Against All Odds: Rural Community in the Information Age

Against All Odds: Rural Community in the Information Age

Against All Odds: Rural Community in the Information Age

Against All Odds: Rural Community in the Information Age


The authors' model orients this community in the vortex of contemporary forces, pointing up, for example, the need for face-to-face interaction among residents versus the larger society's demand for electronic communication. With increasing conflicts between the culture of rural communities and that of the "outside world" occurring, small towns all over the United States are losing their businesses, their doctors, and their sense of community. Yet the town described in this study is thriving. Against All Odds identifies pride, determination, and a sense of belonging that must be nurtured- and the local organization that binds all of these factors together- in order to keep a small town alive in the face of powerful disruptive forces. Not since Vidich and Bensman's landmark Small Town in Mass Society has such a thoughful examination of a contemporary rural community been available.


Can a meaningful sense of community exist within rural towns and villages of the United States as we approach the 21st century? the answer is a resounding yes for at least one rural community in the Pacific Northwest. and the factors that keep community alive in Bremer, Washington, have implications for other places whose citizens are concerned about maintaining community services, identity, and pride.

Bremer is a tiny dot on the official highway map of Washington State. Its 1,000 residents, 500 within the city limits and the remainder scattered across the adjacent countryside, make it too small to count for much in the eyes of casual observers.

Physically there is little to distinguish Bremer and its people from other nearby small farming communities. Yet these residents, and many of the residents of larger towns and cities in the region, recognize that Bremer is somehow different. in a sentence, it defies most of the rules of what a community of a mere thousand people, with virtually no industry other than agriculture and too far from a city to be a bedroom community, should be like. It has a doctor, drugstore, grocery, hardware store, insurance agencies, and other small businesses. the official town population is about the same as it was 50 years ago, in sharp contrast to the decline of many other small communities in the region.

Bremer is also different in ways less visible. It has turned down government grants in favor of solving its own problems. a community club formed subcommittees to do what government grants do for other communities. the town has an annual fair, in which most residents participate, but doesn't advertise it, even while merchants post advertisements for similar events in other communities. a community calendar hangs on a wall in nearly every household, listing birthdays and anniversaries for most residents. the city council accepted a citizen's offer to cut down some old trees, but only after figuring out who planted them and checking with an appropriate relative for "approval." Then it upped the ante by offering gas for the chain saw and use of the city truck to haul away the wood. the bank pays below market rates and people have to stand in line and ask for loans at the window, but people still do business there. the mayor and many others keep track of how much they spend at each of the town's grocery stores . . .

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