansas, the song remains the same. People have left small communities to make their living and raise their families elsewhere. This has left fewer and fewer people behind to make the community viable. It’s a progression that’s been going on in our state for generations.
Still, rural communities thrive and prosper when farmers, ranchers and small community businesses work together for the common good. The people, or human resources of a community, are individuals who make up the town and their skills create the ability to lead others, manage what is there and produce goods and services.
It’s the people who make a community what it is, and the people who keep it alive.
— John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. He was raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, .his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.