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The American image of rurality is a complex and contradictory amalgam of myth, wish, and fact woven into an idea that is simultaneously fundamental and antithetical to a national identity.

Statistically, we have not been a rural people for the better part of a century.

Today, the rural population of approximately 56.2 million people accounts for one in five Americans. But rurality lingers in our national DNA. Our nations founders lived in and imagined a rural nation. They wrote a constitution and set up a government that reflected rural sensibilities and values.

Rural America with its frontier antecedents has long been considered more than place.

It is both a storehouse of our values and the point of origin for our national mythology. The countryside remains a source of essential American ideas and archetypal figures that transcend historic reality and become powerful and inspiring figures in our collective imagination.

Welcome to the California Rural Community Story Project.

Through a special grant from the California Council for the Humanities and the RAIN Network we will be taking you on an exploration of the life, economics and values of rural communities in California.

For the next year we will be talking with farmers, ranchers, farm workers, rural community leaders and the families who make up one of the most important parts of America.

RAIN Network is one of the oldest non-profit Internet Networks in the United States. Since 1991 RAIN Network has been working to bring technology, especially the Internet, into rural communities in California. Despite the challenges from large corporate networks, we've found ways to ensure that Internet has become part of the daily life for schools, health clinics and farmers who otherwise would have been left off the grid because they just don't represent enough profit to warrant the effort by larger Internet providers.

We're going to be interviewing youth, seniors, and the families who make the farms and small rural communities in California work.

We'll be digging into the economics of rural life and most importantly the values that make small farms and small rural communities such an important part of today's world.

Why do so many young people from rural areas decide to move to big cities?

Why does it take so long for new technologies, like the Internet, to become available to rural communities?

Why is there such a major difference in the availability of health care in rural areas compared to urban centers?

How effectively are new alternative energy resources, like solar and wind power, being brought into rural communities?

The California Rural Community Project will let us explore these issues and see how agriculture, especially local farming and small business, is still a career goal that has a real future for the economy, families and culture of America.

As you watch this program over the next year you'll learn how we can all help re-weave into our lives traditional local values which have kept rural families working together for generations in ways that help build social and economic sustainability. We will see that there are important family and community models and profitable small farming models, which prove that we do not all require migration to urban centers to survive and thrive in modern America.

Rural America continues to shed its stereotypes: It is no longer a bucolic hinterland inhabited just by farmers, nor is it necessarily economically distressed, though rural poverty remains an entrenched part of the landscape in some areas. Many rural locales are diversifying their economies by attracting unusual new industries and offering amenities that draw in new residents including urbanites eager to escape the stresses of city living.

Do these developments represent a temporary turnaround or is the rebound real. The number of declining non-metro counties was cut in half during the 1990s, from over 1,200 to about 600.

There is a change taking place. As we watch the decline of Urban economy in the U.S. we are, at the same time, seeing a new growth in rural population and rural economy. Some of the root values of American Society are coming back into play and the California Rural Community Story project will demonstrate just how strong and important rural life is becoming.

If you have comments about Rural Communities in modern America send them to us at www.rain.org. Go to the rural community web and leave us your thoughts and comments.





Sponsored by the California Council for the Humanities