Congratulations to the 2016-2017 Rural Voices winners!
First Place Video Entry: Isabella Hartman, St. John’s Catholic High School, Beloit, KS
First Place Written Entry: Riley Doebele, Hanover High School, Hanover, KS
Watch the winning video and read the winning essay below.
Rural Kansas…Why it Matters
By Riley Doebele
There is a sense of peacefulness that fills a person when they are surrounded by the beauty of nature. People who live in more urban areas do not have the opportunity to see the beauty of the morning sun as it rises into the sky because there is too much pollution which has filled the sky and too many buildings or objects blocking the sight of it, taking away the allure that exists when it is witnessed in a natural environment. Rather than being able to open the windows while doing the dishes to observe the land while listening to birds chirp while the cool breeze of fresh air permeates the room, people who live in urban areas might have a view of their neighbor’s house or of the busy street. Their ears are filled with buzzing vehicles and the air is tainted. The calming sounds and sights of a trickling stream of water and a mother deer crossing a road with its fawn are nonexistent. They have been replaced with bright, blaring sirens and excruciatingly loud construction work. People in rural areas are blessed with the simple things that others who live in large communities might not even know exist.
The aspect of nature is something I absolutely love and cherish about living in rural Kansas. I love being able to look outside the windows and observe the wonders Almighty God has created for us. I love being able to wake up early on a cold morning to watch the sunrise, the frost glisten on the ground, and the wisps of steam rise from the ponds. I love seeing the clear blue sky filled with fluffy white clouds on a warm summer’s day; with waves of golden wheat rolling in the wind. I love how diverse the seasons are in Kansas. The fact that the weather goes from scorching hot to bitter cold amazes me. We are able to watch the seasons change distinctively from fresh, warm, and lively in the spring with everything blooming to bright, hot, and breezy during the summer. It becomes cool, crisp, and colorful during the autumn season and turns to cold, white, blustery, and enchanting in the winter. People who live in urban communities are still capable of feeling the seasons change but they do not actually see it. They are not able to see the environment change as drastically as they would if they lived in an area that is not as altered as the one they inhabit.
Another reason I love being able to live in rural Kansas is because I adore living in a small community where everyone knows everyone and people like to get involved. Even though this is an extremely small gesture, having someone wave to you while driving by or being able to wave to someone who is walking down the street is always something I look forward to. I look forward to it because it is just something that makes my day; seeing the kindness that people can show towards one another. In large towns people give strange glances if you wave at them. The sense of community which is present in a small town is incredible. In disastrous times people are ready to drop everything and come together to support one another. It does not matter if it is someone you are close to or someone you do not particularly get along with, or even someone who you have never talked to in your life; they will show up to help in times of need. This sense of community is also present during community events. The members of my small community all become involved in community events whether this includes attending the event, donating money, or helping assist in these events. Some of the events that take place in my community is the Days of ‘49 which consists of a carnival, parade, and additional activities. We also have a very impressive firework show which is put on by people who are from our community. Other events that the entire town shuts down for is sporting events. If there is a football or basketball games you can expect almost every member of the community is at the field or in the gym. People look forward to watching the games all week and show the athletes more than enough support. The community is very tight-knit and the kids do everything together. They do activities like, swimming in the ponds, swimming at the pool for hours, sledding, shooting baskets, and riding bikes. Kids are able to develop strong friendships and bonds that will last forever.
Being able to live in a rural area also gives me the opportunity to live on a farm and have experiences with farm animals, farm equipment, and growing crops. Having the background experience of living on a farm is something I would never trade. Being able to work with machinery and being knowledgeable about equipment are life experiences that could come in very handy in certain circumstances. I enjoy being around cattle and like being knowledgeable about agriculture. It has taught me many life lessons and working on the farm is a great way to build a strong work ethic. All of the jobs which need done are not always “fun” tasks but they build character. Not to mention the enjoyment you can receive by living on a farm or in the country. I will never forget the times I was able to watch a calf being born, or being able to bottle feed a baby calf. The times I had to help work cattle or use a blow dryer to try to warm a newborn calf during the winter. I will always remember the times I was able to ride in the combine or tractor with my dad, uncle, and cousins. I will always remember the four wheeler rides and planting and picking the watermelons and pumpkins that we planted in an open spot in a field. I will always remember riding in the back of a pickup with my cousins and the farm dog to go pick mushrooms. I will always remember the times I was able to go play on the sand bar and walk in the river. I will always remember being able to go sledding down the hill at the farm. I will always remember being taken fishing and waking up early in the mornings to drive around and look for deer.
These things should matter to others outside of our geography because these are background experiences that will help people to be successful. They should matter to the people living outside of our geography because we are the backbone of the country. We are the ones who work to provide for our families as well as families across the globe. Without people like us, people across the country wouldn’t have produce like the meats and crops we provide. This is one of the ways that the gap is bridged between the distinct culture of rural Kansas and our neighbors in more urban areas. We raise the livestock, make the grain, and produce ethanol for others to use all across the country. One of the ways we can “reinvent” rural Kansas is by making others informed. By using social media we can easily educate urban individuals on what people in rural Kansas do in their everyday lives as well as promoting and advertising our products. A great example of how social media can help educate others is the Peterson Farm Bros. This group has done well to educate what life is like on the farm; this includes their crops and their cattle. They do so in an entertaining way which has created many global connections for them which could ultimately assist our state to capitalize on future growth. Another way we can reinvent Kansas is to continue to upgrade the technology in our equipment, techniques for growing crops, and medicine for our animals. As technology continues to improve it allows us to work more efficiently in all of these different components.
Everyone has their different likes and dislikes and something I really like is living in rural Kansas. Living on a farm, in the country, or even in a small town might not be ideal for everyone and I’m not saying it should be. I enjoy living in rural Kansas for a number of reasons and that is just my personal opinion. People do not have to enjoy Kansas the way I do, but they should appreciate it. Farmers and Ranchers in rural Kansas do more than some people will ever know and they should be thankful for that. They should be thankful for all that they do and this is the reason rural Kansas should matter to others who live outside of our geography because we are connected in more ways than one would think.
About the Contest: The Rural Voices Youth Contest is sponsored each year by the North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC) to engage high school seniors in North Central Kansas in thoughtful reflection on rural Kansas and to promote a discussion among citizens based on their insights.
The next contest deadline will be November 15, 2017. Further details will be announced and registration for the 2017-2018 Rural Voices Youth Contest will begin in September 2017.