Growing The Next Generation: A Revival Of Rural Communities
Before the coronavirus pandemic, County Lines producer Renee Wilde met with faculty and students at Wilmington College in Clinton County and heard their ideas about rural life and the prospects for a career in agriculture.
Wilmington College is a Quaker College founded on the tenets of the Quaker religion - simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship.
In this interview Corey Cockerill, who teaches Agricultural Communication at Wilmington College, talks with student Lucy Enge about how the Quaker tenets apply to rural life, and their shared hope for a revival of our rural communities.
COREY COCKERILL: My name is Corey Cockerill, and I’m a professor of Communications Arts and Agriculture at Wilmington College in Ohio.
LUCY ENGE: I’m Lucy Enge and I’m a student at Wilmington College studying political science but concentrating in food policy and agricultural advocacy, and also minoring in peace studies and race, gender and ethnicity.
COCKERILL: I wonder if we could talk about Quakers for just a second. It seems apropos because we’re a Quaker college and we happen to be a rural institution that offers a four year degree in agriculture, so it makes us especially unique.
ENGE: You can apply a lot of the Quaker testimonies, which kind of consolidate into the nice acronym SPICES. So you have simplicity, peace, integrity, community, equality and stewardship.
Simplicity definitely ties in. The choices we make, also just the options we have around us, it kind of forces simplicity in a lot of lights.
Community is obviously central.
And stewardship - we have to care for the land around us, and I think that’s going to become more of an important topic in rural America, and how commercial farming is, and how that maybe is going to have to change.
If cover crops are going to become a big part of that future - and from conversations I’ve had that seems like that’s going to be the next big thing that’s coming.
COCKERILL: What do you think stands out as compelling reasons to move to a rural community?
ENGE: I don’t think living in a rural area is for everyone.
My grandmother grew up in rural Adams County in the 40’s and couldn’t get out of there fast enough. She wanted to see concrete the rest of her life, and moved to Dayton and became a nurse, and her brother stayed and worked for GE, and they farmed, and they have cattle down there still.
I think it’s almost a calling. It’s like people want something - whether it’s a closer connection to their food, or to nature, or that smaller community, they might already have ties to that, or it’s been a dream of theirs forever.
I don’t know if it can exactly be sold, per say.
I think for some people, myself included, it’s just you see in your future you want to have that piece of land, and that house and that garden, and be involved in local politics, and your local church, and that community, and having that experience.
COCKERILL: How you explain it, that rural experience seems on point with what young people are seeking today. The connection to nature that maybe has been disconnected in the past.
ENGE: I was reading a really interesting article. It was about this Agrarian community that’s in Warren County and this woman is developing her family's old farmland into sort of this development but it includes a farm in it.
That was sort of an example of what I could see selling to the greater public about living in a rural community, and being tied in directly to your food, and I think that might be where it’s headed.
COCKERILL: Richard Louv has a book called Last Child in The Woods. I don’t know if you’ve read that before, but it talks about this disconnect with nature and what are the implications of that down the line.
And ultimately I see a return to nature, coming from the words of students. This is what they want and they’re seeking it more and more, and I feel like that’s a recovery from that detachment, perhaps.
Also, you talk about community, and wanting to have more community and a deeper sense of family within your community. And just the way that you talk about that seems like perhaps there is a revival coming, a return to rural communities that I find super exciting, and what I want most for you guys coming in as the next generation.
So it sounds like there is a lot of hope there.