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Living out in the country is a dream for some city and suburb dwellers and, in fact, a satisfying reality for many farm and small town residents. Free of traffic and pedestrian congestion, rural communities promise peace, quiet and a slower pace of living. The flip side of this pleasantness, however, shows the difficulties created by distance: distance from the community to the larger civilisation, and distance among neighbours. While the Internet and modern communications create welcome connections, the substantial remoteness remains.
In a suburb or city, neighbours can call to each other across the yard or the street. Not so in rural areas. There are no spontaneous play dates for children because such encounters require a hefty commute of possibly 10 to 15 miles. In fact, all social interaction must be planned for, both in time and expense. Due to this reality, in-person interactions are limited. Loneliness can set in, as well as depression. Farmers and their families can find enough to do, and their isolation can be mitigated by intact and close familial ties. But there is a need for fellowship with peers and non-relatives that goes unmet without the means, time and willingness to travel.
Whether in good economic times or bad, the proliferation of small businesses in rural communities lags far behind that of metropolitan areas. When farm harvests do not provide sufficient income, it becomes necessary for a farmer or a spouse to seek employment. Yet unsatisfactory infrastructure, low populations and higher start-up costs keep entrepreneurs from locating in farm country. This means a farmer will have to travel farther to find a job, with fuel bills eating into the paycheck. Government and private rural development initiatives exist to make rural locales a more attractive option for businesses, but the progress is slow.
Health Care Issues
Time is of the essence when suffering a heart attack, stroke or loss of blood. The span of time between trauma and treatment is often the determining factor between life and death. Rural communities are challenged by the dearth of physicians in their midst -- only 10 per cent practice in country settings in the United States. Moreover, farmers and their families will frequently participate in cooperative insurance plans that are far from comprehensive, through the state farm bureau. Preventive care and wellness are not generally included in such austere programs. When rural hospitals are proximate, their standards usually fall below those of metropolitan facilities. Finally, emergency transportation and ambulance services are not always available.
Through government and charitable initiatives, broadband connections are increasing in rural America. This is an important educational development, but it fails to satisfy an important component of cultural exposure: physical presence. Be it theatre, visual art, musical performance or a poetry reading, nothing beats being there. The finest stages, museums and concert halls are usually hours away from agricultural communities. Low per capita incomes make trips to the city infrequent at best. Schools and local libraries are the default cultural institutions in such towns and counties.
- "Hillsboro Free Press"; Rural Retirement Raises Pros and Cons; Dale Suderman; July 2007
- IrishTimes.com; Isolation and Suicide "Serious Problems" in Farming; October 2010
- National Rural Health Association: What's Different About Rural Health Care?
- National Alliance for Media Art + Culture: Rural Media Arts and Education Project (Mariposa, CA)
- Jupiterimages /Polka Dot/Getty Images