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Growing The Next Generation: The Value Of Social Capital And Small Towns

Wilmington College professor Corey Cockerill and senior Aryn Copeland
Renee Wilde
Wilmington College professor Corey Cockerill and senior Aryn Copeland

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.

Aryn Copeland is a Senior at Wilmington College. She’s graduating this spring with a degree in Agricultural Communications and Aryn is torn between two job offers - one in a rural community like the one she grew up in, and one in an urban area. In this interview with her professor Corey Cockerill, Aryn weighs the pros and cons of her decision in Corey’s office at the Robinson Communications Center on the Wilmington campus.


COREY COCKERILL: All right, this is Corey Cockerill. I am an associate professor of Communication Arts and Agriculture at Wilmington College in Wilmington, Ohio.

ARYN COPELAND: And I am Aryn Copeland. A senior studying agricultural communication with a minor in sustainability, originally from Bucyrus, Ohio.

I technically live outside the village of Nevada, Ohio, which is incredibly rural. I’m surrounded on all four sides by corn and soybean fields, with U.S. State Route 30 running through my front yard.

COCKERILL: My husband is from New Petersberg, Ohio, which has about a dozen houses in it and no other landmarks. No shop, no store, no grocery or gas station. It’s just twelve houses.

So is that like Nevada?

COPELAND: So, Nevada is a little bit larger. We used to have one stop light, but that went away a few years ago.

There is a seed company that is right along the railroad, and we have a drive thru where you can stop and get something to drink on the way to school in the mornings.

But aside from that the occasional pizza place will be in there for a few months and then it will have to leave.

That’s really all we have, and then probably two or three blocks of houses?

But, the most convenient part about being where I’m from is that Toledo is an hour and a half away, Findlay is 45 minutes away, and Columbus is an hour away.

So even though I’m from a rural part of the state, everything that I could ever possibly need is within an hour’s reach.

COCKERILL: My friend Lucy and I were talking about this book by Robert Putnam called Bowling Alone. And it’s really about the loss of community as technology enters our lives, and as more people move to urban areas, and we’re disconnected from each other.

Even the title of the book is about the loss of bowling leagues, and bridge clubs, and Kawanis clubs, and Lions clubs. And so he says that’s going to affect our sense of community and in turn affect social capital.

Because it would seem like, because there are so few people living in Nevada that social capital would be low.

COPELAND: We don’t have a bowling alley. We don’t have a place to go eat in Nevada. But you know your neighbors, and your neighbors aren’t just the people who live next to you on either side.

Your neighbors are people down the whole street. Your neighbors are the people who live two blocks away, and you know them by name because those are the people you grew up with.

So those are the people you can lean on in tough times, and I think that’s a more important sense of community.

It’s a stronger community. Even if we don’t have a club.

COCKERILL: You’ve received two job opportunities and one is in a rural community and one is in an urban community. What is on your pro’s and con’s list?

I know you make lists.

COPELAND: For me the sense of home. Rural communities, even ones I didn’t find myself growing up in, feel very homey and welcoming. That’s a huge part of I want to live somewhere I feel comfortable and welcome, and I think rural communities offer that.

One thing that rural communities sometimes lack is an appreciation for art and different types of culture, and that’s something a lot of urban areas have.

And I love learning more about history, art and culture, so that’s something that draws me to urban areas.

The cons of urban areas is the hustle and bustle. It never stops, and I think that you need to be able to stop and recharge. And that can be hard when things are open 24 hours or you’re going non-stop.

Also it’s loud. I guess you eventually get used to it, but that doesn’t sound appealing to me. (laughs)

COCKERILL: Right? The quiet of Nevada, Ohio might call you back. Ok, well that ends our interview. Thanks Aryn.

County Lines is WYSO's series on rural life, made possible by a grant from Ohio Humanities. This story was created at the Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Renee Wilde was part of the 2013 Community Voices class, allowing her to combine a passion for storytelling and love of public radio. She started out as a volunteer at the radio station, creating the weekly WYSO Community Calendar and co-producing Women’s Voices from the Dayton Correctional Institution - winner of the 2017 PRINDI award for best long-form documentary. She also had the top two highest ranked stories on the WYSO website in one year with Why So Curious features. Renee produced WYSO’s series County Lines which takes listeners down back roads and into small towns throughout southwestern Ohio, and created Agraria’s Grounded Hope podcast exploring the past, present and future of agriculture in Ohio through a regenerative lens. Her stories have been featured on NPR, Harvest Public Media and Indiana Public Radio.