Small Towns and Rural Communities
Saving America’s Soul one Micro-Brew at a Time
In the 20th century, we saw the sharpest decline in rural and small communities in the history of human existence. The hardship, lack of opportunity and big city luxury drove people to seek the faster paced lifestyle of the cities. This has grown into a near resentment at worst between the urbanites and rural dwellers. At best, it is mutually considered a misunderstood lifestyle choice that breeds stereotypes and ill-repute. The fact is that America needs the small towns and rural communities. We need them for more than we can fully measure.
Small towns can protect ways of life like as a living museum of the past. They show us more than where the milk comes from and gives us an idea of who we are and what made us that way. Michael Crichton, author of Jurassic Park, puts it this way; “If you don’t know history, you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it’s part of a tree.” If we lose touch with our past, we might as well accept that we will have no preparation for the future.
Rural communities provide something historic, but with a special flavor. This is the realm of the artisan. Two great examples of this traditional and yet avant-garde craftsmanship are, in my opinion, the Loleta Cheese Factory and Eel River Brewery. Not large enough in production to dominate the market of the Pacific seaboard, but small enough that rare and specialty creations can find their way into local dishes and mugs. Large cities would rather have Kraft in their supermarkets than give an artisan shop space where a new Best Buy store could be. Large brewing and dairy companies favor high production rates over quality or innovation. Any one who has seen Budweiser’s vast array of organic ales and porters can attest to this.
Small towns are more capable of instilling a sense of community and togetherness among a populace than your standard metropolis. A city that never sleeps is one in which to sleep, you do so with one eye open. How many people in LA would say that they know their neighbors? How many people in Las Vegas could go next door for a cup of milk and an egg? There is a spirit of unity in small towns that should be cherished and encouraged.
Humboldt County has more artists than you could shake a microphone at. It has more artists per capita than LA or SF County. Small towns can have an awesome impact on the culture of their state. When you look at paintings and photos, do you see office buildings and freeways, or trees, rivers, and farm houses more often? The beauty of the small town and rural community has a powerful effect on the imagination and psyche.
If the rainforests are the lungs of the world, small towns would be the heart. They beat the blood of our nation to keep the head conscious enough to stop the arms and legs from walking off the metaphorical cliff. Places like ours should be preserved and nurtured. The best way to this, is to support local business and encourage local organizations and charities. If we are going to make it to the 22nd century, humanity is going to have to stop running into destiny, without pausing to see what it’s like in Humboldt County. The words of Gerard Manley Hopkins sum it up:
“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wilderness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wilderness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.”
‘Inversaid’ (written 1881)