Rural communities across the U.S. are constantly looking for ways to improve the quality of residents’ lives. And while health issues and declining populations have diminished over the years, rural areas still face many potential problems.
Challenges in Rural Communities
While many community issues are widespread across the U.S. and not limited to rural areas, there are specific challenges rural residents are facing today.
Changing demographics can greatly impact rural areas, from an increasing aging/older population to more young adults leaving. The median age of adults in rural areas is 51 compared to 45 in urban areas. With a higher average age, citizens are more likely to need quality healthcare — something those in rural areas may have limited access to.
The gap in mortality rates between rural and urban areas tripled between 1999 and 2016.
Health issues, like diabetes and coronary heart disease, are more prevalent in rural communities. But other factors contribute to health challenges. Rural areas have greater distances to travel for healthcare, more residents are uninsured, and rural areas see higher percentages of preventable deaths. This population also frequently lacks access to quality specialized medical care.
From roads to wireless internet, rural areas have infrastructural needs that are often not readily addressed. Having unreliable infrastructure creates other issues down the road.
Those in rural communities face limited housing choices, especially those that are affordable. While housing costs are generally lower than in urban areas, lower incomes, as well as higher poverty rates, can impact rural residents.
Rural residents, compared to those in urban and suburban areas, are more likely to say job availability is an issue where they live. Public transportation can be a challenge for the rural population, limiting residents’ access to jobs in neighboring areas.
According to the Center for Public Education, approximately one half of school districts and one-fifth of students in the U.S. are in rural areas. Rural students and schools are more likely to have a higher percentage of students eligible for free and reduced lunches. The average rural school offers half as many science and mathematics courses as those in urban areas and rural students are less likely to enter and graduate college.
How Local Farmers Can Help
As an integral part of the agricultural infrastructure that’s not only crucial to rural areas but to the rest of the country, farmers can be part of the solution to the issues facing rural communities.
Farmers can encourage and partake in sustainable practices which will help improve their rural communities both today and for years to come. Local farmers can also engage town leaders and state legislators when it comes to making changes that improve daily life.
Another way farmers can impact their communities is by participating in America’s Farmers Grow Communities. In this program, farmers play a critical role in bringing additional resources to their community. It’s simple to enroll and takes less than five minutes. The money awarded can benefit a farmer’s community by feeding community members via a food bus to modernizing a fire department or engaging students with STEM education. Through these programs, American farmers have been transforming the lives of their neighbors for ten years.