Speak Your Piece: Seven Rural Capitals

[imgbelt img=4thofJulyHarmonyMN530.jpg]Rural development requires a full-on approach, taking into account all forms of local talent, resources, and heritage. Tim Collins offers a model and a challenge.



TO: Honorable Tom Vilsack, Secretary, United States Department of Agriculture
FROM: A concerned citizen

Early in February, you wrote an op-ed piece in the Des Moines Register reflecting on your first year as Secretary of Agriculture. One of the things you have learned, noted in that column, was the need for a regional approach to rural development.

So far so good, if, by regional, we mean building networks of strong communities that share regional goals, interests, heritage and resources, rather than wasting their time and energies competing with each other. Rural development needs to be about community reinvigoration, using local ingenuity and creativity to bolster shared regional resources to move toward rural sustainability.

Your understanding of rural development suggests we now have an opportunity to create a coherent, focused policy that builds communities and regions. To do that, I suggest we need a systems approach with overall goals and principles as well as a structure for the policy. This will help us move toward an improved quality of life that is built on respect for the environment and each other, spelling out individuals’ rights and obligations within the policy.

One systems approach, the Community Capitals Framework, seems promising, and I want to share it with you. The framework can be adapted to community and regional needs and has a strong orientation toward rural sustainability. I suggest it with thanks to Cornelia and Jan Flora, as well as Mary Emery of Iowa State University, who led its development.