Search for "rural American brain drain: on Google and you get 6.26 million hits. The main idea is that as popultion migrates to urban areas, rural areas don't benefit from the societal contributions of its home-grown citizens. Those living in rural American can certainly confirm that population often is stagnant or dwindling and taht some towns have a number of boarded-up storefronts. Undoubtedly, the dynamics and the population totals are different than a generation ago. But we reject the conventional wisdom that the collective rural "brain" is being "drained".
We interact with hundreds of ag businesses each year and many of them are led by, or are developing, a next generation of leaders and owners that are impressive. These folks who choose to invest their careers in agriculture and rural areas even though they have other options. Many are college educated with access to other careers. Many have worked in other careers and/or other geographies and then chosen to return to production ag. As farm size gets larger and labor needs per acre decrease, it's true there may be smaller number in rural America, but the collective "brain" is very much thriving.
We host producer peer groups that meet in rural communities all over the country and visit each other's businesses. In addition to the production ag success stories we see, we often include a tour of another non-farm business. We are continually impressed by the caliber, size, and complexity of businesses we see in the most unexpected rural places: the large-scale conveyor manufacturer in Minnesota, the gigantic equipment moving company in Kentucky, the seed plot field equipment company in Iowa that builds custom worldwide, and more.
Keep reading for two stories demonstrating the current rural brain gain.