As a research educator with the University of Minnesota Extension’s Center for Community Vitality, today’s guest, Ben Winchester digs into the research data that helps us better understand the truth behind the idea that “rural America is dying”. Not only has he found that the data doesn’t suggest that, he helps us see that we are more in control of re-shaping that narrative than we might otherwise believe.

About Ben

Ben has been working both in and for small towns across the Midwest for over 25 years. He lives in St. Cloud, Minnesota with his wife and two children. Ben is trained as a Rural Sociologist and works as a Senior Research Fellow for the University of Minnesota Extension, Center for Community Vitality. He conducts applied research on economic, social, and demographic topics surrounding a theme of “rewriting the rural narrative” that are vital to rural America. Winchester received his B.A. in Mathematics and Statistics from the University of Minnesota, Morris (1995) and M.S. in Rural Sociology from the University of Missouri, Columbia (2001). He was a founding employee at the Center for Small Towns, an outreach and engagement program at the University of Minnesota, Morris and specializes in community development, demographic analysis, data visualization, and moving communities away from anecdata.

In this episode, we cover:

  • The falsehood of the rural “brain drain” and how we’re actually seeing a “brain gain”
  • How to celebrate a “Middle of Everywhere” concept as a region
  • The importance of how welcoming our communities are
  • What a “resident recruitment model” is and how we can start to build one in our communities
  • Why newcomers are the ones we should be listening to
  • Several data points that show the positive future for small towns

Links and Resources Mentioned

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