Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

Quality Of Living Important To Rural Economy

April 21, 2003

I met someone who is quite passionate about rural life and building a rural economy that sustains that lifestyle. His name is Rick Killion. He is the editor of a monthly magazine, "Prairie Business." This magazine is dedicated to helping build the business prospects of the Northern Plains.

His magazine draws attention to and promotes the economic possibilities of rural life. The March 2003 issue of his magazine featured a discussion on how the quality of living underpins rural development. The April issue featured strategies for rural economic development.

We visited about the importance of quality living as an attraction and the motivation for small town and rural economies of the Upper Midwest and Great Plains States.

Passion for life. "Quality of living," as opposed to "quality of life," emphasizes that living is an ongoing act that we each experience on a daily basis. "High quality of living" suggests superior experiences in the day-to-day living of life as opposed to quality of life which might involve a wide range of amenities and opportunities for income and experiences within an urban or suburban environment.

To Killion, people who choose small town life or country living also value the other qualities by which they measure the daily moments of life. Emigrants to the rural Midwest talk about the simplicity of life, the connections with other people, the sense of community, appreciation of nature, and time to savor the moments and texture of life.

It is the details of life that count, otherwise life goes by in a fuzzy blur. People need time to stop and take stock of these details - to experience and appreciate the wholeness of life instead of a narrow, driven focus on doing the next thing.

Killion cites examples of these precious moments:

- Sharing the excitement of and cheering at activities and sporting events for your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and other people’s children you have come to love as dearly as your own.

- A long unhurried conversation with family and friends.

- Driving on an open road with unimpeded traffic.

- A cup of coffee on a porch or deck looking at the morning sunlight filter through a big oak tree.

- Playing cribbage with his 16 year old daughter

- Hunting with buddies

- Having friends over for dinner.

- Watching spontaneous and improvised play of neighborhood children or siblings.

- The odors, sounds and warmth of the first really warm spring day.

Everybody’s list of precious moments would be different but Killion believes they would include fruitful and meaningful relationships with family and friends. Because of the lack of congestion and busyness, there is time to focus energies on these relationships and other inspirational experiences.

Sense of place and belonging. Rural people experience a sense of place and belonging. They participate in community life. There are abundant opportunities to be involved with neighbors and the community through selfless service. This is an antidote to the pervasive and unrelenting individualism promoted by the excesses of our dominant culture.

Killion likes the opportunities that rural communities have so children can have meaningful interactions with adults of all ages and walks of life. He worries about the vulnerability of urban and suburban youths to a sense of isolation, rejection and skewed values of materialism in more age-segregated and impersonal environments.

Dangers of media culture. For urban and rural youths alike, Killian sees the entertainment and media culture, aided and abetted by big time marketing forces, distracting youths from quality relationships and reducing life to "consuming" and competing. Even in rural areas the invasive values connected with prepackaged entertainment such as big screen TV, videocassettes, Internet, and video games, can displace social skills and experiences.

Electronic neighbors aren’t as rewarding as real neighbors. The virtual community we invite into our living room isn’t as real as the folks on Main Street and at the local café. According to Killion, "The more tools of communication we have, the less we communicate."

Personal rewards. People get a sense of significance in an environment where they can cut through red tape through relationships. They see the how their contribution directly affects others. They can and do make a difference. They understand and take responsibility for how their actions affect others. They do their part to maintain an environment that sustains growth for everyone.

Rural life couples the advantages of high quality of living and the precious moments of life with economic opportunities and creativity in the workplace. For himself he states, "I’m convinced I could enjoy a "high" quality lifestyle just about anywhere on the Northern Plains.

Killion can be contacted at rick@prairiebizmag.com, or at 205 4th Ave. No. Fargo, ND 58102 or phone at (701) 232-8893. Subscription to his magazine is free.