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Back to Smallville

from The Wall Street Journal

Small-Town Natives Are Moving Back Home

For many young people, returning to struggling communities means exchanging prosperity for a more rooted life.

By Grace Olmstead

PHOTO: JENN ACKERMAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

My great-grandfather, who died in 2007, stayed in the same little Idaho farm town for all 96 years of his life. Even as his siblings left the farm and traveled the world, “Grandpa Dad,” as we called him, turned down opportunities for adventure and bigger paychecks. But he had something that many people who have left their hometowns behind, like me, would like to regain: roots.

Over the past few years, a growing number of Americans have been moving back to the small towns and rural communities they were once encouraged to leave. Thanks in part to the Covid-19 pandemic, 52% of adults age 18 to 29 lived with their parents in 2020, the largest share since the Great Depression, according to the Pew Research Center. Meanwhile, Census Bureau data indicate that large metro areas have seen declining growth and in some instances population losses since 2010.

Many people move home to help out with family businesses, support aging loved ones or share the joys of small-town life with their kids. I left Fruitland, Idaho, for college on the East Coast in 2009 and now live in northern Virginia. While writing a book about the farm community where I grew up, however, I discovered many people who have chosen to move back home as part of a larger mission. They are fighting rural poverty, restoring broken food economies and bringing health back to neglected soil. Their vision of success has less to do with financial prosperity or personal comfort than with the more demanding values of stewardship, investment and care. 

[ click to continue reading at WSJ ]

Posted on March 13, 2021 by Editor

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