If your winter reading list needs a little weight, the St. Louis Fed has just what you need: a 600-page volume showcasing investments in community development across rural America.
The publication also offers a framework that the editors hope “can help more communities achieve shared economic prosperity.”
The volume includes over 40 essays from rural development organizations, academics, policy analysts and philanthropies. The articles provide lessons and insights on rural development strategy and policy, according to the foreword by Michelle W. Bowman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and James Bullard, President and CEO of the St. Louis Fed.
A printed copy of Investing in rural prosperity is available for free while supplies last. An electronic version is also available for free download. The book can be ordered or downloaded through the Fed’s website.
According to the book, the key to creating a prosperous rural America is to increase investment in rural and tribal communities and confront the stereotype that rural America is unsalvageable.
Rural America must integrate racial and social policies into all walks of life, invest in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) land ownership, and invest in Indigenous land management and restoration practices .
The book offers a number of case studies highlighting each of these aspects. For example, in Georgia, McIntosh SEED, a black-led community organization, purchased 1,150 acres and created a community forest that is sustainably managed for timber production and used as a place to help landowners learn to manage family lands and access conservation resources. .
“The educational workshops and assistance to landowners translate into increased incomes for hundreds of landowner families, healthier forests, and increased engagement of younger generations,” the book says. “Long-term plans include extensive community programming, agroforestry-based food production, construction of a meeting center, ecotourism and the spread of sweetgrass to support small businesses that generate income. and keep alive the basket weaving traditions of the Gullah-Geechee ancestors. .”
Investing in rural prosperity also discusses recent structural changes in the economy and long-term challenges, which have left many rural American communities searching for a path to prosperity.
“Many communities across rural America are at a crossroads in what steps to take to foster lasting success,” said Daniel Paul Davis, vice president and community affairs manager at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, in a press release. “This book offers community members, funders, and other decision-makers insight into where rural communities are today and examples of how committed leaders are implementing a framework for rural prosperity.”
Davis and Andrew Dumont, senior community development analyst at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, are co-editors of the book and appeared on an associated podcast to discuss it.
“If you look at the headlines, that’s where a lot of people’s understanding of what’s going on in rural America begins and ends, they don’t, frankly, paint a very rosy picture,” Dumont said. on the podcast. “When you look at the headlines, it’s a tough time for rural communities.”
Now, Dumont noted, it’s important to remember that rural America isn’t one place and every place is going through different changes.
“Some places benefit from [population change],” he said. “Some places aren’t. Some places gain population, people, and energy, and some don’t. Dumont said he hopes the book can help elevate the conversation about rural America to be more informed and effective.
Bringing about lasting change requires rural actors to be around the table to help make decisions, he said.
“The most effective communities for being resilient, for moving on…and creating new opportunities are those where people from across the community come together, sit down and work together cohesively over time to determine what will be the next thing is,” Dumont said.