Choosing a Small Town Life - American Rural
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Choosing a Small Town Life

23 May Choosing a Small Town Life

Rural America is filled with pioneering, adventurous, entrepreneurial, generous folks.

You might have read recently that Rural America is in trouble. According to some pretty big thinkers, rural and small towns are losing population, losing relevance and having a brain drain. Some of these same sources claim that those of us who live outside big urban centers are hicks and kinda slow-witted. Seriously?

Mark Twain once observed that “reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” I suspect he might say something similar about reports of the demise of rural and small communities across America.

We moved from Washington, D.C. (northern Virginia to be precise) to Montana 13 years ago. When we lived in the “big city,” every time we came home we would drive into our garage, lock the car, lock the garage, and then unlock the door to enter our very locked-up house. The shopping mall was a favorite entertainment destination and we never met most of our neighbors. Since moving to a small town, outside is where we go for entertainment and occasionally we forget to lock a door or two. We know our neighbors and people throughout the county have become our friends. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Maybe that explains why so many Americans choose to live in rural and small towns. According to the last U.S. Census, there are 59.5 million “rural” Americans. Small, incorporated “cities,” such as Columbia Falls, Kalispell and Whitefish, house another 29 million Americans. That’s almost 90 million Americans who live in a rural area or a really small city! By way of comparison, there are more of us living the rural/small town life than there are people either over 65 or under 18. Hear that all you big thinkers?

Rural America is filled with pioneering, adventurous, entrepreneurial, generous folks. It’s also home to some unique challenges, just like, well, everywhere. As an urban ex-pat and now rural entrepreneur and champion, I’m optimistic about the future of small towns. In fact, at American Rural, we believe that there’s never been a better time to live and work in rural and small town America than right now. I look forward to sharing with you some observations about why that is and I’m grateful to the Flathead Beacon for supporting our conversation.

By the way, my husband just bought a used truck from a nice guy near Bigfork (it’s a small town truck – no automatic door locks). The deal was sealed with a handshake. It was easy because even though we’d never met, we trusted each other… as rural folks so often do. That’s an example of social capital, a great asset in business and an abundant resource in most small communities. We’ll have a longer discussion about that soon. Until then, thanks for reading.


Diane Smith is the founder and CEO of American Rural where she works to create greater awareness of the growing opportunities for those who choose to live, work and prosper in rural and small town America. Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at

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