This morning I learned a high school classmate's dad passed away. Leo ranched and farmed and commonly combined resources with his brothers to build operations that would support their families. I went to school with his sons Darren, a classmate, and Dustin, a year ahead of me in school, both ranch in the area. These are some of the very few that I went to high school went that chose a career in production agriculture.
Thinking about them today, a problem that will soon effect rural America in the next few years became clearer. Many farmers and ranchers are approaching retirement age and many do not have another generation to take over.
For many decades we've told rural kids that there wasn't a future for them in rural America and they needed to go to college and move to the city. In fact we give college scholarships to the brightest to ship them out even faster. The kids took the rural work ethic with them and many have been successful. As a result our rural towns and communities are declining in both population and leadership.
Reversing the decline and increase opportunities in rural America will take input from many people with diverse areas of expertise. Rural development plans can not be a one size fits all and will need to be tailored to each location.